ABC Darwin: We understand that the government will support and guarantee the two seats and legislate for the two seats.


TOPICS: Legislating two seats in the NT; Labor’s budget reply; Jobkeeper; Cashless Debit Card.

ADAM STEER, ABC DARWIN: This week, there was a window of opportunity for the Northern Territory's federal representation to be secured for good. But, like many of you would have been closing your windows at home due to the rain, it looks like that window might have been closed. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is the author of the Bill to save the second seat. Senator, in layman's terms, what happened with the window?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, NT SENATOR: Good morning Adam and Rick and good morning to your listeners. Well I think a door is now opened. That's what's happened. If we're talking windows, I think I think a door is open and the Liberal Party has walked right inside. We understand that the government will support and guarantee the two seats and legislate for the two seats.

STEER: That's fantastic news. When did you get that news?

MCCARTHY: I know. Well two things happened this morning. I just learnt from another radio station that I just did an interview with that the Deputy Prime Minister told them that he guarantees that there will be two seats. And Senator Mathias Cormann, who's the leader in the Senate here for the Liberal Party as well, and he has said that he government will support and legislate for the two seats. So I'm, I'm kind of, as you can hear, very breathless and obviously it's still not over. I have to keep the pressure on. But this is just an incredible achievement to have the Liberal Party in particular now well and truly, you know, inside talking.

RICK HIND, ABD DARWIN: Senator McCarthy, you've just heard this news. Do you have any idea about when this legislation will actually happen?

MCCARTHY: Sure. Look, we've got, obviously, the Private Senators' Bill that Don Farrell and I introduced is well and truly in the Senate, and that still has to be debated. It's sitting there waiting to see what the government is proposing. And we understand that the Government will introduce its legislation in the House in over a week's time when they sit for a fortnight. So we have to keep the pressure on. Nothing's a given as far as I'm concerned. It's great news. But as always, I want to see, I want to see the signatures on the table. And I want to I want to know that the Bill has well and truly gone through.

STEER: This will be an extraordinary achievement. Do you know, Senator, the last time a Private Opposition Member's bill was passed into law by a Federal Government?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, it was 38 years ago.

STEER: It's a long time. Do you know what the machinations behind the doors were for them to suddenly come out with support for this bill?

MCCARTHY: Oh, look, I'm sure there were many levers being pulled. Politics is a constant moving game at times. And there are different personalities. And I just had to stay focussed on talking to everyone and reminding them that the people of the Northern Territory, in amidst all the politics, need to have solid representation. And I think, you know, there's obviously, you know, different views, different feelings. And this is what I've had to encounter over the last - well this has been going on, when? Since February, really.

STEER: So, and so what actually happens? Because it's still going to pass the Senate before it goes to the House of Reps and then back to the Senate, is that right?

MCCARTHY: Yes, that's correct. So, there are a couple of options here. And this is what we're still negotiating today so just bear with me if I can't give you the full details while we're still trying to nut it out. But there are two options. One is that we clearly push through and debate and vote on the Bill here in the Senate. But the Government may also be proposing that it introduces legislation. So, at the moment, it's looking like both options are on the table. So, I'm just I'm just pleased that we've got the government, especially the Liberal Party, in this instance, because the Nationals were always supporting with us. But the Liberal Party has now recognised that this is the most sensible thing to do. The people of the Northern Territory cannot have their voices diminished.

RICK HIND, ABC DARWIN: And will this be a guarantee of two seats in perpetuity or is this just for the next election period?

MCCARTHY: This is what I will be pushing for. That it has to be in legislation. Full stop.

STEER: Very briefly, Budget Week. What did you make of the federal budget? Now you're friends with the Liberal Party, it'll be interesting what you say here.

MCCARTHY: No, we all know where, we all know the boundaries of different topics. Let me tell you. Look, I certainly am still concerned for the Northern Territory in terms of the Northern Australia position and infrastructure. We saw that, you know, in terms of the JobKeeper rollback, you know, we're going to see 18,000 Territorians impacted in that. And that's a real concern. The Cashless Debit Card is also on the table, and that's still a major concern for us. And clearly, we still needed to see more support, particularly in the bush and for those areas of homelessness, housing and First Nations people.

STEER: The opposition budget reply is tonight, what can we expect to hear from your leader, Anthony Albanese?

MCCARTHY: We'll certainly be focussing, in particular, on those issues that I've just raised. But more so around the overall issue of women. We were very concerned overall with the budget that there wasn't a particular focus on some of those areas that we've said needed to be met, given the impact on women throughout COVID, in particular. Childcare, childcare is a great area for us to focus on. And I know that the leader will be looking at that as well.