Sign the petition to protect 2 NT seats: Interview with Katie Woolf



SUBJECTS: Northern Territory representation in Federal parliament; Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

KATIE WOOLF, MIX 104.9: Now joining me in the studio to talk more about this following on from a hearing which took place in the Territory yesterday is Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy. Good morning

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning Katie and good morning to all your listeners.

WOOLF: Now, yesterday, we know that hearing took place. How did it go?

MCCARTHY: Look, I just firstly want to say a really big thank you to all those Territorians who in such a short time – about a week really Katie – put together submissions to this committee inquiry. And we had over 50 submissions and that’s huge for any committee and they were mainly in support of the Private Senator’s Bill to legislate the two seats and then the committee inquiry actually heard from over 20 witnesses yesterday here across the Northern Territory.

WOOLF: Are those numbers big comparatively to what you would usually have at a hearing of this kind?

MCCARTHY: Well it was certainly very quick and it was certainly a really long day. The hearing began at 8.30 in the morning, didn’t finish until about 3.30, all Northern Territory time, 3.30, 4. So for those Senators and Members of Parliament who were on the committee, and they were on teleconference from different state and territories asking questions of largely Territorians. We had the Isolated Childrens and Parents Association on, we had the Chamber of Commerce on, we had the local Aboriginal land councils and medical services on. So there was a tremendous amount of evidence from Territorians.

WOOLF: And Malarndirri what were they saying? What were people saying about why it’s so important that we do not lose this representation?

MCCARTHY: The overwhelming evidence from all of those who spoke in favour of the Bill was largely that having two members of the lower house was what we needed. We certainly want more, but we definitely don’t want less.

WOOLF: This is the thing and I know that, well, politicians from every side of parliament, aside from the Liberal party at this point in time, have indicated that they will support the move that you’re making to ensure we don’t lose a seat in the lower house. I know the, I believe you’ve got the support of the Greens.

MCCARTHY: That’s correct, yeah.

WOOLF: You’ve got the support of some of the independents. You’ve certainly the Coalition in terms of the National side of things, they’re, you know, Labor and you guys are very much going hand in hand on this one which is quite unusual.

MCCARTHY: Incredibly unusual. In fact, Senator Sam McMahon, my counterpart in terms of Senators for the Northern Territory was out with David Littleproud yesterday with the Nationals and even he has again put on the public record, along with Barnaby Joyce, that this is a Bill that does need to be supported in both the Senate and the lower house. And I’m incredibly grateful and thankful for that support because this is about the people of the Territory.

WOOLF: It is and I think so often that gets forgotten in a lot of political arguments, but in this one, it’s really not lost. It’s so incredibly important that we don’t lose this representation. I’ve said it on numerous occasions. The Territory is such a unique place. The issues that we’ve got here, you cannot understand them from Sydney or Canberra.

MCCARTHY: That’s right and it was highlighted yesterday if you’ve got a seat, the seat of Wentworth, which is in the middle of Sydney compared to 1.4 square kilometres of the Northern Territory in the seat of Lingiari. And don’t forget the Christmas and Cocos Keeling Island communities. They put in submissions as well because they don’t want to see the numbers reduce. So we have to look after the people, the residents on Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean Territories.

WOOLF: Yep, well Malarndirri I know that not only did all of those submissions and hearings get heard yesterday. But in addition to that, there’s a petition. I believe over 2000 Territorians have signed that one?

MCCARTHY: That’s right. In fact, I’d encourage Katie, more petitioners, please, whatever your networks are and certainly as many Territorians as possible, but in fact all Australians can be signing this petition. It really is about fairness in democracy that we have the Northern Territory, the people of the Northern Territory, rightful voices in terms of numbers, and we certainly don’t want to diminish from the two that we have.

WOOLF: Malarndirri, is that online, that petition?

MCCARTHY: It certainly is. It’s Feel free to sign that and leave your comments.

WOOLF: We’ll make sure we share that, I think we’ll make sure we share that. To me, it’s so important that we don’t lose this representation. We know that very often we already feel like we may as well be on the other side of the planet sometimes.

MCCARTHY: You’re not wrong.

WOOLF: When we talk about how you feel in the Territory so I think that it’s so important that we don’t lose one of those seats in the lower house. We’ve got to keep representation. It does not matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely.

WOOLF: What’s important is the Territory.

MCCARTHY: Thanks Katie. And I just want to thank your listeners because my worry now of course is that we're not sitting in Parliament until late August. The Prime Minister has cancelled the first two weeks in August,  which is when I would have put this Bill through the Senate for debate. And my worry is that it just gets left on the shelf.

WOOLF: When’s this decision supposed to be made by?

MCCARTHY: Well, whenever the next sittings of Parliament, and now they’re saying it’s the 24th of August so I’ll be gunning for that date to push this Bill into the Senate for debate. But if the Prime Minister cancels again, then that delays again what we’re trying to do. And I just ask Territorians, don’t give up, fight with me on this, because I think if anything, we’ll get exhausted by the fact that nothing’s happening in the parliamentary end and we just don’t’ want our Bill to just get buried.

WOOLF: Well, and I think it’s really worth noting, and we do need to wrap up, but it’s really worth noting as well that this decision’s been made on our population, but they are anticipating, well they’re predicting that our population is going to grow within the next couple of years and then we would need an additional seat again so you just think to yourself, why would we be chopping and changing?

MCCARTHY: I know, exactly Katie, you’re spot on, and that’s the whole purpose behind this Bill is don’t treat us like yo-yos, up and down, up and down, sideways, whenever you feel like it. We need to have stability and we need to have our rights in the parliament in terms of our voices heard.

WOOLF: Absolutely, well Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, always good to catch up with you. We’ll talk to you again soon.

MCCARTHY: No worries, thank Katie.