TODAY SHOW: We must reduce incarceration rates of First Nations people. And the national cabinet is the way to do it.

11 June 2020

ALLISON LANGDON: Four Labor MPs have been told to leave parliament and get tested for Coronavirus after attending Black Lives Matter protests. Critics have slammed the ministers and protesters alike saying they have put the health of other Australians at risk. Now, one of those MPs is Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and she joins us now. Malarndirri, good to talk to you. Is it a fair request for you to leave parliament to get tested?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: We've got a lot on this week, especially in introducing a Bill to save the two seats in the Northern Territory and I certainly didn't want any further distractions. So, yes, I'm here in isolation. Had my test yesterday at the Aboriginal Medical Service here in Canberra. And hopefully we'll know in a few hours.

LANGDON: So should you now self-isolate for two weeks, as one Queensland senator has suggested?

MCCARTHY: Look, we know in the Northern Territory that we haven't had a case that nearly five weeks so clearly we've been very confident in the Northern Territory. We were able to attend this rally because it was certainly under the number. We were able to have 500 people meeting. On Friday, which is when the rally was held, there was a couple of hundred people. So, no, I don't think so. If the results come back negative, which I certainly hope they do, I'll be back in the Senate as soon as possible.

LANGDON: Not [inaudible] to the importance of the issue at all. But even the leader of your own party advised against the protests because of the COVID risk. So why did you decide to go anyway?

MCCARTHY: Well, for us in the Northern Territory, you may be aware, we've been ahead of the game, the restrictions had been reduced. As I said, we were able to have 500 people meet. It was our first sporting day where spectators could come. So in terms of safety, it was very much OK in terms of the health advice.

LANGDON: So are you then critical of the protests going ahead in Sydney and Victoria who don't yet have Corona virus completely under control?

MCCARTHY: It's up to each state and territory jurisdiction, Ali, and I think they might have said that when we spoke on Monday. It really is up to each state and territory jurisdiction and individuals and families as to what they wish to do. Let's not forget this issue has resonated quite deeply and passionately right across the country and around the world.

LANGDON: Just very quickly, further protests, they are planned for this weekend without up police approval. Are you supportive?

MCCARTHY: Well, we've certainly got another one in Darwin, and I wish that all the Darwin residents well, I know they're going to be gathering outside of Parliament House. I think it's important if people feel that this is the next step for them, that they've got to stay strong. And I urge them to stay strong in this. We are not reducing incarceration rates of First Nations people in Australia. We must do it. And the national cabinet is the way to do it.

LANGDON: Well, look, we're all hoping that your test does come back negative on you and you're backing parliament, in the corridors of parliament very soon, Malarndirri. Thanks for joining us.