TODAY SHOW: We need a National Cabinet to reduce the high rates of incarceration and Aboriginal deaths in custody

07 June 2020


SUBJECT:Anti-racism protests; Pete Evans; closing streets for kids to play

KARL STEFANOVIC, TODAY SHOW: To discuss, Im joined by Northern Territory senior Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and senior writer at 'The Age' and Sydney Morning Herald Jessica Irvine. Ladies, good morning.



STEFANOVIC: Senator, to you first of all, were going to be speaking to the Finance Minister a little later on. Do you get why he is so angry?

MCCARTHY: Well that's his opinion and I will tell you mine, Karl and my opinion is this, that we have way too many deaths in custody, way too many people incarcerated in terms of First Nations people and this was an opportunity by leaders across Australia, Aboriginal leaders, non-Aboriginal leaders, not politicians. They were people who came together, pulled all sorts of people together. They had police involved in Queensland, for example, giving out masks. They had hand sanitisers. People in many of these marches were trying to keep their distance. This issue of First Nations people dying in custody is what is reckless in this country and irresponsible and that's where this focus was all about.

STEFANOVIC: So what would you say to Mathias?

MCCARTHY: I would say that the Prime Minister has been able to pull together a national cabinet to deal with the pandemic in this country in terms of COVID-19. Well, I would say to Mathias Cormann and the Prime Minister, pull together a National Cabinet to reduce the high rates of incarceration and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

STEFANOVIC: Do you get, Malarndirri, that everyone has abided by these laws. Businesses have gone to the walls because of these restrictions and to see these protests out on the street in violation of those laws was incredibly infuriating for some.

MCCARTHY: Well, let's correct the record. The NSW situation was that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow it, however a court of appeal did. Now, that is an Australian law. And what occurred in the other states and certainly in the Northern Territory in Darwin, where I attended that one, there was one in Alice Springs, people were very sensible. Were very mindful. But this issue resonates far deeper than any other issue in Australia and around the world, Karl. And we need to be open to that and hearts need to move there very quickly to the point that there is incredible change in this country. It began with the drought, it then went to the bushfires, it then went to COVID-19. Well, when there is change occurring, I would say to people it's time to get on board or get out of the way.

STEFANOVIC: Jess, many of these demonstrators did ignore requests to wear masks. Now theres the threat of this second wave of the virus. Should our state leaders have been more decisive to stop them going ahead in the first place, or do you side with Malarndirri?

IRVINE: I do side with the Senator. I think this is such an important issue that it is worth taking some risk but it is a risk. I mean this is what we are really worried about with a second wave. If we do start to see community transmission of this virus again that will lead us to have to shut down the economy again. That will lead to more businesses going under. This is what we are trying to avoid. But, you know, we are allowed to go to the pub, we are talking about reopening footy. I think it is more important at this stage when we are reopening things like this that we let people exercise their democratic rights to free speech.

STEFANOVIC: I can't disagree with you more. I get the need to protest. And I'm obviously not a First Nations person. But we have these rules in place to protect our society from this awful, awful virus. Weve done the right thing. We can't allow a protest now. Protest in a couple of months when we have got this thing under control. Malarndirri, it is irresponsible isn't it?

MCCARTHY: Whats irresponsible is that this country is not listening to the voices of First Nations people. Whats irresponsible is that First Nations people and those who support the movement are being blamed unfairly. Now, let's look at the statistics in terms of COVID-19, Karl. Over 1 million tests across the country. Less than 1% have experienced COVID. Now, we know we have to be careful. Its actually Aboriginal leaders who have led the way to make sure in these communities that they didn't get it.

STEFANOVIC: But Malarndirri, you have supported the closure of the borders in the Northern Territory.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. That's what I'm saying. That its Aboriginal leaders that have pushed the way the Aboriginal land councils of the Northern Territory, the Aboriginal controlled health organisations, Pat Turner has led the way. We are not silly people. This has been thoroughly organised both from the rally's point of view but also in terms of dealing with the COVID-19. And we know that we have to be sensible. But come on Karl, seriously! We are four months into this and if we don't, as a country, feel confident in the way that we are trying to handle this pandemic, when will we?

STEFANOVIC: OK. Let's move on to another issue now. That ones a good one.
Let us know what you think at home about that. An interview last night on 60 Minutes. Celebrity chef Pete Evans telling people his lifestyle protects him from COVID-19. Jess, the world is filled with interesting people.

IRVINE: It is. My stance is that bad ideas are like farts and they are better out than in. Because if you keep them inside they just get this potency that is not good for anybody. So I support Pete Evans and his right to speak his truth.


MCCARTHY: You didn't expect that one, did you Karl?

STEFANOVIC: Should we all stay home?

IRVINE: I passionately believe that.

STEFANOVIC: Malarndirri do you agree with Jess?

MCCARTHY: I may not put it so eloquently as Jess did. But I would say certainly the for all of us, and I guess around the world, Karl, it has been enormously difficult for people to accept the change that they have to isolate, that theyve had to do things that theyve never done before.


MCCARTHY: It naturally does have an impact. I mean, any crises, whether its personal or in this particular instance, collective, its traumatic. So it is going to come out in different ways for people.

STEFANOVIC: Liz Hayes has a way of looking at people. She doesn't need to say anything. I had dinner with her a couple of years ago in London and she gave me the Liz look where she goes I know how he felt, Pete Evans, during that whole interview. Now, remember this ladies? Aussie kids. Wow, Timmy. Are Weet-Bix kids. Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids. It takes you back to a simpler more innocent time. Now a new initiative from Sport Australia telling kids go play in the street. And before parents gasp in horror, the idea is to close off 1000 streets across the country for a few hours each week to allow kids to get outdoors and enjoy some fun. Malarndirri, what do you think about that one?

MCCARTHY: I will share a secret with you, Karl, and the rest of the country. I still eat Weet-Bix and I love it. But anyway, in terms of playing in the streets, its a fabulous idea, but I guess you got to work out what the restrictions are. Clearly we don't want kids or families to be hit by cars so how are they going to go about doing this? I get the sense that you want to build neighbourhood but I'm sure there is certainly plenty of ways to do that but I certainly wish them well. I think it is about 1,000-street plays so good luck with that. Let's keep kids happy and if this is one way to do it, well good luck with it.

STEFANOVIC: Jess finally.

IRVINE: Yeah, look I grew up in a cul-de-sac in Canberra and there werent many people there. And it was great, you could go out on the streets. Lots of families. Im raising my son in an apartment. His life is changing and we need more of those communal areas. So yeah, shut the streets. Lets have a street party.

STEFANOVIC: Beautifully said. As a man who spends most of his life on morning television in a cul-de-sac, I concur. Thank you ladies. Have a great week.