BREAKFAST, ABC ALICE SPRINGS
WEDNESDAY, 15 AUGUST 2018
SUBJECT/S:Territory Rights, Senator Anning, 80 years of the OLSH School
INTRO: In 2007 when the commonwealth parliament made a decision to intervene in the lives of the people of the Northern Territory. As a legislator and as someone elected by the people I have never felt so powerless as a parliamentarian. I have never felt so powerless that as a representative for the constituency of Arnhem and the people of the Northern Territory I had no voice, I had no say along with 24 other members of the Northern Territory Legislature. That because of the founding forefathers of this country who wrote a constitution which yes imperfect though it is, it has stood the test of time, section 112 of the constitution which enables this parliament to overrule, to intervene, over the lives of the people of the territories still remains an area of debate. For this bill to reflect on a law that was made by the parliament of the Northern Territory and to consider giving that right back to the Northern Territory in order for the northern territory to make its own laws is the right thing to do. I say to the Senators in this house, what makes your conscience, what makes your personal experiences any better or any less than the parliamentarians who stand in the Northern Territory Assembly and the Parliamentarians who stand in the ACT Parliament.
STUART BRASH, PRESENTER ABC BREAKFAST ALICE SPRINGS: Second class citizens, Malarndirri McCarthy joins us, good morning
SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Good morning brash, good morning to you listeners.
BRASH: Now Ill just read between the lines it sounds like youll be supporting the bill in the Senate at the moment?
MCCARTHY: Yes absolutely Ill be supporting this bill to restore the rights for the Northern Territory.
BRASH: Do you see it as an issue of territory rights or an issue of euthanasia>
MCCARTHY: Ive had to look at this very closely and looking at the bill it clearly is about the rights of the Northern Territory to legislate. The issue of euthanasia is one that the federal parliament cant make, it is not our decision it is the decision of jurisdictions across the country and that decision by the Victorian parliament was theirs and in the history of this when the Andrews bill came in and repealed the act in the Northern Territory one of their reasoning was that because it was jurisdiction in the country 25 people who are they, why should they make a big decision about this? And I think 20 years on in this debate now were saying that the rights of the people of the Northern Territory when they elect people to make decisions for them it should not be intervened on.
BRASH: One problem of course is, we had the prime minister in here last week, last Wednesday in fact and he said that if he was a senator would be voting against the Bill and he also said that any deal, that there was no deal to have it actually introduced the house where it could become law, so is this in many ways a fruitless exercise?
MCCARTHY: Well firstly you need to ask the Prime Minister why he would vote no, what are his reasons?
BRASH: He had to run away, he had to leave for other engagements, but I get that its an issue of moral compass for him.
MCCARTHY: Well were not too sure theres a lot of issues of moral compass for him Brash but we wont go there I think. But lets have a look at this in terms of the Senate, this is an important debate, it is one where the people of the Northern Territory deserve the opportunity to have their pieces of legislation enacted by the people they represent in the Northern Territory, and thats what were getting down to here. In terms of your other concerns, I think that the parliament has to recognise that it has intervened also in 2007 with the intervention and the bigger question for me on another level for me is what is the future for the Northern Territory in terms of citizenship?
BRASH: Ill talk about that in just a moment but going back to the issue at hand, say its successful in the Senate, and it just doesnt go into the house because obviously, it would be a conscience vote on that Bill in the house, if there were a true conscience vote what do you think the result would be?
MCCARTHY: Its hard to know Brashy I was asked that question this morning I mean the thing about conscience votes is that people dont often make their mind up until right before the bell and it isnt like any other debate where you can get a pretty good idea of where the numbers are, but with a conscience vote you cant. It is true, we may or may not get this through today and then if it goes to the house I certainly know that Luke Gosling and Andrew Leigh have introduced a bill to the house similar to this one so even if this one does not pass they are still preparing a piece of legislation in the house.
BRASH: Can I go back to your time in the Northern Territory Parliament because you predominantly aboriginal seat and during the whole debate in the mid 90s around voluntary euthanasia there was a lot of views out bush who were concerned about the whole issue of voluntary euthanasia, do you think amongst the bush constituency that there is still a widespread opposition and fear about the issue of voluntary euthanasia?
MCCARTHY: Look Im sure there would be, I can only speak from a personal point of view, and that is I come from the gulf region, I look at do we have a name for euthanasia in our language? Well, we dont, because its not a concept that we have sort of understood and even when I talk to my own family so I would appreciate that any conversation around euthanasia would have to be quite intense, it would have to be across languages. What I was able to do in preparation for this debate was read through all the debates in the second reading speech in 1995 Wesley Wagner Lanhupuy former member for Arnhem who has passed and I pay my respects, reading his speech he was tortured through this, in the sense that he knew that his constituency perhaps didnt support euthanasia but he voted for it.
BRASH: Thats true going back 20 plus years ago and say the senate and then the house say it was voted that the rights were restored to the territories to make these laws, would the old rights of the terminally ill act instantly become active again?
MCCARTHY: No it would actually have to come back to this current parliament to determine whether they would draft a piece of this legislation.
BRASH: So wouldnt be a done deal? It would have to be re-debated as you said with the concerns out bush that they would actually have to go out bush and try and make this real again and get people to vote do you think if it could be explained, those concerns and I remember reporting it as you did at the ABC in those days people would ring in and say concerns about the big needle notion of people taking control of their lives, how do you counter that?
MCCARTHY: Well its like anything really when youre trying to get a yes and no case, we only have to look at marriage equality and the fear that came out through that debate there would no doubt be the same in this debate and wed have to call on Australians and call on people in the Territory to rise to a higher level and a sensible level in that conversation.
BRASH: You pointed to the whole issue of citizenship for the northern territory and to be honest I dont know many people, I dont go anywhere where people talk about statehood very much and for our rights to be recognised as equal as other people with other people in Australia we require statehood dont we?
MCCARTHY: Thats right Brashy I guess for ordinary Territorians buying groceries getting fuel in the car the cost of that the cost of prices theyre the things that matter on a daily basis, getting their kids to school. I guess from my perspective reading pieces of legislation everyday we are really trapped in some respects in terms of growing, we cant seem to grow in a mature and positive way unless we equal access as citizens.
BRASH: Have you got an appetite to push for statehood?
MCCARTHY: I always do, I was minister for statehood, I was enormously passionate about our rights as citizens in this country. Were working on the constitutional recognition for first nations people rights in terms of a voice. I believe that one of the wonderful things about Australia is our democracy but to have an effective democracy we all need to have the same rights.
BRASH: Today OLSH School is marking 80 years now youre not here for the celebrations but youre a former student?
MCCARTHY: Im not but Im with them in spirit.
BRASH: Interestingly we were speaking to Matt Patterson who is a former OLSH School student who is now the deputy mayor of Alice Springs he was expelled in year 11.
MCCARTHY: Did you ever run into similar problems?
BRASH: Look I had a lot of problems in primary school, there were quite a few of us kids came from Borroloola and wed catch the bus down to school and in those day OLSH in bath street had a boarding school so I was one of the boarders and there were many occasions where it could have been my last time but I am very grateful to the people who kept me on the right path.
BRASH: Just one final question I dont know if you heard Fraser Annings speech in the Senate for the Katter Party, there was some suggestion that he was sharing some honestly felt views about immigration in this country?
MCCARTHY: Look he was in the media this morning defending his right to speak but there has been a real concern not just in the parliament but in response from Australians that there were elements of his speech which just went too far. In fact Brashy were having a debate in the senate right now whether hed be censored on some aspects of his speech and seeking an apology.
BRASH: What basis would he be censored? For saying specific things?
MCCARTHY: At the moment the greens have wanted to do that, the Labor party is actually putting on the table that this is not the country we want, dividing Australia in terms of race, its not the country that we want we need to be unified and strong and that people from other countries are welcome.
BRASH: One final question and it related to party politics here in the northern territory. A few months ago we had the Labor Party conference; there was a move against the secretary of the party which failed. Members of the left became split over what had happened there on the floor of the conference. Warren Snowdon refused to go with the left and in fact, was removed from the left and has now created his own progressive left.
BRASH: Where do you sit on this? Are you with the Queensland left?
MCCARTHY: No I'm just with the left, I never left the left and Warren had his reasons for doing what he did and I believe the left in the Northern Territory is a strong left and we need to be united and we need to be strong just like the debate going on in the Senate once you divide you fail.
BRASH: With Warrens new faction called progressive are you with whats been called the Queensland backed left?
MCCARTHY: Im with the left thats always been there. Weve got Queensland; weve got Victoria, weve got South Australia in there.
BRASH: Will the left be supporting Warren Snowdon to continue as the Member for Lingiari?
MCCARTHY: Warren is the best Member for Lingiari, and we want him to win.
BRASH: So the threats against Warren Snowdon against the left are hollow and arent going to happen?
MCCARTHY: I think thats a whole lot of rubbish, if he wants to stand he must win.
BRASH: Malarndirri thanks for your time.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.