16 August 2018



SUBJECT/S: Territory Rights, Senator Anning

FRAN KELLY: The Northern Territory and the ACT will remain banned from passing their own laws on euthanasia. After the Senate voted down a private members Bill last night. The result has spared Malcolm Turnbull a potentially awkward showdown in the house of Reps. The issue could return to the agenda that house as early as next week. Labor MP Andrew Leigh who represents the ACT seat of Fenner has vowed to introduce his own bill to overturn a 1997 law that stripped the Territories of their ability to legislate on voluntary euthanasia.

Last nights Senate bill introduced by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm failed to pass by just two votes. The Northern Territory Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy supported it and she joins me now in our Parliament House studio. Senator McCarthy welcome back to Breakfast.


KELLY: Before it was defeated last night Senator Leyonhjelm had been confident it would pass, were you surprised when the numbers broke the other way and what do you think turned the debate against the Bill?

MCCARTHY: I did always believe that it was going to be difficult Fran, this issue does have certain emotions for different people and I knew that when something is a conscience vote, it can go right up to the eleventh hour and it did.

KELLY: Youre disappointed that this vote didnt get through but you are opposed to voluntary euthanasia so why did you want this bill passed?

MCCARTHY: Yes. This Bill in my view was certainly always about the rights of the people of the Northern Territory and the ACT. I am a firm believer in democracy Fran, our country is built on that and theres unfinished business for the people of the Northern Territory in particular because we know that we are unequal on so many levels and this was about allowing the people of the Northern Territory to elect members to the Legislative Assembly and to make decisions on their behalf.

KELLY: But wasn't this Bill particularly about allowing the territories to enact their own laws on assisted dying?

MCCARTHY: Well what is the problem of having that conversation and discussion? Why is it any better in Victoria or New South Wales to be able to have that conversation? Why should Senators here feel that their conscience and their experiences a far more authoritative than the people of the Northern Territory?

KELLY: But will this bill, and I'm a little unclear on this you can help me clarify it, would this allowed the Act and the Northern Territory to make their own laws on assisted dying or make their own laws full stop on anything?

MCCARTHY: On assisted dying Fran.

KELLY: So it wouldn't have had the effect that you are saying that the ACT and the Northern Territory really need and deserve which is to be able to make their own laws free from federal oversight?

MCCARTHY: Well it would on this particular issue. This is the question here that we can make laws on lots of things but it's only at the Federal at the Federal discretion in terms of euthanasia. Why is that why is it that federal Senators and Members of the House of Reps think that they have a view on euthanasia which is far greater or less than the people of the Northern Territory. Why is it that we cannot have that debate ourselves?

KELLY: Views on euthanasia assisted dying are heartfelt and you know very strong on both sides of the debate your fellow Labor Senator Patrick Dodson opposed the bill in the Senate he warned voluntary euthanasia would harm Indigenous people he said and I'm quoting where First Nations people are already overrepresented at every stage of our health system it's irresponsible to vote in favour of another avenue to death. Do you share that concern and you accept that giving this issue back the territories makes it more likely that euthanasia would be introduced?

MCCARTHY: It's very very difficult of course we're losing way too many people in terms of First Nations health across the country but there's a deeper issue here Fran and that is the ability of the people of the Northern Territory to make their own decisions I've been in the Senate you know for two years I was serving the member for Arnhem for seven-eight years and it was one of the most disempowering moments of my time as an elected member when the two thousand and seven intervention took place into the Northern Territory when people's voices are removed from being included in decisions it does have a deeply profound impact irrespective of whether it's euthanasia, if it's on abortion, if it's on tax people deserve the right in this country to be able to stand up and have a say.

KELLY: You are listening to RN Breakfast, it is 19 minutes to nine our guest is Senator Malarndirri McCarthy Labor senator for the Northern Territory. Your colleague Andrew Leigh is going to introduce his own private member's bill into the House of Representatives that's expected to happen next week. Hes from the ACT so he will introduce a similar Bill should that Bill be allowed to come on to debate?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely, I call on the Prime Minister and the members of the House of Reps be unafraid and loud democracy to take the next step for the people of the Northern Territory and the ACT if we are really concerned about democracy in this country then respect the dignity of that right for the voiceless in both those Territories.

KELLY: And just before I let you go Senator McCarthy Can I ask you about another issue, there has been condemnation from all really, almost all, the Katter Party Senator Fraser Anning invoke the phrase the final solution while calling for a ban on Muslim immigration and suggesting we should consider the White Australia Policy again. Pauline Hanson criticised the remarks Bob Katter though stood by his M.P. Were you in the Senate when that speech was being given and do you believe the ground has shifted perhaps in the way we talk about race in this country?

MCCARTHY: I was not in the Senate when Senator Anning gave his speech I was certainly in there in the parliament and heard it in my office. What I will say is these Fran, that when the Senate came together yesterday morning and put a motion the conversation and the level of debate that came in terms of condemning that kind of commentary was really important for our country. We are leaders who represent our particular states and territories and it is important that we send a message across the country that that kind of conversation and contribution is not appreciated and there is deep hurt. We saw that with the responses of Ed Husic and Anne Aly, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Reps as well and I think it was it's to be commended that the parliament stood against this yesterday.

KELLY: Malarndirri McCarthy thank you very much for joining us.

MCCARTHY: Thank you Fran.