22 November 2017

ABC Radio Mornings Darwin

ADAM STEER, JOURNALIST: Senator Malarndirri McCarthy good morning to you. I guess we will start off with the Royal Commission, over 200 recommendations including the closure of large centres like Don Dale, and putting those offenders into smaller, home-style detention centres nearer their communities. Is that something that you back?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Good morning Adam and good morning to your listeners. It has certainly been a very welcome report by the Royal Commission, and certainly, the Commissioners have done an incredibly thorough job. I am still going through the pages as I know many people are. I think in terms of your question around Don Dale and the others, well absolutely that has been on the cards for quite some time, so those recommendations were not a surprise and the Chief Minister has come out and said what the Northern Territory Government will be doing.

Ive just come back from Arnhem Land and while I was in East Arnhem Land Yolgnu people were saying that the opportunity to have their children close to home and be more involved in whatever rehabilitation program that there could be, was something that they were something that they were obviously welcoming.

STEER: How do you battle the public perception the reactions from those two Daves there are something that we hear loud and clear, they say the softly softly approach isnt working, we need a big stick as Francis said to me ten minutes ago, that publicly humiliated the young children, whats your reaction to that type of sentiment?

MCCARTHY: I certainly get that there is sentiment out there of impatience and intolerance, but that is not the type of Northern Territory that we want and that's what we have to strive to rise up against.

STEER: The federal Government funded half of the royal commission they put up $27 million or so of the $54 million. Are they quick enough in coming forward with some extra funding to help pay for some of those recommendations?

MCCARTHY: We've heard that Senator Scullion representing the Prime Minister has not committed in terms of the Commonwealth funding going forward yet clearly voiced the fact that that he needs to get through the papers as much as anyone else. But there has to be Adam, I mean in all reality the Northern Territory cannot do this on its own, and the Commonwealth must meet very strongly the requirements and the recommendations of this Royal Commission.

STEER: How fearful are you that the recommendations from the Royal Commission will be shelved like the countless other reports that we've seen over the last twenty or thirty years of the Northern Territory on this issue?

MCCARTHY: There is no doubt that there is absolute concern about recommendations, we only have to look at the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations that are still outstanding. We know for a fact that vigilance is absolutely required here in terms of these recommendations, but something else is happening here too Adam that is that a line has been drawn in the sand.

Aboriginal organizations came together very strongly on Friday to say to not only the Northern Territory but to the whole of the country enough is enough Aboriginal people, First Nations People must be included in every level of decision making and empowered to find the solutions themselves and these organizations that spoke up gave very clear evidence as to how they could do it.

STEER: I will raise the point that I raised yesterday and I got a bit of negative feedback from some people as well out of this which was that there was a whole volume in that role Commission which talks to the children in detention about their experiences growing up in communities that was suboptimal for want of a better word, you know they were seeing abuse that we're seeing you know all the difficulties that we that we know so well, we shouldnt be looking at those communities with rose-coloured glasses.

MCCARTHY: I don't think anyone does. I certainly don't, you know I look at my own family situation, and I do look at this from a personal level as much as a professional level as a representative for the Northern Territory.

I despair at times when I see the struggles of my own families and a lot of that he's related to policies that are ineffectual, a lot of that are related to inefficiencies in being able to get the kind of resources that's absolutely needed on the ground and so people hampered from the get go. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be able to care for your child everyone should be able to have their natural instincts of wanting to care and nurture their child and see their child through. So yes, these are questions I ask myself about my own families.

STEER: Let's move to the circus the saga that he's the federal parliament or at the moment. Senator Pat Dodson gave an emotional farewell to Jackie Lambie who resigned from the Senate after British authorities confirmed she was a U.K. dual citizen that means there's now only to Indigenous Senators sitting in Parliament, it must have been a sad day?

MCCARTHY: Look it certainly was from all reports, and certainly in terms of Jackie Lambies absence from the Senate going forward she represented Tasmania in a very unique way and a very passionate way and the voice that she brought forward into the Senate was always listened to from all sides and from the cross-party benches. Sometimes would be a little amazed at decisions that were my but there was no not two ways about it Jackie Lambie has a voice and will continue to have one in some way.

STEER: So what's your take on the dual citizenship saga? What should happen next with this?

MCCARTHY: Well what is happening next is obviously the parliamentarians will be standing up to speak in Parliament about their status, and that is something that the Prime Minister and the opposition leader had come to. I believe that if we look at this overall, it really is an important message that sent to all Australians that you've just got to write the fine print of what you're signing up to.

STEER: So you've got confidence that the politicians on both sides will do the right thing through this new agreement that the Labor Party and the Coalition of come to.

MCCARTHY: I'm not sure if confidence is the word Adam I just feel that it's an important lesson here and if you're not learning the lesson then. That is something you're going to have to deal with.

STEER: Yes but it's a go too far someone with Indigenous it Indigenous heritage like Jackie Lambie is not eligible because her father was born in Scotland?

MCCARTHY: This is the Constitution this is the Constitution that was written up on non-Indigenous man, no women and this is the law of the country and I think if anything we've got to recognise if that's the Constitution that's the Constitution.

STEER: But is it time for the Constitution to change, because at the moment if you were found to be a British citizen then you were not eligible to stand in the Australian Parliament even though a head of state is British?

MCCARTHY: Well let me put this on the record Adam. I would much prefer to say a constitutional change for Indigenous recognition in the Constitution before any other change to the Constitution.

STEER: You think that's more important?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely

STEER: Let's move to PFAS you want to open an office in Katherine tell me about

MCCARTHY: A one-stop shop is what we're calling for, and that's as a result of the messages I've been receiving from Katherine, and certainly the time you are down they are broadcasting with the ABC and obviously the Katherine Times and others who've been raising and keeping this in front of politicians. That is a clear message that keeps coming through, and we still havent seen that yet.

STEER: Do you think Defence is dragging the heels on this, should be offering these facilities and the same services that they are offering the residents of Williamtown and Oakey.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely, there is no doubt about it that Katherine must not be second rate and at every level whether it's to do with a shopfront whether it's to do with blood testing and that is a significant case that we still go to keep Pushing for because blood testing is something that is not available from the Commonwealth on this.

STEER: And you'd like the Prime Minister to pay for the one-stop shop?

MCCARTHY: Look I think certainly that this comes back to defence and clearly if we have to get the up straight away well then let's just do it.

STEER: What have you heard from the Prime Minister what would you like him to do?

MCCARTHY: I haven't heard anything from the Prime Minister but what I do know is that Katherine town council has written to the Prime Minister I have certainly written to the Prime Minister with Warren Snowdon urging him to go to Katherine meet with the Katherine Council. The Katherine Council will be in Canberra in the coming week. They are meeting with the Federal Health Minister they just got approval of that yesterday, and we're still pushing for the Prime Minister to meet with Katherine Mayor Fay Miller.

STEER:What would you also be pushing for some saw sort of compensation for the residents of Katherine

MCCARTHY: Look whatever the other towns are getting at them which I understand that there is push for compensation on those levels there must be this degree of equality over Katherine.

STEER: We spoke to a local G.P. in Katherine last week who said there needs to be separate scientific studies done in Katherine because it may be a different situation than it is in those southern states given now unique environment that we have up here the PFAS operate differently we don't look

MCCARTHY: There are all those factors, but I'm talking about process here, I'm talking about the process of being able to treat people equally and fairly with information that they should have access to, with the ability to be able to get blood tastes like the others do. I am talking about the sort of processes.

STEER: Do you think there's an element of there's a risk of cover-up you given the importance of the agricultural bowl that is around Katherine?

MCCARTHY: In the Senate Estimates I had a really thorough good go with questioning Defence with questioning the agriculture sector with also looking at the airport in terms of aviation and Air Services Australia, so I know that all of these areas are certainly put on notice. Now if there has been at something here that's occurred and taken place cities wrongful well that would be incredibly disappointing from a legal perspective but again those things would have to be challenged legally.

STEER: You've just recently come back from Antarctica.

MCCARTHY: You know what it's really nice to thaw out now.

STEER: Did you have to buy a new set of clothes?

MCCARTHY: Interestingly enough that he said was all provided by the Australian Antarctic Division and I thank very much the director there Nick Gales and his team.

STEER: What we're doing there?

MCCARTHY: This was part of the joint parliamentary committee on national on the national capital and external territories, we were looking at the Antarctic Treaty and

Australias relationship in terms of other countries who are also based in Antarctica and the scientific research that's going on but most importantly Adam I think was really about the Infrastructure. How are we going with the infrastructure down there.

STEER: What can you tell us about the struggles current and future role in the Antarctic?

MCCARTHY: Australia claims sovereignty over 42 per cent of Antarctica, there are three bases there, Mawson, Davis and Casey Station with two other areas known as Wilkins aerodrome and Ski pass in the in the summer.

Australias role there is incredible in terms of scientific research. The research that goes on in the in the snow to understand the history of weather patterns for us in the Northern Territory and Northern Australia is was about cyclones and flooding the kind of research that they can ascertain from Antarctica blew me away. It was a good learning I think in terms of appreciating the scientific research that takes place there that impacts on us up here.

STEER: There has been some concern for a while, but other sovereign states are encroaching on Australias area particularly it's fishing. What did you see there what's your reaction to that?

MCCARTHY: There are very many concerns in relation to the environment and the protection of the environment and the marine stocks.

STEER: Japan and China I think are the major issue?

MCCARTHY: There's certainly a Chinese base on Antarctica, in fact, a number of the Chinese scientists flew down with us when we flew down to Wilkins Aerodrome. These are the things that our inquiries are examining we've got some more hearings in Canberra over the coming months and look to deliver a report to parliament in the first half of next year.

STEER: Senator it would be remiss before I let you go to not ask you this question. Have you checked whether you are a dual citizen?

MCCARTHY: It's an important question I stood up on my maiden speech and spoke about my decadency from Yanyuwa and Garawa and also Irish ancestry way back to my great great great grandfather. So I think I put it on the record on the first day.

STEER: Senator, good to see you should I have thanks for coming into the studio.

You can listen to the program here.