23 August 2017

PRESENTER, RICHARD MARGETSON: Northern Territory Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy joins us this morning on ABC Radio Darwin. Malarndirri McCarthy good morning to you.

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Good morning Margo and Good morning to all your listeners.

PRESENTER, RICHARD MARGETSON: Now 22nd August was what Jonathon Palmer [Deputy Australian Statistician Mr Jonathon Palmer] has said that he had hoped to get something out and about. What do you know this morning that you may not have known ten days ago.

MCCARTHY: I have been looking on the website Margo and I am no clearer to any answers from Mr Palmer to what he gave me on Thursday. So lets see what happens throughout today.

MARGETSON: Are you confident thought that a solution to the remote and overseas problem will be announced today?

MCCARTHY: I am not sure about it being announced today, whether I am confident about how they will handle this whole issue, I am very concerned I certainly felt in the Senate Inquiry when I was speaking to Mr Palmer, I got the sense that there was no real comprehension about the difficulties that people in the Northern Territory face if they do not have their full addresses on the Australian electoral commission role which is the case for thousands of Territorians.

MARGETSON: Both you and your colleague Warren Snowdon, from the Labor party were pretty vocal about what you said Territorians would face when it came to the postal plebiscite silence is what you were saying ten days ago. Have you got an idea about what you believe the best option, would a phone poll or an online form be the best way to go?

MCCARTHY: Certainly some of the organisations, Tangentyere in particular, have said that they would like to assist if they can for example around the town camps. SO if you were able to use common sense here, if there were able to be locations that people could go to, that buses could ferry people to, very similar to what occurs with the NT election and the Federal election. But given that this isnt being run by the Electoral Commission and it is being run by the ABS they dont seem to not be able to grasp that at the moment. I am hopeful that they will come to that realisation but at this point I havent seen anything to convince me that they have.

MARGETSON: If the ABS come up with an online form for Indigenous communities and for those living overseas wouldnt it make sense to have that rolled out everywhere and ditch the postal vote all together?

MCCARTHY: We are going down so many rabbit holes on this plebiscite and this is the concern that Labor had going down this road and clearly there hasnt been much thought given to people in remote regions and people that dont have access. I think what the ABS has to do now is just stay focused on this point, get people to places where they can fill the surveys out. Even in Darwin I have had people contact me from Muir Head who havent got their addresses, some have said they tried to forward onto a post box so there is real concern just living in the Darwin region about how they are going to receive these forms.

MARGETSON: Getting a couple of texts this morning senator.

Aboriginal people cant get a unique student identifier because there is no postal address so that makes a struggle when it comes to VET courses. That in itself is an indicator that he ABS is going to struggle to get hold of just about everybody that needs to vote in this plebiscite.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely, there is no two ways about it, this is the concern that Warren Snowdon and I had when we indicated straight off the bat that this is going to jeopardise the opportunity for thousands of Territorians.

MARGETSON: Do you have much of an idea which way Indigenous communities are thinking of voting. Have you thinking of the Territory communities to get a sense of how they are feeling about this vote?

MCCARTHY: There are certainly strong pushes, the ABC did a story last week with the Ntaria mob with a couple out there who are very concerned that they wanted to vote. I think the initial response is this Margo, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have fought very hard to be accepted as citizens in this country with the 67 Referendum, and to not have an opportunity to vote irrespective of the issue is really where the deep and profound anger is coming from. That is the first thing, that everyone should be entitled to vote and there is no access for people in these regions. The second thing is this, whether people vote yes or no I certainly personally have personally heard from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who will be definitely be voting yes.

MARGETSON: So we are still waiting to find out and the ABS probably today will hopefully come out with some sort of answer. The note that we have is that the ABS is putting in place arrangements for people living in remote areas, traveling or working overseas or experiencing homelessness or residing in other territories like Norfolk Island, or maybe even a residential aged care, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds just that statement alone shows how much difficulty there is going to be to get this up and running in the timeframe that it has been given.

MCCARTHY: The time frame is very limiting. Let us remember that the ABS, when the did go out and I know it was certainly a debacle for them with last years Census. On previous occasions the ABS has taken a solid team who have gone around to remote communities to explain things, there has certainly been interpreters all of those things when they do their own ABS census form. They are unable to do that one on one, and have those conversations one on one with people, and I think this is a real barrier for the ABS because this is not their natural role.