27 November 2017

CAAMA RADIO Alice Springs

TEGHAN HUGHES, JOURNALIST: I am incredibly excited to be joined in the CAAMA studio right now by Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. How are you? Welcome back to CAAMA.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Thank you. Lovely to be here with you Teghan and your listeners.

HUGHES: Now, what I wanted to talk to you about is obviously the wonderful success of the YES vote recently in the marriage equality survey.

MCCARTHY: That was awesome. I was in Antarctica when the vote came down. But lets go to that in a moment. You know I was out at Casey Station a base there. Its one of the three bases owned by Australia and you know to sit down with the men and women in Casey station and just to hear people come up and say the YES voters wont you know, and we're trying to tune in as best we can, it's fairly isolated there and you only get sort of sporadic information but to know that the yes has come through that was all we needed to know.

HUGHES: I think it would be very satisfying, a pretty strange place to find out though?

MCCARTHY: Thats right, yeah absolutely. We should have been flying the rainbow flag down there. I made sure that the Aboriginal flag was flying down there.

HUGHES: How wonderful. Do you think this is the first time the Aboriginal flag was flown down there?

MCCARTHY: I dont know. Its a good question you might was to ask the Australian Antarctic Division because it actually comes under them the Director is Nick Gayles, lovely man, and he joined us on the trip, so it was a Joint Parliamentary Committee trip to Antarctica to look at the Antarctic Treaty and also the infrastructure to see how Australia was placed going forward in servicing the Antarctica region.

HUGHES: Its an interesting subject Antarctica and all the different places that lay claim to it?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, yeah totally.

HUGHES: Did you put the flag in and lay a claim?

MCCARTHY: I held the flag, and it was like YES this Yanyuwa Garawa woman discovered Antarctica. I had a bit of fun with that one.

HUGHES: I hope so. Youve to go.

MCCARTHY: You know, I just like they thought they did back in 1788.

HUGHES: I found it! We were here though.

MCCARTHY: We werent lost.

HUGHES: How was it for you being down there its a pretty intense environmental change?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, I mean words fail me really for once. It was breathtaking, incredibly cold of course, but youre rugged up, and youve got the appropriate gear that you had away. I did feel like I had massive boots which made me feel like Ronald McDonald with those big boots on and a must have fallen over that many times. I just couldnt stop laughing at how I was trying to walk around with amassive pack on my back which was a survival pack because it changes, you know the weather changes so rapidly, and you do have a bit of notice most of the time. But we are unfamiliar with the terrain so naturally we had people around us who were guides and they did their jobs terrifically actually and gave us a lot of confidence about what we were doing but the reality is that, it is an isolated place, it is about survival, theres no two ways about it, and you have to have your wits about you and when and if things go wrong you are a long way from Australia.

HUGHES: Yeah. And also from the skill set, growing up in the Territory we dont deal like I grew up in Queensland so similar, I dont deal with the cold, Im scared of that intense cold.

MCCARTHY: Well I didnt know what Id be walking into. I thought am I going to get off the plane and just suddenly, you know, turn into ice or something. I just didnt know. They kept saying its minus 28 degrees and I was like really?. Alice Springs is probably the coldest Ive ever seen it her was minus 3 degrees.

HUGHES: And that was brutal.

MCCARTHY: It was a four-hour flight for us from Hobart. But once we landed it was just all white. I have no idea. I think thank goodness for these incredible pilots and people who know the terrain, using no doubt GPS and other equipment, landed on ice and then we traveled the next three to four hours across ice you in a vehicle. For women, its really difficult you know like going to go to the toilet you really had to kind of hold on.

HUGHES: Cant just go behind a tree somewhere?

MCCARTHY: Noooooooo. Nothing like home let me tell you. So there were all these other personal points that you went wow, ok and you just kind of had adjust yeah to life in Antarctica.

HUGHES: Youre very lucky. Its a pretty amazing place to get to go.

MCCARTHY: Yes absolutely lucky you know it certainly was a place I never considered going.

HUGHES: You cant really go holidaying, I think you can go cruising and stuff?

MCCARTHY: This was certainly to do with our committee work. So there were quite a number of us who went, and we now have a report to compile for the Parliament, and we hope to get that done in the first half of next year.

HUGHES: So you just mentioned Committees which is a great segue into the next thing I want to talk to you about which is a new committee set up, the Rural and Regional Affairs Senate Committee. You mentioned thats going to be discussing things like flights, which is a very big topic for a lot of people from the Centre here.

MCCARTHY: Im involved with a number of committees in the Senate and the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee is one Ive been on in the 12 months Ive been in the Senate. This new inquiry is looking into regional air fares and were going to kick that off quite soon, and already there has been feedback to my office around making sure it comes to the Northern Territory and certainly you know my team are going to be writing to the Secretary of the Committee and saying hey, can we please have hearings here in Alice Springs and Darwin because we need to hear from people directly and you really experience so many hardships, especially if you are in Alice Springs, in terms of ticket pricing and so I really want to get the Senate Committee here so people can tell them directly.

HUGHES: I think that would be an amazing thing. I find that the Alice Springs community is very vocal about this its a part of the conversation constantly is how hard it is for people who arent from me to get home and see family.

MCCARTHY: Thats right.

HUGHES: A lot of people who didnt grow up in the Territory too, you know the Territory is a tough place, you have got to be a bit of a tough cookie to survive out here and it is nice to go back to the beach every now and then to just regenerate.

MCCARTHY: I think it makes the Territory more attractive if people know that they can come here, live here but also quite easily just fly away for a long weekend, that you can from Alice Springs in particular, but even if its not a long weekend if its a holiday you want to know that you can do it at a reasonable price especially if youve got a family.

HUGHES: Especially if youve got a family, thats the thing the airfares for a family must be ridiculous.

MCCARTHY: Yeah and it doesnt bode well for businesses anyway. If youre trying to set up your own business here and you do need to do interstate travel. Weve got to think about how we attract business to the Territory and to this a viable place as well.

HUGHES: Surely for tourism, having people come and visit the Territory and you know experience how beautiful it is here.

MCCARTHY: Yeah all of those things. Ill tell you what, well keep you posted Teghan if we can get the committee here, we would love your support to get the message out to your listeners.

HUGHES: Yeah I think the listeners would be really excited, yeah a bit of change with whats happening there.

Well, thank you so much for coming in and having a yarn with me today.

MCCARTHY: No worries and going back to Parliament now so I will keep obviously working on the yes vote. Its now time for it to become legislation and I just want to congratulate the people of the Northern Territory for the way that youve all handled this important debate on both sides really, it did require a great deal of respect for yes and for no, and I certainly urge those people who were in the no camp that we do have a way to go, but its about tolerant and accepting and respectful society going forward for all people.

So I just want to say thank you to the people of the Northern Territory.


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