23 August 2017


ROAHN BARKWICK ABC ALICE SPRINGS: Malarndirri McCarthy is the Labor Senator for the Northern Territory and I caught up with her just a little while ago.


BARWICK: Labor is obviously going to make the most it can politically out of this but is it really the deal that the coalition is keeping a promise that it made before the last election?

MCCARTHY: Look this is important to the Australian people in terms of the LGBTI community and the hundreds and thousands of letters that weve got, Labor members have received, asking us to go to a vote on the floor. Its important that we stay firm to the values that we said we will.

BARWICK: But that said if the Coalition were to backtrack you would say well you didnt keep your promise and surely Labor would go after the coalition saying youve broken your promise you set a plebiscite and now it isnt happening.

MCCARTHY: There is a simple principal here Rohan why should other people vote on who you should love?

BARWICK: Is there any chance that the plebiscite will make it through the Senate.

MCCARTHY: Certainly Labor is very firm about the fact that this should be a legislation on the floor of the house that can be done any day and well certainly do it once we are in Government.

BARWICK: Labor still wont back it, obviously the Government is only going to reintroduce the plebiscite, Labor still wont give it any support?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely not.

BARWICK: It sounds like the plan is then to go to a postal vote, firstly what do you think about that idea?

MCCARTHY: Youre talking about $120 million that will go towards voting about who you should love. Seriously lets look at the values here. This is an indication of the complete and utter mess that the Coalition are in and the weakness of Prime Minister Turnbull and hes colleagues not really respecting the humanity of the situation. Lets just vote on the floor of the parliament and make this legislation and law now.

If it does go to a postal vote, which is looking likely if the plebiscite doesnt make it in the senate would you take part in it, would other Labor members take part. If you are passionate about this issue of same sex marriage surely it would be your duty to take part in a postal vote. Well you would obviously vote in favour of same sex marriage?

MCCARTHY: We are going to argue really strong case as we did in the previous piece of legislation that came in relation to the plebiscite. What is being proposed now is a voluntary non-binding postal vote costing over $120 million; there are so many other issues that we should be dealing within terms of that amount of money. Indigenous health, and housing for example, closing the gap, $120 million let me tell you Rohan I know exactly where that amount of money could go.

BARWICK: What are you saying about the postal vote you wouldnt take part if it were to go ahead?

MCCARTHY: I am saying that we are prosecuting a very solid argument as to why this is not the way to go. That the parliament can legislate now and there are obviously members in the coalition government who would be prepared, Warren Entsch has been very vocal in this from the get go, I know that we could do this tomorrow.

BARWICK: Yes but there is no way that is going to happen from the coalition side because they had this meeting yesterday and there were only seven members who voted to change the overwhelming majority want to keep with the plebiscite . Youre saying the plebiscite wont get support so if then as the Government tells us, it goes to a postal vote what would Labor members do with that postal vote.

MCCARTHY: Well naturally we are going to have that conversation and I will let you know as soon as weve confirmed it.

BARWICK: I guess if Labor politicians do take part in the postal vote then wouldnt it be easier to support the plebiscite and have a formal vote, its essentially going to be the same sort of thing isnt it?

MCCARTHY: The concern we have as I pointed out is that we have been lobbied by thousands of people right across this country Rohan, I mean my email box in terms of people asking us to go no where near this has been incredibly overwhelming, and we are listening to that.

BARWICK: Ok. Some are saying that it is a bit rich for Labor to be so passionate about issue now there are quotes going around on social media today on social media of Bill Shorten supporting the idea of a plebiscite as recently as a couple of years ago. Would it not be better if Labor did work with the coalition and then we might actually get some resolution on this issue rather than it going on and on and on as it is?

MCCARTHY: Yes but this is a problem within the Coalition party room Rohan. Clearly they are incredibly divided. It is a lack of leadership being shown by the Prime Minister about who people want to love. Really we have to get back to the humanity here the story is I dont want anyone voting on who I should love.

BARWICK: If Labor is so passionate about this and you say that your email inbox has been flooded, then surely you would think there is enough public support for same sex marriage so if youre confident in the public support then what would be the danger or what would be the problem with going to a plebiscite or going to this Postal vote?

MCCARTHY: The cost is what we have raised immediately; I mean seriously lets have a look at the cost. Tens and tens of millions of dollars over a decision, irrespective of a what the issue is, spending tens of tens of millions of dollars when we can simply legislate Rohan is irresponsible. It is irresponsible by the Government its irresponsible by leaders and we have to stand firm by those values.

BARWICK: There are people in the community who are perhaps they are not as vocal as the pro same sex marriage group but there are people who dont necessarily want this and would vote no in a plebiscite there views need to be respected as well dont they?

MCCARTHY: I think we have had this conversation in terms of our debate on the floor in the previous piece of legislation that came forward and we will certainly be raising those issues again in our debate on the second return of this piece of legislation and we know that they are incredibly important concerns that people have out there. But lets see how the next couple of days unfold and I can keep you posted.

BARWICK: Malarndirri McCarthy, thanks for your time this afternoon.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.