16 March 2022

SUBJECTS: Cost of living/fuel excise, Zachary Rolfe/Kumanjayi Walker trial, accusations of bullying against Senator Kitching

GREG JENNETT, HOST: I guess we're all hurting with high fuel prices. You can tell us if you have any idea now what sort of prices are being recorded in your neck of the woods, but that's a preamble.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Well over $3, in places like Ramingining in mid Arnhem Land. The prices are just phenomenal.

JENNETT: Do you agree that forms of actions against authoritarian states are never cost free? Everyday Australians, motorists that we've been discussing at least everyday Australians would pay in some way for it.

MCCARTHY: Well, you're right, Greg. We are certainly seeing it here in the Northern Territory. Ramingining is one of our communities that's experiencing perhaps the highest costs so far. We certainly don't want anyone to go any higher than they are or for them to go any higher. They're a very remote community. I understand that there are costs, but what we're seeing here is that people's take home pay isn't increasing either, Greg. So there has to be some kind of balance here. And we know that if this continues as it looks like it will, there must be something else that is there in the intervening time to support Australians, but in particular those Australians in regional and remote areas of the country.

JENNETT: OK, so we had the idea to run up the flagpole earlier this week of possible excise cuts to fuel. I'm not sure it's still fluttering at the top of that flagpole as we speak today, but would you, as a Northern Territory senator, support a cost of living relief, whether it be on fuel excise that's targeted to particular regions? Well, I guess the question is what is it that governments could do meaningfully do to alleviate that show?

MCCARTHY: What I would like to see, of course, is that we have to have some kind of support for people in regional and remote Australia in particular, where these prices are going high. Whether that's fuel excise is not for me to say until we see what comes out of the budget in the next fortnight or so and see what the government is proposing. But I'd also be mindful Greg that we've got issues like food, transportation, getting transport up here. You only saw last month how our roads were cut and we couldn't get transportation up from South Australia and Victoria. And we know that those transport hubs are really important with our food supplies. So I'm looking at that as well that once you have fuel rises, you see rises in other goods and services.

JENNETT: Can we turn the corner? Malarndirri McCarthy to something that I know you will have a lot of thoughts about because it happened on your patch, the ever-present issue of justice, law and order and policing in the Northern Territory. Obviously, in the context of the Zachary Rolfe verdict last week this call that remote communities should not have police with guns in them. Is it viable to do law and order, work justice work there with non-lethal weapons?

MCCARTHY: It's been a really difficult time up here, Greg, and no doubt will continue to be for some months as the families of Yuendumu prepare for the next stage, which is the coronial investigation which will take place later in the year. And I do, if I can for this moment, just reach out and say to the families of Yuendumu, stay strong. It is deeply disappointing for you what's occurred. But I know that certainly for the family of Mr Rolfe. I know they feel very pleased that he's got an opportunity to make something of his life and learn from this experience. What I would encourage here, Greg, is that the people of Yuendumu know what they're talking about and the families know what they're talking about, that there has to be a coming together here. And if they're asking for particular things like not having the guns on police officers as they walk around Yuendumu, you know, have them stored in the police station, have them nearby, but don't have them on their on their personnel as they're walking around to a sports game or to the arts centre or to just check on community. I think that's a fair ask. Clearly, I'm in the federal parliament and this is a territory issue. What I would urge territory authorities to do is to just really try in all goodness to work together.

JENNETT: Can we just wrap with touching on something to do with workplace culture? I think we might have even discussed this earlier in the year, but there are these reports I know they are contested about Kimberley Kitching and difficulties that she may have had with Labor colleagues. Do you join those who say this should be discussed publicly or that there's a time to do it later? Later, next week? Perhaps.

MCCARTHY: Greg, I'm a Yanyuwa woman from the Gulf of Carpentaria. Death is really significant. You know, sorry business is very sacred. I extend my deepest, heartfelt condolences to Andrew and the family on my dear colleague. This is a terribly difficult time for us in the Labor Party. It is not the time, not the time at all, to disgrace it in the way that is occurring in media reports. It is not the time. This is the time for family to celebrate the incredible achievements of my colleague, and I would just urge Australians to recognise that this is the time to remember her in the right way. I work with every single one of my Labor senators, and it's been an absolute pleasure to have worked with Senator Kitching. And it is absolutely awesome to work beside Senator Wong, Senator Keneally and Senator Katy Gallagher and I would vehemently oppose allegations that have been made today against them and just call on all Australians to just step back, step down and let us bury our comrade.