29 June 2021

Subjects: Morrison Government has failed hotel quarantine and vaccine roll out; NT outbreak; Alice Springs Show.

JUSTIN FENWICK: Malarndirri McCarthy is the Labor senator for the Northern Territory, and she took to social media yesterday and basically questioned why the federal government hadn't stepped in and stepped in to build and run the purpose built facilities that they've promised. Malarndirri McCarthy, good morning.

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Justin, and good morning to you.

FENWICK: Now, just explain what you were calling on the federal government to do yesterday.

MCCARTHY: Well, I'm still calling on it today as well, Justin, that the prime minister is failing to move at all in a way that's quick enough for our country. We were calling for quarantines to be established and build first up, and this is still a call that's going on. The fact that they're still just meeting to have discussions is not good enough when we know that the states also require facilities. You look here to the north, you see Howard Springs and the facility that we have. It is a gold star. You know, if you want to compare it to what's occurring in the other states around their hotel quarantines. Why can't they roll out immediately something very similar to what we do have in Howard Springs. And we've been calling on that for at least the last six to eight months.

FENWICK: The Federal Government and the Victorian government will build a facility in Victoria. I guess, would that kind of or should that be used rather than people quarantining in, say, Brisbane or Sydney until they get quarantine facilities?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think the real concern here, Justin, is that this has been going on for well over 12 months, 14 months. We're going into 18 months. And we're still asking the prime minister to do this. Now, if we reflect on something like, say, the Intervention, for example, when we saw demountables rolled out across 200 communities in a matter of weeks and months. They were done in two, three months at the max in places that were the most remotest in the Northern Territory. And yet, for some reason, it cannot, in an emergency situation where our country is again being pulled to its knees, do something in terms of the quarantining. The prime minister's got two jobs: to get the quarantine facilities out there and to get Australians vaccinated. And he's failing on both.

FENWICK:  Is it really the prime minister's responsibility to deal with quarantine or is that really the responsibility of the state and territory leaders?

MCCARTHY: It's a constitutional issue in terms of the Federal Government. The Federal Government is responsible for quarantine in a case of this situation across Australia.

FENWICK: Why, OK. I guess, when would you like to say quarantine facilities? Obviously, they've discussed in national cabinet over the last night changes to testing post quarantine. Is that sufficient or do you want to see more pop up facilities like I guess what's happened, what's going to happen in Victoria, right across the country?

MCCARTHY: Well, there's-- Of course, it's not sufficient because we're still here eight to 10 months later calling for quarantine facilities. The Prime Minister can be talking and talking and talking, but there is no action that's occurring in result of rolling this out nationally. People are demanding things. We've listened to tourism operators, business operators speaking yesterday, who are just going to go out of business, especially here in the Northern Territory. But across Australia, they cannot cope with the fact that the leaks from quarantine, which were in our 25th hotel leak, is impacting so dramatically, not just in one state, but now right across jurisdictions. And now we're seeing here in the Northern Territory that we have had to shut down, certainly in Darwin. And we're very conscious of our communities across the rest of the Territory.

FENWICK: In terms of the vaccine rollout that you just mentioned, the Prime Minister has said last night that national cabinet met and agreed that they would mandate for quarantine workers and quarantine transport workers, that they would be mandated to be vaccinated as well as aged care workers. Are you happy with that outcome? Albeit, you know, as you said, 18 months into this pandemic, we are only now looking at mandating for those workers in those positions

MCCARTHY: Justin, this Prime Minister is way too slow. This Federal Government is way too slow. It's reactionary. We should not be having these conversations. We should be well ahead in terms of our vaccination rates. Australia is nearing at the end in comparison to other countries around the world, even third world countries who are well ahead of us in our vaccination rates. What is wrong with our leadership in this country? Well, I'll tell you what's wrong. They're just not doing their job.

FENWICK: Now, the Alice Springs show is set to be for this Friday. In your mind, should major events like that go ahead when you've got the capital city, Darwin, in lockdown? Should other regional, I guess, events go ahead rather in in in light of what's going on in in the major city?

MCCARTHY: Well I'll be getting a briefing today in terms of the Northern Territory government situation. Naturally, I do trust that things are working very closely or they are working very closely in terms of the medical advice. It is a real concern what's going on in terms of the Delta strain, Justin. There is no two ways about it. We have to be enormously careful. And if the decision to do something in terms of major events, like the show, has to occur, then that's something that I would expect the Northern Territory government to do, just as they've announced in terms of the Territory Day fireworks being postponed.

FENWICK: Finally, before I let you go, you mentioned the vaccine rollout and we talked about that very briefly. But have you had your vaccination? And I guess now is the timely reminder to go and get vaccinated. Have you had both?

MCCARTHY: I haven't had both. I'm well on the way to the second one in the well, hopefully in the next week or two, I think. I think I've got to have it in July. I must check my diary on that. But it's definitely in July, Justin, so but I would urge those listeners out there and in particular people in our regions and communities. I've just been out in the Kakadu region prior to this lockdown and there is a sense of still hesitancy. I'd certainly urge those responsible to make sure that the messaging continues out there. We must get as many Australians vaccinated as possible to help us reduce what will clearly be a long journey on the covid-19 journey for us.

FENWICK: It most certainly will Malarndirri McCarthy. Thanks for your time.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.