28 June 2021

SUBJECTS: CLP preselection of NT seats; Greater Darwin covid lockdown; hotel quarantine failures; vaccine rollout; North Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF)


ADAM STEER, HOST: To diccuss that this morning, ALP Northern Territory Senator, Malarndirri McCarthy. Welcome to ABC Radio Darwin, what's your reaction to the CLP preselection over the weekend?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Adam, and good morning to your listeners. I was out at Jabiru with the federal ministers there, Ken Wyatt and Sussan Ley and also Warren Snowdon, for the hardback to the Mirrar people of that amazing piece of country and the township of Jabiru. So that was really the forefront of our minds on the weekend. But clearly last week, Adam, as no doubt your listeners would have been aware watching the parliament, it was pretty chaotic across the week, in particular with the new returned deputy prime minister in Barnaby Joyce.

STEER: Yes, but what's your reaction to the CLP pre-selection over this weekend? Unless something extraordinary happens, you will have a new co-senator from the Northern Territory after the next election?

MCCARTHY: Well, firstly, I'd just like to point out that the process leading up to it was quite clearly a very difficult one, certainly for Senator Sam McMahon. And I know that with all pre-selections, there's also a very fast paced kind of focus as people push their way forward to be recognised. And I'd just like to say to your listeners, Adam, that certainly Senator McMahon has achieved a significant amount, in particular being able to work with her on the seat of Lingiari and being able to maintain that. We certainly have our differences as well. And no doubt that will continue with whoever's the CLP senator. And in this case, we've heard that Jacinta Price has been preselected.

STEER: Another Indigenous woman representing the Northern Territory in the halls of power in Canberra. That's got to be a good thing.

MCCARTHY: Look, I think it's always important. I've always been on the record with that, Adam, that  encouraging First Nations people to step up. And naturally, I'd like to see them with the Labor Party, but it doesn't really matter. I mean, I'm a pretty focussed person on democracy, per se. And I think it's important to see First Nations people put their hands up, whether it's at local government level, state or territory and federal. And so naturally, that is always an important step, but also have to recognise and I think the broader Australian community recognises this, that we've also got to be able to articulate the reasons why we stand for particular parties. And one of the things that can concerns me, I suppose, is that there isn't much support or any support or very little support, certainly from the Coalition Government over the voice to parliament to be in the Constitution. And I think that's a really credible road that we need to embark on as an Australian parliament. And I'd like to say certainly more First Nations members of parliament support that.

STEER: Have you reached out to Jacinta Price yet?

MCCARTHY: Well, not yet. I was actually still in Kakadu, Adam, just I was very much in some of those mobile hotspots where you couldn't actually be contacted. So I had lots of phone calls just trying to tell me to get back for the lockdown. And I was just pretty much trying to get back around mid-afternoon yesterday, so not yet. I think we'll just see how this next day or two. I certainly have tried to reach out to Senator Sam McMahon. And let's see how we go with her predecessor.

STEER: Let's move to that step lock down call by the chief minister yesterday. The lockdown is only for greater Darwin at this stage. But what are you hearing from people in remote areas? How concerned are they?

MCCARTHY: Look, I had lots of phone calls, probably from the communities, certainly around, you know, some of the outstations in Kakadu National Park around Gunbalanya wanting to know what was going on, they'd obviously seen me and knew I was heading back. I also put up on my Facebook post some of the police interception points that were there, which were very good to see, informing people of what was going on, especially those of us who just hadn't been in any mobile range. So I've said to people who've called me and contacted me just to stay where they are, stay safe. But clearly we have to get vaccinated. The concern and listening to your programs this morning, the fact that hotel quarantine is still an issue. It really is quite upsetting, Adam, when you see that Howard Springs is the Gold Star in terms of the quarantine facility. And we do need the prime minister to have set up these kind of facilities across the country. And this isn't about hitting out. It's actually just a fact. We have done so well here in the Northern Territory with that facility. And it's just important that the prime minister and his cabinet actually follow what we are doing here.

STEER: The prime minister is calling another emergency national cabinet meeting today. That's what you would like the federal government to focus on, is it to fix the whole system?

MCCARTHY: Well, then keep talking about it, Adam. This is the problem. You know, you keep calling a national cabinet, but this has been going on for 12, you know, 14 months. And we've seen even in the last six to eight months that something else could have been done. You know, two jobs: quarantine facility is a constitutional federal issue and make sure people are vaccinated and we are failing as a country.

STEER: Have you been vaccinated yet, Senator?

MCCARTHY: I had my first one and I've got my second one coming up

STEER: We heard in Arnhem Land, there were a lot of people who were vaccine hesitant. Has that changed at all or likely to change, given the new threat of covid-19 we're facing?

MCCARTHY: Look, there was certainly the vaccine hesitancy around the AstraZeneca, but when we saw the Pfizer being rolled out, people a lot more confident with that. It's not happening quickly enough, though, and that is the concern. The messaging is not out there. Certainly the First Nations languages are not there. And I think the messaging in terms of just trying to get people coming in and getting vaccinated, should they wish to do so, is just not out there and needs to be done.

STEER: Very briefly, there was a federal cabinet reshuffle as well. David Littleproud will serve as the minister for agriculture, which you already had, and will take over the minister for Northern Australia role from Keith Pitt. Is that a good move?

MCCARTHY: Well, we're certainly going to be talking more about the North Australia Investment Fund, Adam. You know, we're talking about $500 billion dollars [correction: $5 billion] here and only five per cent has been spent. It's just not good enough. Or in the sixth year of that program and whoever the minister is, we will certainly be bringing that up to them.

STEER: Senator, good to talk to you this morning. Appreciate it.

CCARTHY: Thank you.