29 October 2021

SUBJECT/S: Sam McMahon’s Territory Rights Bill; Morrison’s voter suppression Bill

ADAM STEER, PRESENTER: Malarndirri McCarthy is the other Northern Territory Senator. Senator, good morning. Will the Bill now get your support under these changes?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Adam, and good morning to your listeners. Well, as we spoke about in the last time we had this discussion, those two elements of Senator McMahon's Bill in relation to property on just terms and the determination of employment disputes added confusion and certainly added concerns in terms of the legality of the Senator's bill. And these were the reasons why the caucus voted against it.

STEER: Yes, and now those two elements have been removed. Will the bill now get your support?

MCCARTHY: Look, I have expressed the importance of the Territory Rights Bill, especially from the get go. This is an important debate for the Northern Territory, but it's also important for the Federal Parliament to support it. And if those two elements of the Bill are removed, they certainly make it far more attractive for the vote to move ahead. Again, I'm only one person of a caucus, but I would certainly want to have a look at the amendments that Senator McMahon brings. And it would be heartening to see those areas removed.

STEER: Would you be happy with those amendments, you would support the bill?

MCCARTHY: Well, this is the always the question. Of course, we want those two areas removed. We'd also want to see the ACT involved to be able to get far broader support. But I'd like to have a look at what the Bill would look like once the Senator has made her amendments. And clearly, if what she's saying is the case, it would certainly be a far better situation.

STEER: According to the Canberra Times, Labor discussed Senator McMahon’s bill in caucus. How did those discussions eventuate?

MCCARTHY: Well, of course, I won't go into the ins and outs of the caucus discussion per se, Adam, but perhaps the best thing I can say to your listeners is that what I've told you is what I would say to caucus or anyone else who asks me.

STEER: If Labor wins the next election, is it now a case of Labor planning to introduce their own Bill that would cover both the ACT and the Northern Territory?

MCCARTHY: It would be really important if we do get an Albanese Labor government into Canberra that this proposal of a Private Member's Bill into the lower House going to the Senate would have far greater support and we would want to see that happen sooner rather than later.

STEER: Was it is a mistake of Senator McMahon to add the two parts into the Bill?

MCCARTHY: Well, you'd have to ask Senator McMahon that. I think there were obviously genuine reasons why she put those additional comments or additional laws in. But in terms of Labor and in terms of our assessment of it, it did add further concern because of an issue that has never really had the 100 per cent support of the parliament since Andrews overturned the rights of the Territory.

STEER: You’re on ABC Radio Darwin. Adam Steer and Jo Laverty with you. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is our guest this morning. In other news, the Federal Government is introducing this week a Bill into Parliament around voter ID. So right now, all you have to do is give your name and address and your name is crossed off the roll when you head to the ballot box but under this new Government Bill you’ll need to show your ID to vote. Where do you sit with that, particularly considering our remote voters?

MCCARTHY: This move by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government is an absolute demolition of democracy. It really is. Adam, the fact that we are struggling now across the country, but in particular in our rural and remote areas to engage people, to enrol, to vote, this will certainly turn people away even more and their focus is on the wrong things.

STEER: What are your concerns?.

MCCARTHY: Well, there's a number of concerns, firstly, that we're only, you know, a couple of weeks, you know, less than three months away from the next federal election. This is an absolute distraction. It's something that's impossible to try and get organised with. We already know that of the 16 million Australians across the country, the concerns that the Australian electoral commissioner raised in Senate estimates this week that this is really only a vanishingly small problem. He's raised that and said, this isn't really a problem. Why are we focussed on it? You've got more people who need to be enrolled. Only 78 per cent of Indigenous voters were enrolled to vote in 2020. Where's the focus on enrolling people? There is no focus. And yet, of the 16 million people at home across Australia who voted, around 2000 people voted more than once. And of that, 24 received notices of prosecution. But nothing happened because the Australian electoral commissioner says this is not a problem.

STEER: Yeah we spoke to Antony Green, the ABC’s election analyst yesterday over this issue. He was saying something similar. What about your concerns over what happens here in the Northern Territory particularly in our remote communities where people may not have ID?

MCCARTHY: I have massive concerns. This is an absolutely discriminatory move by the Federal Government to ensure that people in the Territory do not vote. That's what this move is about. It's about suppressing the vote across Australia, but in particular here in the Northern Territory. And it is a shameful, shameful attack on democracy.

STEER: The Bill does say that it won’t stop people voting. You just have to get somebody else who has an ID to identify you.

MCCARTHY: Really? Really? I mean, seriously, Adam, let's have-- I have to pick you up on that. This Government knows full well that there are people across Australia, non-English speaking backgrounds, people of First Nations background, people who are homeless, who do not have the ID to take and they will be disenfranchised. They will be discriminated against. They will not be able to vote.

STEER: Some cynics might say you’re concerned about this new Bill because it could put under threat some of those remote seats.

MCCARTHY: The concern I have is for democracy in our country. Scott Morrison is destroying democracy, and he's done enough to destroy the Australian way of life already.

STEER: Labor not supporting the Bill?

MCCARTHY: Labor will not be supporting this bill, and we will be campaigning very strongly against it, and I urge all Australians to do the same.

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

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Adam.