08 July 2021

Subjects: Senator McMahon’s private member’s bill on Territory rights


ADAM STEER, HOST: Someone very keen on the debate is the ALP Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy. What's Labor's position, Senator, on Senator McMahons Bill?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Oh, good morning, Adam, and good morning to our listeners. Can I first just go to Senator Abetz? I thought your previous caller, Carol, was just spot on. And thank you, Carol, for stepping up, because that superior attitude of Senator Abetz is what I have to deal with, with those Senators down there when we're trying to fight for the rights and the Northern Territory. And I commend Dr. Sam McMahon on trying to do the right thing here to ensure that the Territory people can make their own decisions.

STEER: And we heard that in the House of Reps, they think it will pass by a two thirds majority. That's one of the conservative House of Reps politicians is suggesting. But what about in the Senate? Do you have the numbers? Will the numbers be there to pass this legislation in the Senate?

MCCARTHY: Oh, look, there is no doubt this will be an incredibly emotional and explosive debate once we all are able to have a look at the bill that Senator McMahon wants to bring forward, Adam. There are two layers to this. One is naturally the right for the Northern Territory to make its own laws, which naturally I totally support. And then, of course, if we're coming to a legislation around euthanasia, if that law of enabling the Northern Territory to create its own laws and then the Northern Territory parliament can take a law forward like euthanasia again, then that is going to be for them to debate and discuss. I, first and foremost, will always support the Northern Territory people having the right to make our own decisions. And that's what this particular piece of legislation is that I understand.

STEER: What about in your own backyard, Senator? Won't the Conservative Labor Party faction vote against the bill as they did in the 90s, people like Tony Burke?

MCCARTHY: Oh, look, there is no doubt that this will cause real angst and certainly passion as people come forward to to discuss it. I don't know if you remember, Adam, Senator Leyonhjelm did bring forward not exactly the same bill, but a similar one a couple of years ago, which was voted down. And some of my Labor colleagues did vote that down. So there is no doubt I expect there will be a very passionate debate on this particular subject.

STEER: I mean, we've discussed this before, but the politicians refuse to acknowledge that this isn't a bill about euthanasia. It's just a bill about allowing the right for people to vote. Nevertheless, we now see that Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have all got their own right to die legislations enacted. Is the ship sailing on this? Are these are these are these religious politicians who are standing up basically on on religious beliefs mostly. Are they are they now, you know, stepping back from the tide?

MCCARTHY: It's a good, it's a good question. And this is the thing I sort of sit with mostly to try and work out, well, how do we push through a narrative here that's actually about the people of the Northern Territory having the strength to always be able to make our own decisions? And rightly or wrongly, they're still our decisions and we will own that. Now, when you have senators like Senator Abetz just pat us on the head, and tell us, you know sorry kids, you voted no to statehood and therefore you just can't have your lolly and run off in the park too bad, too sad. That's just totally outrageous and demeaning and very patronising. But that is where they will come from. And you having him on this morning was good in one sense because the Territorians can now see what it is that we're going to have to deal with on this debate. We will be patronised, told that we had our chance to to be a state. And, you know, again, mixing that message up when your previous callers are spot on, the reason why the Northern Territory voted no in statehood was not against aid because it was against the process and the piece of legislation that was bought by the then Chief Minister, Shane Stone.

STEER: But will you and the Labor Party now, will you and the Labor Party now have the numbers on your side to pass the bill on your side?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think there is going to be a real tight number cruncher here, Adam, and I couldn't say for sure that we would. But I will be keen to firstly have a look at Dr McMahon's legislation. We naturally have to see that first. And as I said, I do commend her for being courageous to bring this forward. And let's hope that we can, you know, work with her on that. And then secondly, canvass, I guess, with Labor colleagues as to what sort of support we can provide formally.

STEER: Well, let's hear from Dr McMahon now. She's patiently waiting. Senator, good to talk to you this morning. Thank you so much. There's Senator Malarndirri McCarthy there.