02 February 2022

SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison text message saga, Sam McMahon’s resignation, RBA speech, unemployment,

GREG JENNETT, HOST: Malarndirri McCarthy. Are you dismissive of this as frippery in Canberra scuttlebutt? Or do you see behind this some greater truth about Scott Morrison, his character, and the cohesion of his government?

MALARNDIRRI MCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: I actually think now it's the million-dollar question is finding out who has texted this particular message because the Coalition itself is now saying that that person must step down. And that's a pretty serious call from the Coalition itself. I'm sure we'll get found out. Greg, I'm sure there is a lot of people out there now who are actually trying to find out. And there's no doubt people in Scott Morrison's cabinet, maybe the Prime Minister himself already know who this person is.

JENNETT : The policy that the Prime Minister wants to talk about is jobs, and he's painted a big circle around sub four per cent unemployment. This would be a shared goal, wouldn't it, for Labor policy as well?

MCCARTHY 3: Oh look, Greg, absolutely. Unemployment at the lowest rate is really important for our country, but I'd like to just share with you and your listeners, really. The one area that also concerns us is underemployment. We only have to look at the program called the Community Development Program, where over 40,000 Australians are on that program, and that program needs to be one about employment. And this government has failed continuously on that level alone.

JENNETT: In the context of a country that is an island, borders largely closed, starting to reopen, of course, to certain visa holders. That's a big part of this story, isn't it? The low unemployment story is in large measure due to those people, new settlers, if you like no longer arriving.

MCCARTHY: But what's unspoken here, Greg, is the fact that wages still remain stagnant. Wages just haven't risen in terms of what is needed with families across this country. The cost of living has been really difficult.

JENNETT: I'll talk to you about cost of living. Are the ingredients now there for wage rise pressure in the system as this unemployment rate drops?

MCCARTHY: We certainly need to see from this government what their emphasis is around employees across the country. Workers who need support. And when we don't have that confidence, Greg, in just something as simple as being able to supply RATs. Here in the Northern Territory, we've got our communities still unable to access them. So, then it impacts the workforce, then it impacts the economy. So, it still hasn't got it right and I have to beg to differ.

JENNETT: Malarndirri McCarthy just before you. Not far from you. In Darwin, we had fellow Senator Murray Watt telling us about the questioning of Richard Colbeck today and his attendance at the cricket in Hobart over summer. Are you like him seeking some sort of ministerial scalp here from Richard Colbeck? Did you find his evidence persuasive today?

MCCARTHY: Look, it's certainly great to have Senator Murray Watt up here as shadow minister for Northern Australia, at least we have someone who's out and about worrying about the communities here, and he's perfectly correct in regards to Senator Colbeck. This minister has failed consistently in this area of concern for the elderly, for our elders across the country, and there's certainly been no questions asked about our elders right here in aged care facilities across the Northern Territory and it is a real concern.

JENNETT: Malarndirri McCarthy in your territory, there is now a significant or potentially significant defection in Sam McMahon from the CLP. What's your reading of how disruptive that might be to the government or the Senate with this ever so slight alteration in numbers there now?

MCCARTHY: Just two parts to this first, Greg, if I may. Firstly, Senator McMahon did say on radio yesterday that the reason she stood down was because she felt unsafe in the party environment of the Country Liberal Party, and I'm concerned about that. I think the Australian parliament has moved eventually to ensure safety in the workplace, in particular for women. So to hear a federal senator in particular in the Coalition say this, I think that raises very serious concerns. And secondly, in terms of the Senate, we've already seen other senators in the Coalition who've crossed the floor. We've seen national senators cross the floor against the Coalition, and I expect that will continue in this next round of sittings.

JENNETT: Just finally, let's hurl the old price of bread question out to each of you. Mal McCarthy, What are you paying in Darwin for a life?

MCCARTHY: It is around four dollars up here, but in the in the communities, it's actually far higher. You can pay for one for about six bucks for a loaf of bread and it is of concern. But we are watching that, especially now with the floods and roads cut off and just getting food there. So that's probably our biggest issue up here at the moment. Not so much the cost of the bread.