16 March 2021

Subjects: March 4 Justice; Prime Minister’s comments in the Parliament; Labor allegations

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: The prime minister has been criticised for his comments about the March 4 Justice protests that have swept the nation.

[Grab: Prime Minister Scott Morrison] This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr. Speaker, not far from here. Such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr. Speaker.

LANGDON: For more, we're joined by Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy in Canberra. Thanks for your time this morning. Firstly, what did you make of those comments by the prime minister?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Well, like most of the comments of late by the prime minister is deeply disappointing, Ally. We had Australians across the country who just needed the Australian parliament, the Australian prime minister, to dig deep and send a really strong message that enough was enough. But what happened in the parliament yesterday sent a deeply depressing, disturbing, again and disappointing message to Australians.

LANGDON: What did it mean to you personally yesterday to be involved?

MCCARTHY: For me personally, I thought of so many people in my life and thought of my own experiences, but in particular the women in my life who were so desperately needed our country to step up and stand up. And the courageousness of Brittany Higgins has led a beautiful sort of sense of spirit across the country. And in my languages, the Yanyuwa, we would call it like a song line, a Kujika, where it just sends this incredibly peaceful spirit of goodness. And to see that come together right across the country was incredibly important for all Australians. On Friday last week, Ally, I was in Alice Springs burying an amazing woman who took part in trying to stop family and domestic violence and assaults in particular on women. And unfortunately, she met the same fate. So, yeah, I was thinking of her.

LANGDON: Yeah. I think we all had a moment for reflection yesterday. If we haven't been a victim of it ourselves, we certainly know someone who has. But personally, for me, I would have loved to have seen the Prime Minister front the rally yesterday. I think would have sent a very powerful message, basically would have been him saying, we hear you. However, we all know what would have happened. He would have been booed by that crowd. Do you think it's understandable that instead he asked to meet some of those organisers in private?

MCCARTHY: Well, I don't agree. I actually think that sometimes in leadership, you're there for a particular reason. And there are moments in your life, especially in your leadership life, where you make a decision. And I think the prime minister might reflect on the fact that he could have had a bit more courage to stand out there. And there are enough Australians out there who would have reminded people, come on, give the guy a chance. So I think that it's disappointing that neither the prime minister and nor the minister for women were unable to do that. And I would certainly have encouraged them to do so.

LANGDON: I would have liked to have seen more senior Liberal MPs out and about yesterday. We know plenty within your party were. But this isn't an issue that just has to do with the Liberal Party.  Within Labor's ranks, you've got your own similar claims. Are you holding a mirror up to those actions? What are you doing about that within your own party?

MCCARTHY: It's an important point, Ally, and we need to have that honest discussion. I spoke on ABC Radio last week about the fact that no political party was blameless. But this isn't about political parties. This is actually about human nature. And we are all responsible for our behaviour. And whatever we do and wherever we are, we always have to check ourselves against what is acceptable. And whether you're in the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the National Party or the Coalition, it is just not on that women are treated in a way where they feel unsafe.

LANGDON: Well to hear, Brittany Higgins, call out the broken system last night, yesterday, it really resonated with a lot of people. Malarndirri, thanks for joining us this morning.

MCCARTHY: Thank you