13 January 2022

SUBJECTS: Supply chain and workforce shortages impact on the Northern Territory; Djokovic visa saga; Australia Day. 

SARAH ABO, HOST: There's more off court drama for world number one tennis star Novak Djokovic, a decision looming on his visit today after he sensationally admitted to lying on his entry declaration form and mingling with others while knowingly infected with COVID. So, Novak said it was an error of judgement. Not deliberate, but either way, it doesn't look good, does it? 

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, LABOR SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: It's interesting watching all this still play out. Sara, we spoke to you last week about the impending court case. We've now seen the Prime Minister slapped down by the federal court in terms of Mr Djokovic. Now we have another decision that's possibly there. The whole thing could have been avoided. It has been an absolute mess and quite embarrassing not only for Tennis Australia, for Mr Djokovic himself, but also for our country. 

ABO: Yeah, it doesn't look good, I reckon, and especially international headlines. Australia is plastered across the world right now. Well, let's move on now to the workforce shortages that are crippling many crucial industries as we know, and we're facing it every day when we walk into the supermarket. This will be front and centre when national cabinet meets today, leaders to consider ditching close contact isolation rules for more workers. Malarndirri why do you think it is so hard to get that cohesion across the states? 

MCCARTHY: In terms of cohesion, I think firstly, we have to look at the fact that the RAT supplies or lack thereof will be a critical point in these discussions today, irrespective of what conclusion they reach in terms of close contacts in terms of workers. If there are still no rapid antigen tests available, this will be even more of a problem. Here in Alice Springs, for example, Sara, we've had the women's shelter that's had to pay $5000 for its own rapid antigen tests. We've got the old people's home in Alice Springs, where elderly people have now got COVID. This is going to be a real issue around that cabinet table today. And again, the prime minister hasn't planned for this.
ABO: I mean, these rapid tests, it's just the Achilles heel. Why don't they just give them out for free, everyone needs them? 

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. Seriously, you're spot on, Sara. If the PCR tests are free under Medicare and are working in that regard, then we can also do the same for the rapid antigen tests. It's a no brainer. It's about our health, for heaven's sakes, for Australians right across the country. Don't pick and choose who has the right to use these tests. 

ABO: Now let's move on, I guess, to this topic. It tends to come up at this time every year. As we know, indigenous bowler Josh Lalor is calling on Aussies to mark this Australia Day by doing something completely unexpected. By going to work. That's not very different for people like you and I. We always work on public holidays, but this is a sentiment that goes against obviously the annual holiday, which we know provokes debate every year. Malarndirri, he hopes this will spark conversations about why the public holiday causes so much pain. Is this the right way to go about it? 

MCCARTHY: It's interesting to hear Josh's views and we are coming up to the date that does cause a great deal of celebration on one hand and concern on the other. The 26th of January does that. It polarises our country and people have different views, but I've always been of the view, Sara, that we have to change attitudes in our country in terms of black and white relationships and our history, irrespective of what the day is. You know, in terms of the 26th of January, we can get up in the morning very early at the dawn service, similar to Anzac Day and remember the atrocities in terms of the early settlers and the beginnings of this country. But we can then go on and actually celebrate the fact that we are a diverse nation, that we have people from around the world who've made this place home. And after what we've experienced and still experiencing with COVID, we need to unite our people across Australia more than ever. 

ABO: Yeah, absolutely. And Josh himself has come out and said he doesn't want to force this on anyone. He simply wants people to think about it and hope that it which is right, which is great 

MCCARTHY: It's great for conversation. It's great to have the discussion, but we must do it respectfully. And you know, there's going to be more Australians coming out, more First Nations people saying what they need to say. But again, let's do it in a respectful way.