20 January 2022

SUBJECTS: COVID and RAT shortages in the NT, Kelly Slater Coalition anti-vax MPs

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Can you give us a bit of an idea of the problem that you're facing right now with COVID in the NT?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Well, it's certainly embedded itself here, sadly. Given that we had two years of protection for people here in the Northern Territory, pretty much. Now we've got around 4000 cases. We've got the community of Galiwin'ku in lockdown, which is in northeast Arnhem Land. It's well and truly here, and we've just still got to get people to get their vaccinations and their boosters.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: So that's something I can almost sense the frustration in your voice and the exasperation. We knew this was coming. Bringing forward the booster shot. What are the numbers on that? How many more need to get it to get that protection?

MCCARTHY: The booster rate is one I can get back to on. I don't know the exact figure on it. It's still early days for us. In terms of our double vaccination, we are in a much better position, certainly in Darwin and Katherine and Alice Springs. But again, some of our communities are very low, in particular in the Central and Barkly regions. We've got to make sure that people have access. Supply has been a big thing of late for us, which is really concerning with the RAT tests. Like everyone else around the country, we certainly desperately need it up here in terms of having access to RATs.

LANGDON: Are they on their way? Any word?

MCCARTHY: We have heard that the Northern Territory government is doing what it can. There's also a private supply here. But Federal Labor called on this to be open for everyone across the country. Schools are going to open. Parents are going to want to know what they have to do. These are going to be critical days coming in front of us. We've also got COVID in the prisons. It's really quite a mess. I'm only speaking for here in saying that COVID is very real. You've been through all this, whereas we're just about to start, and we are going through it. I think our biggest problem is housing. We've got so many people in these communities who live with 14 to 20 people to a house, and that troubles me deeply. And that's the one thing that has not been planned and prepared for properly as well.

STEFANOVIC: Thanks for highlighting. It is a huge worry. OK, let's talk about surfing legend Kelly said without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest sports people the world has ever seen. He also makes a huge contribution to society and to charities in general. He's an absolute legend. He's come out and is facing being banned from competition in Australia over his vaccine status and his beliefs on vaccine status.

MCCARTHY: We've seen what happened with Mr Djokovic and what a mess all of that was. So, it's quite clear that the government is now making sure that the borders are shut. But there is a contradiction there. When you have members of Parliament who still won't declare their positions on vaccination other than that they're anti-vaxxers. It's really hard to grapple with the fact that you can stand on a national level and say 'sorry, you mob out there can't come in'. But your own colleagues in your own party, as in the prime minister's, are basically undermining him. And talking about anti-vax speeches everywhere and attending that. We've got to be clear as a country, what is it that we stand for and right about now I'm not quite sure if we're very clear on that at all.