Violence in the Workplace: Interview with Katie Woolf 104.9

13 December 2019

KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Now I think we all understand that political life can be rough and tumble and that you do put up criticism from your opponents no matter which side of the fence you're on politically but when I read this story of what one of our Senators is being subjected through at the moment, I found it absolutely horrific. Labor Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy joins me on the line now. Good morning Malarndirri.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, NORTHERN TERRITORY SENATOR: Good morning Katie and good morning to your listeners and I just wish I was home in Darwin right now.

WOOLF: Is it freezing in Canberra?

MCCARTHY: It's pretty cool but I think everyone's just reached the end where we're just keen to get back to our homes.

WOOLF: By the end of the year no doubt that is the case. Senator I've got to say, I was incredibly disturbed when I found out about this story and heard what you had to say in Parliament yesterday of some of the behaviour that you've been subjected to - threats and absolutely horrific threats. When did this begin?

MCCARTHY: It began two years ago next month Katie in terms of phone calls to my office both in Darwin and Canberra. And initially, as you said in your intro, you know that when you're in political life that you're fair game for people in terms of policies and arguments and debates but this turned enormously personal and became very dangerous.

WOOLF: Malarndirri, what was this person ringing and saying and how did it all unfold initially?

MCCARTHY: Well it was just messages on the answering machine really. It was my staff would hear when they came in of a morning to check any calls and it was certainly a constituent that was known to my staff but someone who just seemed to have gone too far. And over a period of time, I just said look this kind of behaviour is not on, we need to call the police in. And the police came in, the Northern Territory Police came in to have a listen and certainly the AFP section of the Northern Territory Police were also included so from there it went basically to a point of safety - a real safety issue.

WOOLF: So Senator you know who the person is?

MCCARTHY: I certainly know their name. I personally don't know them, but I certainly know the name, they were very clear about wanting to identify themselves and very clear about wanting to do all sorts of things to me, and if not them, then they would get others to do it to me. Yeah.

WOOLF: Where is this at now from your perspective? Obviously the police are involved, has this person been charged? What exactly is going to happen here?

MCCARTHY: Well there was certainly a time where I sought a Personal Protection Order once I was aware that this particular person had been charged on other offences and had faced a custodial sentence on a result of that and on their release, I knew I would need to get a Personal Protection Order because I didn't feel comfortable given the threats and the serious nature of the threats, so I had to seek a Personal Protection Order in both the ACT Magistrates Court and then also in the Darwin Magistrates Court so I needed my legal teams in both jurisdictions simply because this person is mobile.

WOOLF: Is there any reason why this person has been upset or become so aggressive in their threats towards you. It seems so strange.

MCCARTHY: Well sometimes you just find in this job in particular Katie, that you do meet all sorts of people from all walks of life with all sorts of things that they want or believe in or are passionate and overzealous about, and we get that. We get that in terms of understanding that there will always be people that have different opinions on things. But once it comes to threats like I want to execute you and I want to execute you in the Federal Parliament and I don't care if I'm getting shot while I'm doing it, that's just not on.

WOOLF: It's not.

MCCARTHY: And it was something that obviously the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were clearly alarmed about and the AFP moved then to serve the order so that I could then have a Personal Protection Order in place.

WOOLF: Malarndirri do you feel safe at the moment in your job?

MCCARTHY: Ah no, I feel that I've got to constantly be conscious of this and it's why I put it on the public record. But I did it also because this is not just about me, this is about my staff, this is about all people who work in public office and their staff. We are voted in, yes we're voted in by the people of Australia in all their jurisdictions but no one whoever you are should ever feel unsafe where ever you are - whether it's in the home or in the workplace. I have a job to do, millions of Australians have a job to do and we should be able to go about those jobs doing the best that we can. And obviously we'll meet people that we don't agree with, but thankfully this country doesnt believe in settling debates with rifles and guns, we do it in a parliamentary democracy.

WOOLF: Like I say, it's unbelievable but in some ways it's not unbelievable. It's horrible and you shouldn't have to be subjected to it. I think it's just not something that even when you're elected to parliament, no matter what job you have, nobody deserves to go to work and feel unsafe and feel subjected to threats that you've been threated to. I mean, some of them are absolutely horrific.

MCCARTHY: They are. They are Katie. And I think the most difficult thing perhaps has also been my family and you know your family don't buy into what you do. Clearly they love you, just because they love you, they're your family. And the enormous stress that they feel, and the helplessness they feel at having to feel like something could happen to someone they care about. And that was important for me to put on the record for them, so that their voices were heard. It is tough, but as I said yesterday in my speech Katie, and I was reminded so many times throughout these moments that it did really get me down, was that it is really wonderful to serve the people of the Northern Territory and indeed Australia. And I believe that if you do that to your best of your ability, and in my view, with a heart full of love, I think it does overcome that kind of hatred and I don't ever want to be that kind of person.

WOOLF: Yeah I think that's a really good note to end on and I really appreciate your time this morning Senator. I do hope that this situation becomes, well goes away really I think is the only way of saying it.

MCCARTHY: So do I. I want to leave it in 2019. I just want to get back home, get back to the Top End and spend time with my mob.

WOOLF: I think it's really brave of you to speak out. I know that very often sometimes when we're in situations that are uncomfortable and that are not nice for us, the easy thing to do is to not say anything, but it is really important that you've raised this and that people are aware of what goes on because like I said at the start it's fine to have the rough and tumble of politics but this is not fine, it's not ok in any way, shape or form.

MCCARTHY: It's not ok, that's right Katie, thank you for your support.

WOOLF: Thank you Senator for the Northern Territory, I appreciate your time and we'll see you back in the Territory soon.

MCCARTHY: No worries Katie and thank you to your listeners.