SUBJECTS: Northern Territory representation in Federal parliament; Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters; Borders opening in the NT.
ADAM STEER, HOST: Senator, Good morning. Did the hearing do anything to improve your prospects of saving the Territory’s second seat?
MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning Adam. Yes I certainly do believe it has. I feel that it did two things, two important things. Firstly, the people of the Northern Territory and the many organisations who put forward submissions, I’d like to personally thank them for their efforts. It was such a short time frame to get over 50 submissions to this committee and secondly what it did do was alert Federal parliamentarians on the committee, the significance of the two seats to the people of the Northern Territory.
STEER: You’re relying on the Government to support this Bill in the House of Reps to save the seat .Why would they do that when Labor holds both Solomon and Lingiari at the moment?
MCCARTHY: They should do it in the interest of democracy, Adam. We need to have our voice very clear in the Federal Parliament and let’s remember the seat has not always been a Northern Territory Labor seat. Even Warren Snowdon said that in the press conference yesterday. There was Nick Dondas who held the seat at a particular time in history and there was certainly other conservative members who held it prior—
STEER: Senator, have we got you there?
MCCARTHY: Yes, you’ve got me here. And also let’s not forget Solomon also was held by Dave Tollner and Natasha Griggs who are certainly not Labor members, so I think it’s important to recognise that the Country Liberals and the Labor Party and the Nations are certainly incredibly united on the fact there needs to be two seats in the Lower House of the Australian Parliament.
STEER: So the Nationals, the Country Liberals and Labor all united. Does that secure enough seats to pass through the House of Representatives?
MCCARTHY: In terms of votes, we certainly have the support also of the Australian Greens and we know that this means--
STEER: That’s one vote in the House of Reps though – the Greens.
MCCARTHY: Yes but in the Senate if I could just take listeners to the Senate first which is where we have to get the Bill through, we are reasonably confident that we will be able to get it through the Senate because we do have the Australian Greens, the Nationals and Labor and also Jacqui Lambie so we then would like to see the Bill go through in the Lower House and we do need members of the Liberal Party to support it, and ideally, the leader of the Liberal Party and the Government is the Prime Minister.
STEER: Have you think you’ve got enough support to get it through the House of Reps though?
MCCARTHY: Well that’s really the question, and that’s the area I have to keep lobbying and pushing along with Warren, Luke and Sam. We need to make sure that those parliamentarians in the Lower House do firstly enable this to come on for a vote and secondly, support it when they do vote.
STEER: A lot of groups made submissions to the hearings yesterday including the Australia Institute who we heard from last week. They say the answer to the Territory’s problem is to increase the number of seats in the Federal Parliament to 223. Here’s Bill Brown who wrote the submission:
BILL BROWN, AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE: The last increase to the House of Representatives back in the 1980s. In the meantime, Australia’s population has grown by 10 million people. So I think we’re well overdue for an increase in the size of parliament and the number of politicians.
STEER: That would mean the Territory would definitely have two seats, maybe even three. Surely that wouldn’t be a bad thing?
MCCARTHY: Look, I think I’ve said on your program before, Adam, I want way more than two seats. I want us to be a State and certainly even have eventually 12 Senators so I don’t disagree with anyone wanting more. What we have to recognise is what’s politically possible. And what’s possible for us now is to enable keeping the two seats that we currently have. And that in itself is a struggle to do that.
STEER: Ok, so what’s the next step here?
MCCARTHY: Yeah good question, we’ll gather today to have a look at all of the evidence that’s been provided to the Committee. I will continue with the petition, calling on Territorians and all Australians to support the petition for the two seats so I certainly will keep that continuing right up to when we do next sit in Canberra. And so I urge Territorians and anyone they know to get on the petition website, on my Facebook page and then of course we’re going to have to write to Parliamentarians to urge them to consider supporting the Bill.
STEER: Senator, as always, good to talk to you. Before I let you go, how do you feel now that the Territory’s borders are open? Are you afraid it’s inevitable Coronavirus will come back to the Territory?
MCCARTHY: It certainly puts you on a heightened alert, Adam, that we do have to be extra vigilant and extra careful wherever we go. And certainly as I’m travelling across the Northern Territory I’m incredibly conscious of that. We have to actually look at this as a day by day thing and we’ve seen what’s going on in Victoria and New South Wales. Clearly there is concern so yes I am certainly watching everything very closely with wherever I’m travelling.
STEER: Senator, good to hear from you.
MCCARTHY: Thank you Adam.