It's our Territory voice. We can't afford to lose a second seat in the House of Reps

28 May 2020


SUBJECT: Risk of losing a seat in the House of Reps

JO LAVERTY, ABC Radio Darwin: What if the Northern Territory dropped down from two seats in the House of Representatives to just one? It's an issue that's been casting a shadow over politics in the Northern Territory for some time now. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is Senator for the Northern Territory. Good morning. Why is now the right time to push for this?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Well it clearly is important because the Australian
Electoral Commission will begin its review as of July. June is our next sittings date. I have certainly been briefed in relation to the fact that there is a concern and it looks impending that we will lose one seat. Our parliamentary library in the Federal Parliament also projects that as well so if we're going to move, we now need to do that.

LAVERTY: When you say it's impending, do you mean that it looks like we will actually lose that seat?

MCCARTHY: That's correct.

LAVERTY: So what can you do to stop that from happening?

MCCARTHY: Well what Labor is proposing is a Private Senator's Bill so Don Farrell
who's the Shadow Minister for this particular area and myself will introduce a Private Senator's Bill into Parliament in June and seek the support of the Senate to look at legislating to keep both seats of the Northern Territory in legislation so that we do
not have to have a problem of losing it.

LAVERTY: Why should people care if we lose a seat in the House of Reps?

MCCARTHY: People should care because we don't want to lose our Northern Territory voice. We have four representatives now with two Senators and two Lower House members and in my view that's certainly still not enough. I'd like to see the Northern Territory become a State, where we have equal representation like the rest of the country but we cannot afford to lose what little we already have in the four positions in the Federal Parliament.

LAVERTY: I might draw you a little bit more on your ambitions to be a State in just a moment. This kind of thing historically has happened in the Northern Territory before hasn't it?

MCCARTHY: It has happened before Jo and we've seen that the concern around losing the seat has happened but the Parliament did step in to ensure that that didn't take place and now we're seeing this happen again. If I could just take your listeners back through our history. We have from the beginning in 1922 had one seat of the Northern Territory until around 2000, the year 2000 when it was then divided into two seats: the seat of Solomon and Lingiari and in 2003, there was a threat that it could possibly go back to one seat and the Federal Parliament did move then to make some amendments that impacted that decision but it wasn't legislated. We are now facing that same problem again here in 2020 and we believe that it needs legislation so that we don't have to have this threat again in a couple of years time or more.

LAVERTY: And this has happened in other parts of Australia hasn't it, to have a legislated number of representatives in the House of Reps?

MCCARTHY: Well you have to look say for example at Tasmania which has five seats in the lower house and yet our population in both Solomon and in Lingiari, we have more elected representatives in each of those seats than in each of the five seats in Tasmania and the reason why they are able to have five seats is because they're considered, if we go back to Federation, they're considered as one of the original states. And so we are always at a disadvantage, the Northern Territory, pretty much since South Australia surrendered us under the Surrender Act of 1908.

LAVERTY: Every now and then the idea of becoming a State comes up and I always love the arguments for and against. What's your argument for becoming a State, Senator?

MCCARTHY: Look, very much so that we need to have equal representation. We are citizens in this country like our fellow Australians in the States and at this stage we only have half a vote, half a voice and when any referendum comes around, even if we were to vote say for example on a Voice to Parliament we would still only have half a vote in that and when we look at our First Nations population here, that seems highly unfair.

LAVERTY: Is it a fight you're willing to start now or is it just something that you think about?

MCCARTHY: Look I think the fight here is to maintain the voices that we do have with four representations. We must not lose the four and eventually over time I would
certainly want to see more but we're not there yet but let's not lose the four
positions that we have in the Federal Parliament.

LAVERTY: Senator thank you very much for your time.