Private Senators Bill to legislate for two NT seats to be debated in the Senate today

24 August 2020

TRANSCRIPT - TV INTERVIEW - ABC NEWS BREAKFAST - MONDAY 24 AUGUST 2020

TOPICS: NT Election; Private Senator’s Bill to legislate for two NT seats in the House of Reps to be debated in Senate this morning; Robert Muir’s racism experienced during time with VFL and the importance of truth-telling

MICHAEL ROWLAND, ABC BREAKFAST: Let's stay in Canberra for the moment, look at several stories coming out of the Northern Territory over the weekend, of course, there's one very big one Labour senator for the NT, Malarndirri McCarthy joins us now. Good morning to you.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Michael.

ROWLAND: Now, let's start with the NT election. As a Labor senator, how confident are you that Michael Gunner, Gunner's government would be re-elected in its own right?

MCCARTHY: Look, on Saturday night when we did the coverage, Michael, I was certainly quietly confident that we would be returned and incredibly pleased that the Northern Territory people stayed the course with Labor. It has been a terrible year for everyone, I think right across the country and around the globe. And going to an election was certainly very testing. And it's good to see that Labor is well ahead and we have further counting today. So we'd like to see some of those seats that are going to be counted today to come across to us.

ROWLAND: OK. So more likely there'll be some form of agreement with independents to form government.

MCCARTHY: Well, at this point, we certainly know that we have 12 seats my understanding is, Michael. And we need 13 to be able to obviously do that in our own right. And there are five and six, five to six seats still left to go. And we're reasonably confident that at least three may possibly come our way. So we think we'll be able to do it in our own right.

ROWLAND: Okay. Speaking of Northern Territory, it is set to lose one of its two seats. There'll only be one House of Representatives seats under the redistribution proposal put forward by the Australian Electoral Commission. You are one of the architects of a Private Member's Bill to stop this. What is wrong with two seats being folded into one?

MCCARTHY: Well, it just diminishes the voices of the people of the Northern Territory in a parliament of over 200 voices from around the country, Michael. We have four representatives, two from the Senate, two in the Senate and two in the House of Reps. And we already feel that our voices are fairly limited. So to lower to even one less now is just ludicrous in the eyes of the people of the Northern Territory. And they're supporting me to make sure that we can get this Private Senator's Bill through to see that our two houses, ah two seats of the lower house are legislated at a minimum.

ROWLAND: And how confident are you of the success of this bill?

MCCARTHY: Well look at the moment. I'm certainly pleased we've got the support of my fellow CLP Senator Sam McMahon and also the Nationals, the Australian Greens. I know that the crossbenchers are also expressing support. So I think if people vote the way they say they will, Michael, we should be fairly successful. But look, can I just say we are debating the issue this morning in the Senate. And I do call on the Prime Minister to he can change this. We've got the Nationals on board. We just need the liberals. And that really is the Prime Minister.

ROWLAND: OK. Before we go, I believe you're across the story written by colleague Russell Jackson on the former AFL football of Robert Muir. A really appalling tale of racism spanning several decades. And it only took the publication of this story yesterday for Robert to get an apology from both St Kilda and the AFL. What did you make of his plight?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, look, it's pretty sad. I mean, I was reading that over the weekend as well, and one of the things that struck me, Michael, is that this story of Roberts is not one in isolation. And I think if I look at the broader political call by First Nations people is the story of truth telling. There are so many stories like Robert’s out there, and we need to, as a country, be open to the fact that there is so much hurt. And I do commend the AFL and St Kilda for acknowledging and recognising that immediately. But I'm sure there are plenty more out there who will probably come forward.

ROWLAND: I think you're right on that front. Malarndirri McCarthy, thanks for joining us this morning.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.