Passionate Debate in the senate to keep two NT Seats

24 August 2020


TOPICS: Private Senator’s Bill to legislate for two NT seats in the House of Reps debated in Senate this morning; NT Election.

LIZ TREVASKIS, ABC DARWIN: The Senator joins us this afternoon. Senator McCarthy, good afternoon.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Hello Liz and hello to your listeners.

TREVASKIS: What was the outcome of today's debate over NT representation?

MCCARTHY: Well the good news is that there's quite a list of Senators who liked to speak Liz so we've adjourned the debate and it will continue over the next couple of sittings for us. I'm incredibly pleased to see so much support.

TREVASKIS: And what does that mean about when the Bill will go to a vote in the Senate?

MCCARTHY: At this point, it certainly won't be in this sittings. We'll obviously see just how many other senators there are needing to speak on the Bill. And in the meantime, what we'll also do is keep the petition going so that we can get as many Australians supporting it as well. It also enables two things, Liz. One is the Senate enquiry that's currently underway, they still need to complete their report. And we would like to see that report before we go to a vote. And secondly, to give the Prime Minister that opportunity to reassess his position and to encourage him to do what most of the other Senators of the other parties are doing, and that is supporting it.

TREVASKIS: Where do you think the Prime Minister's thinking is on this issue at the moment?

MCCARTHY: Well, clearly, they have followed a process of an inquiry, and I certainly respect and understand that. And I do get that there's quite a lot of other things taking the Prime Minister's attention. But we do have the support of the CLP Senator Sam McMahon. And I know that from what Senator McMahon has said publicly and also to me personally, that she's pursuing it very vigorously on her side of the fence. So I think with all of us working on it, we will hopefully get the Prime Minister to come to the table on this and do what's just, what's fair.

TREVASKIS: So what happens between now, Senator McCarthy, and the November sittings? Who are you gonna be lobbying to get support from?

MCCARTHY: Well, there's two ways of sort of proceeding on this, Liz. And one is obviously, as I said, just keep the petition going. But I know the Gurindji are also calling on those who supported them over the years. You know, when you think of the support of entertainers even, like Paul Kelly with the song From Little Things, Big Things Grow and now electric fields are singing it in pitjantjatjara, and Jess Mauboy, our wonderful Jess, is also part of the new sort of song "look" if you like so there's that element of it where they feel very passionately to want to take it to that level. And at the same time, we'll keep pursuing from a very political level the politicians in the lower house. Luke Gosling and Warren Snowdon are certainly doing that. I know that Barnaby Joyce is speaking constantly on this. We'd like to get Rebekha Sharkie certainly as one member of the lower house to consider her position. So we will advocate internally those crossbenchers and other members of the lower house.

TREVASKIS: Malarndirri, what is your feeling about the House of Representatives? My reading of this is that with your support and Senator McMahon from the CLP, to get this through the Senate isn't going to be the challenge. But the difficulty might be in the House of Reps.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: You're spot on Liz, it is the House of Reps---

TREVASKIS: And who's opposed to this? Who's going to make trouble for us.

MCCARTHY: I think it's more the fact that they haven't expressed their position. And sometimes silence speaks more loudly, if you know what I mean. And we haven't heard the Liberal side actually express any view and only the Nationals, which Senator McMahon sits with here in Federal parliament. So we've just got to keep--.

TREVASKIS: Does that make you nervous?

MCCARTHY: Look, nothing's a given in politics, and, you know, as much as you know, anything can happen. And people can change their votes. All of that has happened in the past. And I have no doubt things like that can happen in the future. I just have to keep persistent and believe in the fact that what we want in the Territory and what the people of the Northern Territory have told me wherever I've travelled is that I've got to keep going and keep fighting for this.

TREVASKIS: How hard is it to my make the case for this? It Is an issue that is so crucial and so critical for Northern Territorians, for remote Territorians to have this representation? This is such a small issue for parliamentarians around the rest of Australia who, you know, have their own local issues that they're dealing with. How hard is it to gain some traction on this amongst the House of Reps?

MCCARTHY: It's incredibly difficult. You know, we're certainly only four voices here in the federal parliament at the moment from the Territory. And we're certainly doing our best working collectively. And I really am very proud of that. I think it's more about whether people show an interest in the Territory and sometimes that makes me really cranky, Liz. I just think do they just look at us and go, you guys are just from the north so we're bit busy down here in the south. So I guess I just keep being a humbug for them, really. And just say, come on, this is a no brainer. And do you really want this battle? Because if you do, we're going to bring it up to you.

TREVASKIS: Well, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, certainly Territorians who understand the significance of this are hopeful for a result. Before I let you go, we've just heard in the last hour that Michael Gunner has received a phone call from Lia Finnochiaro. She has conceded defeat and that Labor will form a majority government. Your reflections?

MCCARTHY: Look, I'm enormously pleased that Northern Territory Labor is returning to government for the next four years. And as I said on Saturday night, Liz, I thank the people of the Northern Territory for staying with Labor, for staying the course. We will improve the lives of all people in the Northern Territory over the next four years, I have no doubt of that.

TREVASKIS: Senator McCarthy, thank you for your time.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.