TRANSCRIPT: Sky News - Kidney disease; China-Australia trade relations; Constitutional Recognition

August 13, 2019


SUBJECT: Kidney disease; China-Australia trade relations; Constitutional Recognition.

DAVID SPEERS, SKY NEWS: We’re live from Darwin this afternoon and I’m joined in fact by one the local politicians, the Labor Senator, Malarndirri McCarthy; very good to see you this afternoon.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, NT SENATOR: Well it’s great to see you on Larrakia country David.

SPEERS: It’s lovely to be here, it absolutely is, especially compared to very freezing cold Canberra right now.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely.

SPEERS: You’ve had quite an ordeal over the last week or so that you’ve now gone public about. For those who missed it, you were in the Senate last week.

MCCARTHY: That’s right.

SPEERS: And then suddenly you had to go to the hospital. You have, what is it? Four years had polycystic kidney disease. Tell me what that is.

MCCARTHY: Polycystic Kidney Disease or PKD as it’s often referred to is – the form I have – is a genetic disease; I got it from my mother. And it’s really around cysts on your kidneys that grow over time. And the ultimate journey is renal dialysis or kidney transplant.

SPEERS: In terms of managing that over the last four years, what does that involve and how often do you have the very painful episode that you had last week?

MCCARTHY: I sort categorise it – you almost become your own self doctor when you’re trying to care for yourself and manage it – I have what’s called a discomfort factor, so your kidneys are so large and heavy at times, they just really weigh down in your back, so I’ll rate it from about 1 to 10 to give me an idea of just how severe it is. What happened last week when I was sitting in the Senate with my whip duties is I felt the severity go from discomfort to extreme pain. 

SPEERS: And you know that that’s only going to get worse. You know you need to do something about it fast. And when you get to hospital can they relieve that?

MCCARTHY: Well they check straight away to see what or how far in this instance the infection had gone, and treated me quite heavily with serious antibiotics through intravenous drip. And it was quite extreme but important to try to relive the pain

SPEERS: There’s no cure for this.

MCCARTHY: No there isn’t.

SPEERS: So you will end up either with renal dialysis or a transplant. Now, this is, PKD, a pretty common or widespread issue among Indigenous communities in particular --

MCCARTHY: Well PKD itself one form of kidney disease. So renal failure is quite predominant amongst Australians but in particular First Nations people. Just here in the Northern Territory we have around 750 to 800 people on dialysis who may be there as a result of many other factors. PKD itself is about 0.5% of kidney disease.

SPEERS: So a small part of that proportion but kidney disease generally we know is more prominent in Indigenous communities.

MCCARTHY: Absolutely David.

SPEERS: What’s the rate compared to the general population?

MCCARTHY: Here in the Northern Territory, of those near 800 people, 90 per cent are First Nations people of that. And if you look nationally, I think the figure is around 7 times the national figure but I can get back to you on that one.

SPEERS: Then the transplant figures, how many who need it are getting a transplant?

MCCARTHY: I think just looking at the figures from last year, there was around 1000 kidney transplants.

SPEERS: In Australia?

MCCARTHY: In Australia and 40 were for First Nations people.

SPEERS: Only 40 out of the 1000 people? Why is that?

MCCARTHY: Well that’s the question that I’m certainly asking but so is the Menzies School of Health and Research, and Dr Paul Lawton has been one of the nephrologists at the forefront of that kid of research and they’re still trying to get to the bottom of it. Let’s remember that kidney disease and renal failure is one that they identify as one of poverty.

SPEERS: What’s your message then to people on this when it comes to transplant generally?

MCCARTHY: Couple of things – and it was interesting that last week was Donate Organ [Life] Week – I’d just like to ask Australians to have a really good think about, and talk about, the issue. It’s a really difficult one to talk about something that might happen post you leave this earth, or even prior to that if you can offer a kidney, it’s a difficult thing and it’s about generosity of spirit and a willingness to give, so I’m just saying to Australians: have more of that conversation, and certainly to First Nations people, there needs to be more awareness so they know that that is an option for them as well.

SPEERS: Good message. Let me just part your health issues there. You were there at the lunch we had today talking to a number of the business folks. It is interesting because I get the sense here that there is a far more welcoming attitude towards Chinese investment and Chinese trade in this Top End; we see the Port of Darwin there and all the other investments going on. What do you make today of the comments of Andrew Hastie whose likened Australia’s response to China, to that of France in responding to Nazi Germany during the War. Is that a problem do you think? Does that throw a spanner in the works when it comes to the trade relationship?

MCCARTHY: I always think as politicians we have to be very careful and responsible of the language we use. Here in the Northern Territory, clearly investment is so desperately needed and we’ve heard the Chief Minister and even previous ministers of Government here speak about how the port and the leasing of the port was important for the economy. But I’m also on the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee and I know that there has to be serious questions also asked as we monitor those types of relationships.

SPEERS: Do you think he’s got the right balance today, Andrew Hastie?

MCCARTHY: He certainly raises an important concern that many Australians ask, and they certainly ask me as I travel around the country but again we have to be responsible about our relationships. And we just heard at the luncheon today with Jennifer [Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia] saying that whatever you’re relationships are with other countries, you’ve got to make sure that they are looked at objectively and really look at the responsibility in terms of the investment that goes both ways.

SPEERS: Final one, you missed out on the Garma festival this year, you were in hospital, unfortunately, but not surprisingly really strong messages about the voice to Parliament coming from the Indigenous leadership there. For Labor, is this a red line in terms of having that voice enshrined in the Constitution?

MCCARTHY: Look we’ve drawn a line in the sand over the Voice; we do believe that having the voice in the constitution is the direction that the people, through the Uluru Document, had asked us to go.

SPEERS: So if that’s not part of what’s put to a referendum, you wouldn’t back it?

MCCARTHY:  I think we’re not there yet David. I think where we’re at at the moment is still trying to work out where the Prime Minister is going to come to the party in the conversations that Ken Wyatt wants to have around the country, about that issue. Now I know Anthony Albanese said on the weekend well if First Nations people don’t want a voice, then naturally we’ve got to go with what the First Nations people want, so again we’ve seen so many changes through this narrative over many years, what we’re saying now and have consistently said is the Voice is what people still ask for, and we certainly support the voice..

SPEERS: And as long as that’s the case, you wouldn’t back a referendum that didn’t have the voice being in the Constitution?

MCCARTHY: Well with a referendum, we know they’re really difficult to win, and we have to make sure that whatever question we put to the Australian people, wins.

SPEERS: And that means some flexibility there?

MCCARTHY: Well it means that we have to be really confident that the path we’re going down is the one that is right for Australia and from where I sit in terms of First Nations people, having a voice enshrined in the Constitution is where people want to go.

SPEERS: Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy thanks so much for talking to us this afternoon, really appreciate it.

MCCARTHY: Thank you