We'll fight every step of the way to show that we don’t want the Cashless Debit Card here

November 26, 2019

SUBJECT: Cashless Debit Card legislation

STEWART BRASH, ABC ALICE SPRINGS: Malarndirri McCarthy is Labor senator for the Northern Territory. Good morning.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, NT SENATOR: Good morning Stuart and good morning to your listeners.

BRASH: Malarndirri McCarthy as I understand it, it is going to the Lower house today. Fair to say it is going to make it through the Lower House given this is Coalition policy?

MCCARTHY: Yes that's usually the protocol given their numbers in the House and we expect that if it is the case of being passed through the House that we would then debate it quite intensely in the Senate. But can I just say to you Stuart and your listeners that we do have a delegation here from Central Australia. My hope is that there will be enough concern by the independent members to actually delay this Bill.

BRASH: So not even getting into the Lower House? Or it will obviously get to the lower house and then delayed in the Senate?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. My hope is that if there is still concern amongst the cross benchers, if they haven't made a decision then that may mean the Government isn’t confident enough to bring it into the House. But that's a hopeful scenario obviously that I'm hoping for and the delegation from Central Australia is hoping for but it's quite likely that it possibly still will go through the House.

BRASH: Can you tell us who’s been there from Central Australia?

MCCARTHY: Yes of course. We have here in Canberra walking the halls is the Central Land Council representatives, also the NPY Women’s [Council] and also the Arnhem Land Progress Association from Arnhem Land who've come down as well so there's quite a large delegation who have come down in the hope that they can stop the Cashless Debit Card being passed.

BRASH: Jacqui Lambie is seen as being the key vote in the Senate. Have you got any idea of which way she is leaning at the moment?

MCCARTHY: Look I've been working very hard with the cross benchers and certainly with Senator Lambie. What I have asked is for time to take her to the Northern Territory, to Central Australia and to Arnhem Land to actually hear from people herself. If she had that opportunity Stuart I do believe that she would have a better understanding of the concerns that people have and the fact that they don’t want it in the Northern Territory.

BRASH: Have you got any idea of where she is leaving on that front given that it may end up in the Senate tomorrow?

MCCARTHY: Well that's correct but I did speak to her as late as last night and Senator Lambie is very keen to come to the Northern Territory in January and my take from that conversation is that she's not convinced yet that this is the way to go and I am hoping that that is a window that we can open further by perhaps delaying this Bill.

BRASH: OK she hasn’t said that on the record as yet?

MCCARTHY: Well I think that's something people may have to ask Senator Lambie but I am certainly encouraging the delegation from Central Australia to work with her again today and work with Centre Alliance and to encourage them all to get to the Northern Territory before they make a decision on something that they're completely unaware of.

BRASH: If it does get to the Senate tomorrow and Jacqui Lambie votes to pass the legislation does that mean it will inevitably pass given the way the numbers are in the Senate?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. Clearly we don't have the numbers – Labor and the Greens on our own – and we do need the cross benchers and we certainly need Senator Lambie.

BRASH: Now the Senate ran a committee up here and you were part of that committee just a month, six weeks ago. The majority report found that the legislation should pass so obviously the House may just follow that, wouldn’t that be the case?

MCCARTHY: Well of course we know that the Senate Committee was, large majority was coalition members so naturally it was always going to be a positive outcome in terms of their recommendations. Labor put in a dissenting report and so did the Greens. And that just goes to show that there is going to be a battle here and a fight and we'll fight every step of the way to show that, certainly for the 23,000 people here in the Northern Territory, that we don’t want to see the Cashless Debit Card here.

BRASH: Just on the basics of that, what difference would it make if people were just transitioned from the current income management of Basics Card to the Cashless Debit Card? More flexibility, people would be able to shop in more places, I mean surely given – you mention NPY – used to be in favour of the Basics Card, surely you would just be transitioning to a simpler system?

MCCARTHY: Well it's not that simple. That's what they'd like – certainly the advocates of the card - would like you to think, but we're talking about people who want to have choice. Even people on the BasicsCard now would like to know that they can opt in and opt out. That choice is not there certainly also with the Cashless Card. The other concern that we certainly have Stuart is that, with the Cashless Debit Card, the Minister can have the power to quarantine 100% of your income and we're very disturbed by that and that's enormous power to have.

BRASH: Malarndirri McCarthy, under an opt in system, would that be that no one would be on the card and then if you chose to have income management you could then have it quarantined?

MCCARTHY: Labor's always maintained that if people feel that it's something they want to do then that is a choice they make We're very concerned--

BRASH: That’s only new. In the past, Labor supported the trial of the CDC and of course income management was very much part of Labor policy from 2007 onwards.

MCCARTHY: Oh yeah and Labor's certainly learnt about it since then let me tell you. And I think certainly since I've come in to the Senate I've been very vocal that this is not the case on the ground,  that people do not want to be compulsorily forced onto these programs.

BRASH: Malarndirri McCarthy must leave it there but thank you so much for you time.

TRANSCRIPT - RADIO INTERVIEW - BREAKFAST PROGRAM, ABC ALICE SPRINGS - TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2019