SUBJECTS: Northern Territory representation in the Federal Parliament; Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters hearing.

WARREN SNOWDON: Good morning and thank you for coming along. I’m here with my two colleagues from the Northern Territory, Luke Gosling and Senator McCarthy, and also Don Farrell, who’s our Shadow Minister responsible for electoral matters. We’re here to talk about the need for the Territory to retain two seats in the Federal Parliament. We think it’s extremely important. We know it’s supported by the Northern Territory community and it’s supported in a bipartisan fashion by the CLP. We’ve just given evidence to a parliamentary committee on electoral matters, in which we’ve made it very clear the reasons why we should retain two seats in the Northern Territory. I’m now going to hand over to Don Farrell. He’ll say a few words and then we’ll pass it on to Malarndirri and then to Luke.

DON FARRELL: It’s great to be here in the Northern Territory and particularly on this beautiful morning in Darwin. Thanks for that introduction Warren and I’m here with my other colleagues Luke Gosling and Malarndirri McCarthy. The reason we’re up here is we had expected today to be giving evidence in person to the committee, the electoral committee, that’s looking at the issue of the Northern Territory representation in the Federal Parliament. As we know, last week the Electoral Commission decided that it would reduce the Northern Territory representation in the Federal Parliament from two people down to one. We think that’s a crazy idea. The last time this happened, all of the political parties got together and passed a piece of legislation in the Federal Parliament to guarantee that the Northern Territory would continue to get two members in the House of Representatives. We need to do that again and Senator McCarthy and myself have introduced a bill into the Federal Parliament that will do just that. Because we couldn’t meet in person today, we’ve met over the phone and my colleagues behind me have all put the arguments as to why the Northern Territory must have two members in the House of Representatives. We know that the Labor party is supporting this. We know that the Greens party is supporting this. We know that the Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory is supporting this. We know that five members of the National Party in the Federal Parliament, including your local representative, Senator McMahon, are supporting this. We only need one more person to support us now and that’s Scot Morrison, the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister comes on-board then we can guarantee that the Northern Territory continues to get two representatives in the House of Representatives. Last week Mr Morrison said we were all Victorians because of the pandemic down there. This week, what he ought to say is ‘we’re all Territorians and we need the Territory to keep its two representatives’. It’s too big, it’s too far flung. It has a whole lot of issues that are unique to Territorians and we need to keep those two representatives in the Federal Parliament. My co-sponsor on this bill who’s been working very hard, including today – organising people to come on-board and explain why the Northern Territory should continue to get those two seats is Senator McCarthy and I’ll ask her to say a few words about this issue. Thank you very much.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Thanks Don and I’d like to just basically thank the people of the Northern Territory. In such a short time, we’ve been able to galvanise an incredible amount of support. I’m enormously proud of Territorians who have come forward and put in submissions, over 40 submissions, to a committee inquiry that really only gave us a week to do that and I think it’s phenomenal. Today, we’re going to see over 20 witnesses give evidence to that very same committee, the committee Warren, Luke and I just spoke to earnestly about the need to maintain the two lower house seats. I certainly on behalf of my colleagues really want to thank Senator Sam McMahon for her work on this and her continued support with us on it. We clearly do need to work as a team and certainly with the Nationals on board, as Senator Farrell says, and also now the Greens we look in a very, very good position in getting our private senators’ bill through the Senate. But, as Senator Farrell says, we need the Prime Minister’s support to get it through the lower house. I’d like to also point out to Territorians that we do have a petition still going that we’d like to table in the Senate when we next sit. Clearly, not sitting early next month has been disappointing but it also gives us plenty more time to get as much support as we can. We’re aiming for at least 5000 petitioners on that petition. So, if we can go well above that, that would be awesome too.

LUKE GOSLING: Thanks Malarndirri and thanks Don and Warren. The Northern Territory is massively important and Darwin and Palmerston as the capital of northern Australia is massively important. There is no way that the Northern Territory should have its representation halved. So far, it’s been a bipartisan exercise, where everyone understands that the Northern Territory deserves fair representation. There is a bill before the parliament. So the Prime Minister is able to back Territorians, is able to put his support behind that bill, so that the Territory’s representation is not halved. It would be unconscionable to have such a massively important jurisdiction as the Northern Territory to have its representation halved. Strategically, the Northern Territory is very important. It is our northern capital. Darwin, the Northern Territory as a whole, we punch above our weight when it comes to our contribution to gross national product. We are incredibly important. We only have four federal representatives out of 227 in the Federal Parliament and that should not be halved [in the House of Representatives] by the AEC taking one of our seats away. So we look forward to the Prime Minister supporting the Northern Territory, supporting Territorians and ensuring fair representation for the Northern Territory. Thanks very much for coming along.