Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation


8:26 pm

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It was certainly a long way from home for me and my little boy. At that time, I was introduced to Claire through a previous senator, Senator Trish Crossin, who represented the Northern Territory for 15 years here in the Senate. I just want to place on the public record the fine example, Claire, that you've provided to women coming into the parliament and particularly into the Labor Party—to woman who were unsure about taking that political step, who were asking questions as young mums about whether it was something that they could do and who were wondering if they could make a difference on such a large scale. At that time, I was standing for the Northern Territory parliament. My son is just about to celebrate his 21st year, so I would have to say that I look at that time with fond memories. When reflecting on someone who has influenced your life at different moments, I would have to say that you've certainly been one of those people. So to then come into the Senate and work beside you on Senate committees and see the diligence that you bring to the Senate in the thoroughness of your committee work and examination of issues and questions is an enormous credit to the Australian parliament.

I just want to say thank you for the work that you have done, even prior to my arrival here, on First Nations issues, for always bringing them to the fore at the Australian Labor Party caucus and also here in the Senate. Whilst we may now have a First Nations caucus, I know that we don't get to these places without having had people before us pave that path. I just want to say on behalf of First Nations people: thank you. Thank you for them.

To Senator Doug Cameron—what can I say about Dougie? He's an absolute legend. To know that you're coming into the Senate to work beside people of Doug's calibre is extraordinarily humbling, really. I've certainly grown up in a different kind of place with different experiences, in the north, and value greatly learning and listening to people like Senator Doug Cameron. That passion and, yes—I think as Senator Birmingham said—the warrior in Senator Cameron is something that has inspired so many of us coming into political office, not just here in the Senate but right around the country as Australian Labor Party members. His fight for workers and for fairness, and for a fair go in the trade unions and for ordinary Australians has been an enormous credit not only to this parliament but to the Australian families right across this country who've benefited from the powerful passion of this man who made Australia home. I think we are enormously blessed to have people who travel across the seas to make this country home, to then find that they stand in the highest offices in this country, thinking of others and other families.

Doug, to you and Elaine—lovely Elaine, who I also had the pleasure of getting to know over the last couple of years and, with my son one Saturday morning here in Canberra, having breakfast and catching up with you guys—hopefully, I'll see your new home in Tassie.

I come now to my colleague from the Northern Territory, Senator Nigel Scullion. I was thinking that he came here in 2001. At the time, I was working for the ABC and I remember being one of the many reporters doing the stories in relation to then Nigel Scullion the fisherman, who had put his hand up for the Senate. It's interesting what you remember, isn't it, when you reflect on things? I remember that mad dash this fisherman had to make across the seas to the UK. I remember in the newsrooms we all thought, 'Gee, what's going on?' That was the introduction, I guess, to understanding the importance of making sure we all know our backgrounds before we come into the Senate. It's interesting to see that, over the last few years in particular of this term, that has been one of the major issues of our parliament.

I certainly feel as though my time working with Senator Scullion here in the Senate, combative though it has been, based on ideology, has always largely remained respectful. I just want to point out that it is tough in this country to try to think you have the answers to dealing with the issues of First Nations people. Listening to Nigel tonight, and certainly to others, but knowing him through the different processes that we've had—in particular, the estimates process—there is no doubting whatsoever the passion of this man in wanting to stand up for First Nations people in this country and there is no doubting the commitment of this man to the people of the Northern Territory.

It is for the people of the Northern Territory that we stand here together, over these three years—and it's only my first three years in the Senate. I recall a time when Nigel sat with me on the other side of the house. He looked across over here and saw most of his colleagues sitting on this side. What was that vote that he sat with me on? It was on Territory rights. I said to him, 'How are you feeling?' He said, 'Oh, this wasn't a tough one to do.' That was in terms of knowing where he had to sit, but it obviously had other ramifications as well. But, again, that's a testament to the man. He knew that he had to stand or sit on that side, in terms of supporting Territory rights, for the people of the Northern Territory. We do battle it out. We are combative, but that is over policies and ideology on how we get there. But I never doubt, and still have never doubted, the passionate commitment that he has towards the people of the Northern Territory.

You only have to look at his maiden speech—and I have looked at Nige's speech—and you can see the journey that he's come on, his views and interpretations of First Nations people and what has moulded and shaped him. They're not my views, but I can respect and see where he has tried to come from to make a difference for First Nations people. There are major policy separations and differences that we have. I have no doubt that, over the next couple of weeks, we are going to go out there and be combative again.

I just want to say all the best to Nigel and to his wife, Carol, in particular. Carol actually worked for me when I was a minister in the Northern Territory government. She worked as my legal adviser at different moments when I was a minister in the Northern Territory. We go back a long way, Nige. To you and Carol, I sincerely wish you every happiness beyond the election and every blessing to you and your family.

On behalf of the people of the Northern Territory, it's a real commitment to travel on that plane and get down here. You travelled the thousands of kilometres not just from the Northern Territory to Canberra but right across the country in your role as minister. You have been right across the country. You won't have to make those trips anymore. This Senate doesn't understand that two senators have to cover such a vast area of coastline and of country. Hopefully, one day we can become the seventh state in the federation. Nigel, I hope you can come back from your pig hunting, your shooting out there and your fishing and maybe join us to make sure—there's still unfinished business for the Territory—that we do become the seventh state in the federation and that we do have more senators who can represent the people of the Northern Territory so that we have the numbers in here to make the very real democratic difference that we know we need to make for equality for the people of the north. Carol and Nigel, all the best to you and your families. Nige, I'll see you out on the hustings.


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