SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

19 November 2018

BOTCHED EMBASSY DECISION TEARING GOVERNMENT APART

Scott Morrison’s ill-advised and cynical ploy to win votes in Wentworth is tearing his Government apart, with senior ministers now publicly brawling about the proposed move of Australia’s embassy in Israel.

On ABC TV last night the Minister for Defence and Industry and former Minister for Trade flatly contradicted the Prime Minister.

“My own personal view is that I think that the current location of the embassy is the right location.”
Steven Ciobo, ABC News National Wrap, 18/11/18

His successor as Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham yesterday also made clear his concerns.

We have to consider that against the UN Security Council resolutions and making sure that we work within the framework of those.
Simon Birmingham, ABC Insiders, 18/11/18

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott is making clear the embassy move is non-negotiable if Mr Morrison wishes to retain the support of the hard right of the Liberal Party.

“do what should be done and that is, put our embassy in the capital of this very friendly country that deserves our support.”
Tony Abbott, Sky News 18/11/18

Christopher Pyne can’t make up his mind: this morning attacking his colleagues for publicly debating the embassy decision, and then, just seconds later in the same ABC interview chiming in with his own argument for moving the embassy.

That’s prompted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to denounce Mr Pyne as a “legend in his own lunchtime.”

“Chris has been giving his opinion freely on this matter for quite a while so I don’t know what got into his Wheaties this morning.”

“Chris is his own person, as we know. He’s quite unique.”

“And we’ll leave him to be a legend in his own lunchtime.”
Josh Frydenberg, Ray Hadley 2GB 19/11/18

As Labor has said since this proposal was first announced in the dying days of the Wentworth by-election, foreign policy and Australia’s national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion.

The open warfare within Morrison Government is a direct consequence of this rushed, ill-considered decision made with no consultation and no thought to the consequences for Australia’s standing in the region, or national security.

As we discovered in Senate Estimates, the decision wasn’t taken to Cabinet, wasn’t based on any proposal from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Foreign Minister Senator Payne was given just one day’s notice, and the media was briefed before the head of the Australian Defence Force.

And now, despite trashing due process ahead of the by-election, the Morrison Government is insisting that the process should be allowed to run its course.

But it’s clear from the comments in the last two days that the Morrison Government is bitterly divided and his own people can’t even let its own hastily concocted ‘review process’ take place.

Instead of waiting until Christmas Mr Morrison needs to put Australia’s national interest ahead of his own political survival and act now to bring this farce to an end by declaring the embassy move off the table.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.