SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

25 February 2019

CHINESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SA — CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

ADELAIDE

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(Acknowledgments omitted)

Thank you for inviting me to join you tonight in celebration of Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year is an auspicious occasion for all Chinese-Australians.

It is a time to celebrate our heritage with our family and friends.

It is a time of joy and celebration.

It is a time we reaffirm the principles of acceptance and respect.

It is these values which bind us together as an Australian community.

And tonight, it is these same values that are on display as we gather together in the spirit of friendship and community to see in the New Year.

It is a reminder of our country’s diversity.

Adelaide in particular is a thriving multicultural community which embraces many cultures and traditions.

Nearly half of Australians today were either born overseas or had at least one overseas born parent.

It’s wonderful to see so many members of the South Australian Chinese community together to celebrate this occasion.

The Year of the Pig is a great year to enjoy good health, to work hard and prosper, and to enjoy family and friends in peace and harmony.

For us in the Labor Party, the Year of the Pig is a time of great celebration indeed.

Every federal election held in the Year of the Pig since Federation, has seen a Labor Government elected.

First in 1983 – with the election of the Hawke Labor Government – and in 2007 – with the election of the Rudd Labor Government.

I am, of course, hoping that in 2019 we will see the continued good fortune for the Labor Party in the Year of the Pig – with the election of a Shorten Labor Government later this year.

So what can you expect from a Shorten Labor Government?

Since being appointed Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2016, I have worked to articulate Labor’s foreign policy agenda.

Under Labor, Australia’s foreign policy will be founded on the belief that we deal with the world as it is and we seek to change it for the better.

This means a foreign policy that is not just transactional, but is purposive.

Those purposes are defined by our values, interests and identity.

We know what we stand for: compassion, equality, fairness, democratic principles and the protection of rights

We know what our interests are:

  • the security of the nation and its people;
  • the prosperity of the nation and its people;
  • a stable, peaceful region anchored in the rule of law; and
  • constructive internationalism.

And we know who we are – an inclusive, diverse nation which draws strength from the waves of immigrants who have come to our continent and our First Nations’ peoples.

Our foreign policy will speak to who we are, the confidence we have in ourselves, the values we believe in and to the region and world we want to live in.

Labor recognises that we need a step change in our relationship with Asia.

It is that recognition that has motivated our FutureAsia plan.

Engagement with Asia requires more than words. It requires a commitment to working across government and with the business community, the education sector, industry and across the community to deepen our ties, to improve our Asia capability and to enable more opportunities for Australians.

If we want our economy to keep growing and our living standards to rise we need to lock into Asia’s growth.

In 2016, China’s GDP, in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, had already exceeded that of the United States. By 2030, China’s GDP is forecast to be almost double that of the US.

We must be prepared for this change – and be ready to meaningfully engage with Asia.

Our Future Asia plan includes:

  • Improving the teaching and take up of Asian languages in our schools;
  • Bolstering our diplomatic infrastructure;
  • Leveraging our diaspora communities;
  • Reciprocal internship programs with both China and India to improve the Asian business experience amongst Australian entrepreneurs and managers; and
  • Maximising trade opportunities including making Australia/China week and Australia/India week annual events and tackling behind the non-tariff barriers.

I am confident that Labor’s approach to foreign policy will bring a more considered, disciplined and consistent approach to the management of Australia’s relationship with China.

Labor recognises the importance of this key relationship.

China has been central to over a quarter of a century of economic growth in Australia.

That has been to the benefit of both Australia and China. But this mutual economic benefit is not just a feature of the past.

China is now Australia’s largest source of overseas students, and our highest spending inbound tourism market.

According to the RBA, our service exports to China are now greater than those to the United States and the United Kingdom combined, and China has become the largest single export market for a range of Australia’s manufactured food items.

We understand that, at times, our interests will differ. We understand that challenges in the relationship may intensify.

But there is no doubt that the way in which the Government has managed those disagreements has caused unnecessary tension to our relationship.

Labor will be clear about where our interests come together and where they differ.

We will bring a sophisticated and consistent approach to managing differences, while working together where we can.

As I said earlier, Labor’s foreign policy will be informed by our national identity.

Australia’s diversity and multiculturalism is an integral part of our contemporary identity. It is one of our greatest strengths.

But our multiculturalism cannot be taken for granted.

While events like tonight’s are a demonstration of the rich diversity of our nation, it is also under threat in parts of our public debate.

Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party are continuing to fan the flames of hate in our community.

I am no less concerned about Pauline’s prejudice because she is no longer talking about Asians.

In August last year we saw a speech in the Senate not worthy of the Federal Parliament.

Senator Anning delivered a first speech that did not reflect the Australia I know: a nation which has been built by people from every country, every part of this world.

A strong, independent, multicultural nation.

Instead we saw a speech that sought to divide us. We saw a speech that sought to fan prejudice. We saw a speech that sought to fan racism.

And just this week, Queensland Liberal National Party Senator, Barry O’Sullivan, warned of the biosecurity risks posed by “a bloody old Chinaman”.

How we respond to these events is important. It shapes the nation we are.

All Australians must expect a better standard and demand it from their representatives.

It is up to the major parties, Liberal and Labor, to be clear in our response.

Clear that a nation that is divided is never stronger and making others lesser, fanning prejudice and discrimination, has never made a nation safer.

I have been proud for the way in which my Labor colleagues have responded to such demonstrations of prejudice and discrimination.

You can be confident that a Labor Government will continue to stand up for the Australian values of inclusion, acceptance and respect; a belief in equality; the rejection of racism; the rejection of prejudice; and the rejection of division.

You can be confident that Labor will continue to stand up for these values – because these are Labor values.

Chinese New Year is a time to reflect on the events of the past year, as well as an opportunity to look forward to the future.

I wish health, happiness and prosperity for 2019 to you, your family and your friends.

Gong xi fa cai!

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.