8 March 2018




ED KAVALEE: Celebrating International Women’s Day.

EM RUSCIANO: Yes we are, and I demanded this woman come on. They said “who do you want to come on?” And I said there’s only one person.

KAVALEE: And here she is.

RUSCIANO: Thank God she agreed. The Honourable… do you say Honourable?

KAVALEE: No, I think that is only in the Lower House.

RUSCIANO: Your Majesty Penny Wong!

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Hi Guys. All fired up after that (Pat Benatar “All Fired Up” play ahead of interview).

RUSCIANO: You love it!

WONG: Blast from the past.

RUSCIANO: You had a big Mardi-Gras weekend, what did you get up to?

WONG: I’m not as much of a party girl as some of the people on the line I reckon. We came over for the weekend, for Saturday night. We marched, which was fine, and the next thing after that, we went out for dinner, Soph and I..


WONG: I know.

RUSCIANO: Why weren’t you and Soph dancing on a podium covered in glitter when Cher came on?

WONG: Me covered in glitter? That would be a sight eh?

RUSCIANO: You should never hug me physically then Penny.

I wanted to get you on because you are just someone I admire so much and last week you really personified why I love you in that you shut down Michaelia Cash in such an extraordinary fashion when she suggested what she suggested about female staffers who worked for

Bill Shorten. Did you just get a fire in your belly and just storm into Parliament? Did you just know you had to go out there and say something?

WONG: I was in meetings – I wasn’t in Estimates that day and I had foreign policy meetings with ambassadors and my staff came and told me what had happened and I said I’ve got to go in and make her withdraw.

Actually, I wish I hadn’t had to. I wish we weren’t having that kind of discussion in federal politics. It’s not what I went in to federal politics to talk about.

KAVALEE: Penny, it does seem as though at the moment – it’s always been sort of tit-for-tat, we know that, that’s the way it is – but it does seem as though the dialogue between the two parties and individuals inside the two parties is getting more and more personal. What do you think of that?

WONG: I think that’s right. I don’t think it is good for the country. If you think about all the other things that were happening in the world over the last few weeks, pretty big changes in the international environment and what are we talking about? We’re talking about these sorts of things. I think most Australians want people to move on. I hope the Parliament can.

I was disappointed Michaelia didn’t handle it more gracefully, but now we move on

RUSCIANO: Penny, there are a lot of disincentives for young women to go into politics at the moment. What would you say to any young woman who is considering it? Because we want to make changes and we want to see things move forward and evolve and women need to be a part of that conversation and represented. There’s not a lot of incentives at the moment?

WONG: I can understand why women looking at this would say “why would I want to do that?” But if you want a parliament, like any organisation – radio, media, parliament, the courts – if you want any institution or organisation to actually represent the community well then women have got to participate.

We’ve worked pretty hard as a party and on this International Women’s Day we’re nearly at 50 percent. Just under 47 per cent of our Caucus are women. We’ve worked to deliver that because we think it is really important to be more representative of the community. The Liberals have got a fair way to go.

RUSCIANO: Yes! (laughter)

WONG: A lot of parts of our society have got a fair way to go.

RUSCIANO: That’s true.

KAVALEE: Penny Wong, you’ve got two daughters. I know they are only young but is there anywhere you have said to them “right, you can do anything you want in the world, of course you can, but I would advise you to steer clear of these areas”. Are there any jobs, are there any industries where you are like “maybe not this”.

WONG: When my eldest was a bit younger we actually went into the Senate. I said come on over and look where ma works. I showed her this is where ma works, this is where you see me on TV speaking, this is where I work. And she looked around and she said “When I’m big, I want to talk here, I want to wear a suit and I want to talk here”. And I said “no, no, there are better jobs. This is not the thing you want to do.

KAVALEE & RUSCIANO: (laughter)

RUSCIANO: On that note, happy International Women’s Day. You’re someone I just look up. I think you’re so impressive and strong and thank you for representing me and being there. You treat yourself. Do something nice for yourself Wongster.

WONG: I’ll do that. Happy IWD everybody.