E&OE - PROOF ONLY
NICK MCCALLUM: Thank you for joining us Senator.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Good to be with you Nick.
MCCALLUM: So the US President Donald Trump met with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Can we expect anything concrete out of this or not?
WONG: Well the significance of the event will be determined by whether something actually happens. Unfortunately North Korea, as you know, has had a bit of a history over many years, including recently, in making commitments that it doesn’t follow through. Whether this was truly historic will be measured by whether or not North Korea actually takes action to denuclearise, as the US and the international community expect.
MCCALLUM: Would you have any problem with our Prime Minister meeting Mr Kim?
WONG: Well, I think he’d have to ask whether or not that would actually contribute to the denuclearisation agenda. Let’s remember, North Korea is a risk to peace, stability in the region; peace and stability globally. The reason there’s been international sanctions, the reason they’ve been excluded from the international community is because we want them to denuclearise; to remove or reduce that risk. So you’d have to ask, if that were the case, will this help contribute to them actually taking steps?
MCCALLUM: I know it’s a very sensitive issue at the moment but are you confident, are you happy with what the Government is trying to do to establish the whereabouts of Alek Sigley and his health?
WONG: I can only go on what information we have been provided with by the Government and we have been in contact, obviously, with the Foreign Minister’s office from the first day in which this story broke. I understand the Government is still making inquiries, seeking to establish his whereabouts and we certainly, on these issues, don’t ever play partisan politics. We always back in the Government and work with the Government in their efforts to ensure that Australians who are in difficulties overseas have full bipartisan support in terms of their safety and security.
MCCALLUM: I know you’re in a hurry – you’ve got to go to an important event – but I also wanted to ask you as the Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate, why not wave through the three stages of tax cuts seeing that the Australian people clearly voted for them?
WONG: Well we want to give everyone a tax cut this term and the only proposal on the table that does that – that gives every Australian a tax cut this term – is the Labor Party’s.
MCCALLUM: But you lost the election though Senator?
WONG: We did and we’re very aware of that, but I don’t think we lost the next election as well and the third stage that Scott Morrison is demanding we pass this week doesn’t come in until 2024-25 – after the next election. So I just make this point, the only proposal on the table which gives every Australian a tax cut this term is the Labor Party’s. The only person standing in the way of that is Scott Morrison. And the party that is actually holding those tax cuts hostage to a tax agenda that is after the next election is the Coalition.
MCCALLUM: But you know that if you vote against it, it’ll be used against you time and time again in the lead up to the next election; it’s going to be an albatross around your neck isn’t it?
WONG: Lots of things are always said in the lead up to an election, some of them are true, some of them aren’t. What we will do is keep prosecuting, keep advocating, keep arguing for Labor’s agenda, which is we want a tax cut for all Australians this term. That’s what we’re going to be pushing for this week.
MCCALLUM: Senator, I do appreciate your time, I know you’ve got to rush off to a very important event.
WONG: I’ve got to lay a wreath at the War Memorial, which is a great honour and I appreciate you making sure I can get there on time.
MCCALLUM: Good luck and thank you very much.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.