17 October 2018

ABC 7.30



LEIGH SALES: And with me now from Canberra is the Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Senator, the Government said it will consider, review or look at moving the embassy, what’s wrong with considering it?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Good evening, Leigh. Good to be with you. Well, I think today we saw just how desperate Scott Morrison is. We saw that this is a bloke who is prepared to play with the national interest if he thinks it is in his political interests.

The position that he is floating and it is being floated, you’re correct, he used words like, “consider” and “review” which demonstrates he wants to do just enough to give the signal to people in Wentworth, but not enough to get bound in.

The position he has floated is contrary to a very long-standing bipartisan position about what would be conducive or what is conducive to a two state solution. And just as Julie Bishop and past Liberal foreign affairs ministers have said, and as I would say, it has not been the view of successive federal governments that it would be conducive to the process to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

SALES: Indonesia floated the prospect of putting the imminent free trade deal on ice in protest at this possibility. Do you think Indonesia really would do that based on what is effectively a thought bubble?

WONG: We would obviously encourage the Indonesian Government to continue to work with the Australian Government to achieve this trade deal. But I think it was always foreseeable and I frankly think it was known to the Government that this would put pressure on a range of other relationships and Indonesia is obviously amongst them.

That’s because this is really out of step with so many nations’ view about what is the appropriate way to try and support a two state solution. Different nations have different perspectives about that, but I think the problem is, making an announcement like this, in the way that he has, really signals to the community and to the international community that Mr Morrison is prepared to play domestic politics with foreign policy. It is extraordinary.

SALES: On another foreign policy matter, how would Labor deal with the issue of the people on Nauru and Manus Island?

WONG: It is probably a question for Shayne Neumann. I would make the point – and I think Laura Tingle did in the package you just ran – the particular issue of concern that has been front and centre, in not just the media, but the way in which the community viewed this issue, is the treatment of children.

Despite their obligation to ensure that children have the appropriate medical care, we have a situation where the minister hasn’t discharged that obligation. We have seen Liberal backbenchers saying we need children to get the medical care they need.

SALES: Sorry to interrupt, but you guys could be in government soon. You must be talking about how you’re going to deal with this issue?

WONG: I’m happy to talk to you about this I was just making the point this this is something, obviously, Shayne Neumann has spoken about.

We have said very clearly that we do not support detention being either punishment or indefinite. We have said very clearly this government has failed to seek countries of resettlement despite the fact that resettlement offers have been made.

The government has been tardy on that and that would be a priority for Labor to ensure that we don’t have detention that is indefinite which is the way it has operated under this government.

SALES: Can I give you an example. We had a family on this program last night that because of one seat short in a mini van, the whole family was settled in Australia as refugees except for the father who missed that car and is now on Manus Island.

Why should a family that’s been legitimately judged as refugees be left fatherless? Is that the best Australia can do?

WONG: It is probably a question for the Government, isn’t it, as to why that decision was made?

There is a difficult public policy question here which governments have wrestled with for some time which is how do you ensure you don’t give an incentive for people smuggling with all of the potential tragedy and difficulty that that creates, but at the same time, you don’t create a system of indefinite detention and punishment.

I regret to say I think this government has done that and people are rightly concerned about it.

SALES: We’re out of time, unfortunately Senator Wong, thank you very much.

WONG: Good to speak with you.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.