E&OE - PROOF ONLY
KIM LANDERS: Penny Wong is the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and she joins me on the line now. Senator, good morning.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Good morning, good to be with you.
LANDERS: Should the Australian Government publicly condemn Hong Kong’s proposed law to allow extraditions to mainland China?
WONG: What the Australian Government should do is assert the principles and values Australians would expect it to assert; that is, that we are a country that is a long-standing, consistent advocate for human rights. We do believe in the right of freedom of peaceful assembly and we do believe in the rights of people to be treated appropriately before the law.
It is surprising that the Foreign Minister has chosen not to make public comment herself.
LANDERS: Does Labor condemn this proposed law?
WONG: On the issue of extradition, ultimately, that is a matter for Hong Kong, but I would just make a few points about the context. The agreement that China and The United Kingdom entered into in relation to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 does reference the protection of various rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong as part of those arrangements.
Now, certainly, our view is that whilst this is a matter for Hong Kong those rights and freedoms should be recognised.
LANDERS: Are Australians – be they business people, academics, or perhaps tourists simply transiting through Hong Kong – are they at risk now from this new law?
WONG: There certainly are potential implications for Australians and I think you’ve seen, both from the Australian and the international press, concerns about the message this sends to foreign investment, to foreign companies operating in Hong Kong and those are matters that I would assume, and I would hope, that the Hong Kong authorities would take into account.
I would also hope that the Australian Government would be expressing these views about the potential implications for Australians from these proposals.
LANDERS: If this law is passed should Australia review its extradition agreements with Hong Kong and China?
WONG: The extradition treaty with China was something that Labor did not support ratification of in the previous term of the parliament. We welcomed the Government’s decision not to proceed with it.
LANDERS: On another issue of media freedom the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has again this morning left the door open to a Parliamentary inquiry into media freedom. Would that have Labor’s support?
WONG: First, the principle is that freedom of the press is central to Australian democracy. I think all Australians, not just members of media organisations such as the ABC, but all Australians are concerned at the heavy-handed approach to these issues in recent days. We’ve seen raids, we’ve seen comments made and I think all Australians are rightly concerned about media freedom.
LANDERS: Would you support a Parliamentary inquiry into media freedom?
WONG: What we don’t want is a Parliamentary inquiry that is simply cover for a government that does not want to act on these issues.
LANDERS: So when you say “cover”, the independent MP Andrew Wilkie has said it can’t be an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security because his argument is that that’s a committee dominated by the major parties. Do you agree with that?
WONG: And I notice Mr Kelly is also proposing that he have an inquiry in his committee which would also be a committee which is dominated by the Government. So if we are proposing to look at this carefully we should do so with goodwill, we should do this with a willingness to actually ensure that we get it right and the process of the Parliamentary inquiry enables that to occur.
We should also not have a situation where the Government can simply say “oh all these issues are classified so we can’t talk to you about them”. If we actually want to have progress on further protections for freedom of the press – and I think there’s absolutely merit in that proposition – then let’s have a process which is full, frank and transparent and that enables parliamentarians to consider, properly, information, rather than simply have a Government-dominated committee not engage in a proper inquiry.
LANDERS: Is Labor open to revising some of the national security laws?
WONG: I’ve been a member of the intelligence committee and Labor has consistently over, I think, a decade, sought to put amendments into laws to achieve an appropriate balance.
Of course we should be looking at how it is – in light of how some of these laws and issues have been administered by this Government – looking at whether or not they appropriately reflect the balance in Australian democracy that Australians expect. They do expect that we pass appropriate national security laws. They do expect parliamentarians to ensure that agencies have the power to enable Australians to be kept safe. But Australians also expect appropriate freedoms to be protected and appropriate oversight of the exercise of those powers.
LANDERS: Should the Victorian boss of the CFMMEU, John Setka, resign?
WONG: Well he should certainly consider his position.
LANDERS: Why not go beyond that? Why not say to him time’s up?
WONG: Let me just make a few comments. I understand what you’re asking. Like Anthony Albanese I believe that the comments Mr Setka made are completely unacceptable. I would also make this point: they are not in step with the values of the broader labour movement or the Labor Party. They are not in step with the values that we have articulated, advocated and fought for in the trade union movement, inside the Labor Party, inside the broader labour movement.
LANDERS: So why not flat out say he should go then?
WONG: I think he should consider his position.
Now I do want to say to Rosie Batty, I’m on your side. I thought his comments about Ms Batty were completely inappropriate and, as I said, his comments are not in step with the values of the labour movement.
LANDERS: Penny Wong thank you very much for joining us on AM this morning.
WONG: Good to speak with you.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.