E&OE - PROOF ONLY
SABRA LANE: The fight against terrorism is much closer to Australia than many people realise. While President Trump last week announced more troops to thwart the threat in Afghanistan, Islamic State forces have joined with Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines for the battle for the city of Marawi. The conflict has been underway for more than three months now. It’s an insurrection the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says must be defeated.
What’s Labor’s attitude to the conflict? We’re joined by the Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong from our Adelaide studios. Good morning shadow minister, welcome.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Good morning Sabra.
LANE: Senator Wong, what do you make of the threat that extremists in Marawi pose to Australia, and I guess more broadly to the region in general?
WONG: This conflict in the southern Philippines tells us one very important thing, that the fight for stability and security is right here in our region. The fight against terrorism is right here in our region and it is deeply concerning that we have Daesh-inspired groups in the city of Marawi, in our region, and I agree with the Prime Minister this is a conflict that we must win.
LANE: Australia has already sent two RAAF P3 Orion surveillance planes to assist there. Do you think more equipment, or even personnel should be committed?
WONG: President Duterte and other Philippines leaders and authorities have made it clear they want to take the lead on this. But it is absolutely in our national interest, and in the interests of regional security, for this threat and this insurrection to be confronted and to be defeated.
Obviously, Australia should continue to assist in the ways that the Philippines Government wishes us to, because it is in our national interest to do so.
LANE: What did you make of the ASIS spy chief, Nick Warner, meeting with President Duterte last week? What does that level of involvement indicate to you?
WONG: It seems to me there are two separate issues. One is the photo, and we’ve made comments about that. But I think deep engagement with the countries in our region is key to our national security.
We know that there are Islamist terrorist groups in our region. We know in Mindanao that we have pre-existing organisations but which now have much stronger ideological and practical connections with Daesh. So it is absolutely what government should be doing – to work with the governments and security agencies in our region to confront this threat.
LANE: And that photo? Your colleague Anthony Byrne described it as a misjudgment. What did you think?
WONG: I think it was probably a misjudgment, but I understand he was caught in a difficult situation and I don’t actually think it is the primary issue here.
LANE: Penny Wong, while we are on air, we are getting reports right now that North Korea has fired a missile, and it is being reported that it’s passed over Japan. The Japanese Government is warning people in North Korea to take precautions. What’s your response?
WONG: I haven’t seen those reports, other than what you have just said. We all know that the greatest threat to peace and security and stability in our region, and in fact globally, is North Korea.
The international community should continue to act as one to make clear to North Korea that its actions are provocative and unlawful and we need particularly to ensure that the US and China act in concert to keep the pressure on North Korea to respond more appropriately to the UN sanctions.
If what you’ve said is correct, this is a highly provocative unlawful action by North Korea and, again, demonstrating that they are a threat to regional peace, regional stability and in fact global peace and stability.
LANE: You want Labor to take a more independent stance on foreign policy, to better reflect Australia’s national values, why?
WONG: I think we should always be standing up for Australian interests and Australian values. I think that’s what governments should do.
Labor is a strong supporter of the Alliance with the United States. We also need to ensure that we assert out interest, particularly in the region.
LANE: Would you be exploring a more independent stance if Hillary Clinton had won the Presidential election last year?
WONG: Australia should always have a foreign policy that is defined by our interests and our values. I don’t think this is about an individual. It is not about Mr Trump.
Labor has, on occasions, disagreed with particular US Presidents and particular US Administrations. John Howard disagreed with the then US Administration, I think in relation to agricultural tariffs. Obviously Labor disagreed with the US in relation to Iraq. There are occasions where we disagree but it is a deep and strong alliance and I think will continue to be so well into the future.
LANE: Following on from President Trump’s speech on Afghanistan last week, do you think the Taliban is actually capable of being beaten?
WONG: He made a number of points in that speech which I think were reasonable and one of them is that we should look at a conditions-based approach to operations in Afghanistan. I think that is a logical position.
In relation to a political solution, the President also made, I think, the very sound point that whilst this is a military conflict, peace and stability and the continued denial of a safe haven for terrorists will only be achieved if that military approach is accompanied by a political solution and I think he was right to do so.
LANE: Locally, should the CBS bid for Channel Ten get the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board?
WONG: That’s a matter for FIRB. What I would say is that this is a very good piece of news for people employed by Ten and all those who are supporters of Channel Ten, so that’s a good thing. It seems to me that this does demonstrate the strength of our current media diversity regime. It’s a decision which will ensure continued diversity on free to air television.
LANE: And there are reports this morning that your Senate colleague Senator Katy Gallagher was born in Ecuador and entitled to dual citizenship. Should her case be referred to the High Court to clear up any uncertainty?
WONG: She wasn’t born in Ecuador; her mother was born in Ecuador. Katy Gallagher is not now and never has been an Ecuadorian citizen. End of story.
LANE: So, it shouldn’t be referred?
WONG: The newspaper in question refers to a provision in the 2008 constitution. Katy’s mother was born in 1943. Katy is not a dual citizen. She is not a citizen of Ecuador.
LANE: Senator Wong, thanks for talking to AM this morning.
WONG: Good to speak with you.