SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

TRANSCRIPT

5 July 2017

ABC RADIO ADELAIDE “SUPER WEDNESDAY”

TOPICS: ENTITLEMENTS, LIBERAL DIVISION, NORTH KOREA

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

DAVID BEVAN: Let’s begin with Sarah Hanson-Young, there’s been a focus this week on your travel arrangements. You took a trip to whale watch in the Great Australian Bight and you took your daughter and it cost $4000. When you were questioned about this on Sky News you’re quoted in the Australian today as saying ‘of course I don’t regret it. There have been some grumpy old white men deciding what is best for my family in the last 24 hours’. What’s important about them being white?

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, GREENS SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well look, let me just be really clear from the beginning here. I wasn’t on a whale watching holiday. I was visiting the communities in Ceduna, Fowlers Bay and up through the Head of the Bight talking to the local council, the various different businesses, the fishing industry, the tourism industry, about their concerns about proposals for oil drilling in the Bight.

I did see the whales at the Head of the Bight, invited on there by the local Indigenous people. They were lobbying me for money to build a new eco-tourism hub up there because they’re a) concerned about what’s going to happen to this whale sanctuary if there’s an oil spill but b) they’re also wanting to see how they can get more support for boosting tourism in that area. So there was no whale watching holiday.

BEVAN: What’s with the language though? Why are you talking about grumpy old white men?

HANSON-YOUNG: Well because David I’m not going to resile from doing my job as a senator, representing my constituents, standing up for the protection of the Bight, and hearing men like Cory Bernardi tell me how to be a mother, how to manage my family affairs.

BEVAN: You wouldn’t put up with that language if someone talked about an old grumpy black man, would you? You’d say ‘hang on, what are you going on about here?’ And you hear this language a lot. Matt and I heard it when we went to a conference in Sydney in the ABC where they were talking about old pale males. This sort of racism, it’s a reverse racism from what we’re used to, but it’s getting around isn’t it?

HANSON-YOUNG: Cry me a river, David. I mean seriously.

BEVAN: So that’s the issue is it, it’s about time some of it flowed back to the old white men?

HANSON-YOUNG: Let me be really clear here. When you’ve got some of these blokes standing up, telling people how to be a mother, what’s good for my daughter, I’m not going to stand there and take it and I’m going to hit back and that’s what I did.

BEVAN: And you hit back using racial terms?

HANSON-YOUNG: These people who want to complain and tell me what is good for my daughter, how to look after her, what my job is as a mother and how I manage that as a senator, I’m not going to take it.

BEVAN: Penny Wong?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: I think first in terms of expenditure of public money all of us have to be careful in making sure that we spend it wisely and appropriately and recognising that there’ll be scrutiny.

Second, I understand that Sarah has said publicly the reasons why she had to take her daughter, I’m not criticising her for that.

BEVAN: I’m not asking about that, we’ll get onto that in a moment. I’m asking about the language. Are you happy with the language ‘grumpy old white men’?

WONG: It’s probably not language I’d use.

BEVAN: Why not?

WONG: It’s just probably not language I’d use and you’d need to talk to Sarah about that.

BEVAN: No I’ll talk to you about why you wouldn’t use it.

WONG: Because I just simply don’t think as a public figure, I would use that language.

You want to focus on that, maybe you should also be focusing on why the criticism was made and I think the criticism was made obviously for political purposes and I think the criticism did involve a member of Sarah’s family.

I think we all recognise as politicians that we have more resources, we’re more financially able to manage work and family than most people but I don’t think it was reasonable for Sarah’s daughter to be part of the criticism that was made.

BEVAN: Why wouldn’t you use that language?

WONG: Because I don’t think that’s language I want to use.

BEVAN: Why?

WONG: That’s a personal decision.

BEVAN: I know it’s a personal decision. I’m asking you to unpack this for me.

WONG: As much as I like you David, I don’t want you to be in my head. And I’ve just told you that as a matter of a personal decision, that’s not language I would use and that’s all I have to say on that issue.

BEVAN: But why would you make that decision?

WONG: I’ve answered that question.

BEVAN: No you haven’t.

WONG: Well I’ve told you, it’s a personal decision.

BEVAN: Why would you make the personal decision not to use language like that?

WONG: David, I’m not getting into this.

BEVAN: You just won’t explain why?

WONG: Because I’ve made clear I think over many years in public life that I do not use language around race in the way you’ve just described.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: David Bevan.

BEVAN: What would you use? Would you use language like that?

BIRMINGHAM: No, my approach has always been to try to handle issues. I’m not someone I think who’s known for using language that seeks to turn matters personal.

But I do understand that we all react perhaps a little more severely when our families are brought into the debate, when our partners or our children are brought into the debate, that can sometimes perhaps prompt an approach that’s a little tougher.

But my approach is always to deal with the issues before us, do it in a straight way, and I don’t really think that somebody’s age or colour or gender or sex or sexuality or religion or any of those matters are ever really relevant points particularly in these sorts of matters.

BEVAN: Rowan Ramsey, on another topic, is quoted in The Australian today as saying that country Liberal MPs have been marginalised by the Turnbull Government. There are National MPs in his cabinet from country areas but not Liberals MPs and he says that Pauline Hanson is murdering us in the country. The votes are going to the Nationals and One Nation.

BIRMINGHAM: I think you’re putting a lot of words in Rowan Ramsey’s mouth that aren’t actually quotes from The Australian today there David.

BEVAN: There’s a quote ‘she’s murdering us in the country’ and apparently this meeting is being convened by Rowan Ramsey so somebody’s saying it.

BIRMINGHAM: They’re not quotes from Rowan Ramsey, let’s just be fair and clear about that.

The country Liberals have met as a group for a very long period of time. I’ve attended their meetings on occasions to talk through different policy issues. It’s an important opportunity for our country Liberal MPs. And of course in this state we don’t have any National Party MPs but elsewhere around the country there’s a mix and it’s a good opportunity for them to get together and address some of the particular regional issues that are really important to the Liberal Party.

Now we have some strong voices in the ministry from regional Australia. Anne Ruston of course in SA across the agriculture, fishery, water portfolios and Rowan of course is one of the whips in the lower house. Dan Tehan is a really active and strong country member and we make sure that the voices of all our members and senators are heard. Standing up for regional issues is critically important for both Coalition parties but here in SA as the Liberal Party we well and truly know that we are the party of the voice for regional SA and we’ve got to take that seriously and Rowan does a great job convening this group.

WONG: I don’t know that Rowan agrees.

BEVAN: I’m not sure that Rowan agrees actually, I think that’s why he’s convening this meeting.

BIRMINGHAM: This meeting, this group, has existed for many, many years.

BEVAN: If he was agreeing with you he wouldn’t be convening the meeting.

BIRMINGHAM: No it’s existed for many, many years. Regional Liberal MPs have been getting together for many, many, many, many years. It happened under the Howard Government, it happened in opposition. This is not a new phenomenon, it’s something that’s been occurring for a long, long period of time for them to get together and discuss regional issues and get ministers like me in to talk specifically about education issues as they affect the bush and to make sure that we’re acting on them. It’s exactly what members of Parliament should be doing.

WONG: I’ve been on this show a few times with Simon and I always feel he gives these smooth answers to the questions but whatever words he uses doesn’t detract from the reality.

This is a government at war with itself. It’s not happy families. They’re riven with dysfunction and division. They’re not focusing on delivering for Australians they’re focusing on their internal fight. We’ve seen day after day after day, division. Turnbull, Abbott, Turnbull saying he’s going to resign if he loses the leadership then he’s says he’s going to be there forever and Abbott taking pot shots and a whole range of other people coming out. Meanwhile their policy priorities are reducing penalty rates and giving tax cuts to millionaires and then they wonder why people get grumpy.

BEVAN: Let’s just work our way through the headlines, Simon Birmingham, I’m sure you do in the mornings. ‘I won’t be silenced’ says Tony Abbott. You must think ‘oh dear God, can’t we send him to Germany instead of Malcolm Turnbull?’

BIRMINGHAM: I’m very happy that Malcolm Turnbull is going to the G20 to represent Australia.

HANSON-YOUNG: Tony Abbott is just being the classic wrecker here isn’t he? He always has been and he wants to blow the joint up.

I must say that plan that he put out last week – and I know that we touched on a little last week, his six-point plan of what he would do if he became Prime Minister again or if he had his way – It would be a disaster for Australia. Things like gutting the Senate. What would that mean for proper democracy? He talks about democracy in the Liberal Party but doesn’t think the Australian people deserve the right to have representation in our Parliament. He says you’re going to save our housing crisis by banning immigration.

This is a guy who has a screw loose. He’s running amok in the Liberal Party and the crazy thing is and the dangerous thing is that some of these ideas are getting currency within some of his own Liberal ranks.

BEVAN: Moving along to North Korea. This is right in your patch Penny Wong, you’re Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. The moment that North Korea showed that it had a missile which could reach our shores, and apparently it has now, the debate over this moved up to another league at that point. It’s out of our control now. This is going to be sorted out by superpowers. If it can reach Australia it can reach Alaska, and it’s not going to be sorted out by Australia?

WONG: There’s a couple of points. First, you’re right, this is a new level of threat. I’ve just looked at the statement by Secretary Tillerson that has been put out just a short while ago. It does appear that they’re recognising that it was the launch of an ICBM, that’s obviously a new level of threat for the reasons you’ve outlined. The question now is whether or not North Korea can miniaturise nuclear weapons.

The second point I would make is that no one country can resolve this. This is a global threat. It is a threat not just to the security of the United States, it’s a threat to the security of all nations, obviously first and foremost South Korea, Japan, those in the near region. But it’s a global threat. I agree with Secretary Tillerson when he says that global action is required to stop a global threat. That’s what’s required.

BEVAN: Is the answer here China?

WONG: China has a particular relationship with North Korea. China has been demonstrably cooperating to try to put pressure on the regime. We would obviously urge them to do more. And we would also recognise that while they do have a particular relationship, ultimately containment of this threat to global peace has to be from multilateral actions, it has to be from all nations acting, not one only.

BEVAN: Is it important not to overestimate what China is capable of doing here? The idea that you have this gigantic superpower – North Korea in comparison is quite small, but it’s also very annoying and very powerful in its own right.

WONG: And demonstrably not taking direction from anybody.

BEVAN: Exactly, so we should not overestimate exactly what China is capable of doing.

WONG: I think that’s reasonable to say that this is a rogue state we’re dealing with. North Korea continues to act completely contrary to international law, to UN Security Council resolutions. China has cooperated through the UN Security Council in relation to action on North Korea. What we need and what the Secretary of State has made clear is that this is something that requires global action and obviously China is part of that.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, this is out of your portfolio, you’re Federal Education Minister, Penny Wong is Shadow Foreign Affairs. I’m not too sure how far you’re able to go on this question?

BIRMINGHAM: There’s nothing really that Penny has said that I would disagree with.

This is something that goes beyond day-to-day partisan politics. It’s a very serious global issue. We’ve seen the US take a change in position steadily in reassessing the approach of patience that has been shown previously and contemplating how this matter can be resolved. Obviously the urgency of resolution is getting greater as North Korea continues with its testing and appears to be making advances.

You’re right that China alone cannot solve it and that simply diplomatic pressure from China alone cannot solve the matter. But absolutely China applying more pressure, more economic pressure, on North Korea as well as working cooperatively with the rest of the world, is a very important part of trying to get a peaceful solution which is of course what we all ideally want.

BEVAN: Senators, thanks for coming in.

HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you very much.

WONG: Great to be with you.