E&OE - PROOF ONLY
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: I first wanted to make some comments about Fraser Anning who I see is still justifying his decision to attend an extremist rally, an extremist set of views and denying the reality of what Australians have seen was meant by that rally.
This is not the first time that Senator Anning has behaved in a way that is not worthy of the Parliament of Australia. We all remember his first speech and we all remember his use of the term “final solution”. I said at the time that his views did not reflect the heart of this country. His views did not reflect who we are – a strong, independent, multicultural nation which has been made stronger by the waves of migrants who have come to this country.
The fact that he is refusing to denounce what are clearly extremist views really means he has not recalled the lessons of history. Many Australians fought and died in the fight against fascism and the prejudice which is its bedrock. Anybody who does not understand that doesn’t understand why extremist, fascist views, rituals such as the Nazi salute, those things need the strongest response, the strongest negative response from all political leaders, regardless of who they are.
Today I don’t just want to talk about Fraser Anning, I want to talk about the Coalition. Because standing up against prejudice isn’t just words, it is also what you do. It is who you do deals with and it’s the sort of preference arrangements you engage in. I have previously called on the Coalition to do what Labor does, which is to put extremist parties last. For example, to put One Nation last.
Fraser Anning votes with Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party. That is the reality. 90 percent of the time. His vote delivers their legislation, delivers on their agenda in the Senate. And if Scott Morrison is serious about standing up to these sorts of extremist views that Mr Anning is supporting, then he should be making it clear that he is not going to be doing deals with him. No more deals to get legislation through.
Remembering things like the Government’s tax package, the vote against Labor’s fairer tax package, was won by votes including Senator Anning’s. Let’s not have any deals with him or with Pauline Hanson. Scott Morrison should stand up and say he will not be doing deals with Senator Anning to get his legislation through the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Should Fraser Anning pay back the cost of his trip?
WONG: I think he really needs to reconsider whether it is a sensible and appropriate thing, a reasonable thing, for him to be asking the taxpayer to fund travel to what was clearly an extremist event.
JOURNALIST: The Government has condemned it but has said the cost is a matter for the Parliamentary Expenses Authority. Is that good enough?
WONG: I think it is a matter for Senator Anning. All of us are responsible for making any claims that we make and he ought to see from the reaction that this is not something the majority of Australians think he had any place at.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it flies when he says he was representing his constituents by flying interstate?
WONG: I go back to where I started. Fascism is something we have fought against. We fought against it in wartime. We fought against it domestically. We have pushed back against those sorts of right-wing extremist views. What is an Australian Senator doing by legitimising those sorts of views? And should taxpayer funds really be used to do so? He needs to reconsider his position, I think.
A couple of other points. I just want to make a point, I see in today’s Adelaide Advertiser that Nicolle Flint is styling herself as a local, and standing up for various local things.
I think it is really useful ahead of this federal election to remember who Nicolle Flint is. Nicolle Flint is a member of the hard right of the Liberal Party. Nicolle Flint is a member of the group which supported Peter Dutton, in fact she signed the petition calling for a leadership spill. She was part of the coup against Malcolm Turnbull. And her values are not the values of South Australians, not the values of the people of Boothby. She has been highly critical of the ABC and we all know her position on climate change.
The reality is that the hard right of the Liberal Party, including Nicolle Flint, has held back action on climate change for too many years. She may wish to style herself as a committed local but I think we all know she is a hard right operative inside the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Senator, on a couple of other things, what do you make of the situation of the 18 year old who’s in Bangkok?
WONG: My office has sought information from the Foreign Minister’s Office. Obviously a deeply concerning situation and we are waiting for further information, and I would like to get that before I respond.
I have seen the social media on this and obviously it is a very distressing position she is in.
JOURNALIST: She was on her way to Australia. Do you think there is anything the Australian Government can do?
WONG: Let’s see what sort of information the Australian Government has about this before commenting further. But I am aware, as I said, of the publicity associated with this and the very concerning reports that have emerged about her fears.
JOURNALIST: What’s your response to Emma Husar saying she wasn’t given a fair go by the party?
WONG: It is obviously a very distressing situation in relation to Emma, but rather than focus on that I would like to talk about the broader issue about how we try to make sure our Parliament and our political parties are places in which women can succeed, where they are judged on their merit, where behaviour is called out, where behaviour is dealt with.
I can say to you as somebody who has been involved now for a very long time inside the Labor Party, I have seen a very big cultural change and that has not come about just because people stood back talking about it. It has come about because we changed our rules and we got more women into Parliament and more women into positions of authority. Certainly it is a very different party, and a very different parliamentary party, to the one I entered in 2002 and I think Tanya’s comments last week certainly reflect that.
We have worked very hard to make sure we have women well represented, women supported into Parliament. Our track record shows the success of that. We are on track for 50 percent at the next election, which is a very good result compared to where we were, but certainly a very good result compared to the Liberal Party.
I see the lectures from the Liberals about why we shouldn’t be talking about this. Can I just say this? If you are going backwards as a political party that is supposed to be representing the whole of Australia and you are going backwards in terms of women’s representation, then maybe you have a problem, and maybe instead of pointing the finger at others you should be looking in your own backyard.
JOURNALIST: Neil Prakash’s citizenship, do you have any concerns that has damaged Australia’s relations with Fiji?
WONG: This is my first day back from leave and I am reluctant to make too much comment on some of the stuff that occurred over the break but it was a pretty extraordinary set of circumstances. Senator Payne’s concerns about the effect on the relationship with Fiji, which I think was demonstrated in the press conference she held, they are concerns I would share. It is a pity those concerns were not taken into account by Mr Dutton when he made his decision. And this Government would do better if it actually ensured that Cabinet ministers talked to each other rather than simply to the media about decisions that they think might get a bit of press.
JOURNALIST: The Government has cancelled 800 visas for non-citizens, what’s your reaction to that?
WONG: Those provisions of the Migration Act have been in place for a long time. They have been strengthened with bipartisan support. So of course visas should be cancelled where appropriate. I think that is a different situation to the one your colleague has raised.
JOURNALIST: The emergency warning network in Queensland has been hacked; do you have a comment on that?
WONG: I don’t have any information on that. I have only seen some reports about it. I don’t have any information on that.
Finally, I just want to mention one other matter. Obviously my very dear friend Anthony Albanese has put a personal statement today. I want to thank the media about not asking any questions about that. It is obviously a private matter and a deeply distressing matter.
Thank you very much.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.