17 February 2019




STEVE GEORGANAS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR ADELAIDE: Thank you for coming out this morning. It is a pleasure to be here in this wonderful environment and can I say that what a wonderful announcement that we are going to be able to keep Wang Wang and Fu Ni here in South Australia under a Bill Shorten led Labor Government if elected.

They are a great tourist attraction. They generate millions of dollars into the South Australian economy and also give great joy to kids, to tourists and all South Australians.

So I am very pleased at the announcement that is being made today to ensure that Wang Wang and Fu Ni, our wonderful pandas, can continue to call South Australia home.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Good morning everyone what a wonderful place to have a press conference on a Sunday morning. Thank you very much for coming.

Well I think every South Australian knows how much we love the pandas. Wang Wang and Fu Ni are one of our most popular attractions. South Australian kids, Australian kids, kids from around the world who come here with their families love the pandas.

And we know that without funding, unfortunately the pandas would have to go home in November. But today I’m announcing that a Shorten Labor Government, if elected, will ensure that the pandas stay here in Adelaide.

We will fund, for five years, at $1.3 million a year, to ensure that we can continue to enjoy, and most importantly that our children can continue to enjoy, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, just as so many kids and their parents today are enjoying the pandas.

I am joined today for this local announcement obviously by Steve Georganas, our candidate for Adelaide, current member for Hindmarsh. Also, Marielle Smith who is just joining us, who is a Labor Senate candidate just fresh from a baptism so she obviously really likes pandas too.

Also Sarah Brown from the zoo who I will throw to in a minute and Zoe Bettison and Chris Picton, the Shadow Ministers for Tourism and Health respectively.

I do want to pay tribute also to Amanda Rishworth who has been a very strong advocate for this project as well as Steve. I can say to you Labor people have had a lot of representations from families about why this is so important.

Can I hand over to Sarah from the Zoo who is going to talk a little bit about this announcement and then will take questions.

SARAH BROWN, ACTING CEO, ZOOS SA: We are thrilled to hear Labor put forward their commitment to renew the panda lease. It’s fantastic for tourism, for South Australia, they are a massive drawcard to Adelaide. So it is very important that we retain them here.

But not just for tourism, it’s an investment into conservation. So what we do globally is we make a real difference in making sure that the giant panda species doesn’t become extinct. We’ve already seen some great results in that space and we are proud to be part of that here at Zoos South Australia. Giant pandas have recently been downlisted from “endangered” to “vulnerable” so it is a very positive outcome and we are really proud to have been part of that.

WONG: Just a couple of more things on the pandas. Obviously Sarah has talked about this as a conservation project and it is important and good for us to work with China on this conservation project. It is good for the bilateral relationship.

It is also such a great boost for tourism and Sarah was telling me before we came to do this press conference the extent to which the pandas remain such a drawcard for the zoo, the zoo that we all know and love, consistently amongst the top five attractions people come for. And of course last year, was it, or the year before, we had our third highest number of visitors in a year to the zoo. So, it’s great to continue, from the Labor Party’s perspective, supporting the pandas and supporting the Adelaide zoo.

JOURNALIST: So this would be under exactly the same conditions as the existing lease?

WONG: That’s correct. And unfortunately if the Federal Government doesn’t renew then obviously the pandas go home in November.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it is a point of difference between the two parties? Pandas point of difference?

WONG: Well I hope that the Coalition can come aboard and match what we have committed to today. That would be a good thing, because regardless of which government wins in May, which party forms government, we all want the pandas, we all want Wang Wang and Fu Ni to be here, for this to be a place where we can continue to bring our kids.

JOURNALIST: There are votes in pandas?

WONG: Well I think this is a good thing for the state. Look you just have to look over here. How many other attractions on a Sunday morning have someone waiting for an hour so her daughter can watch Wang Wang take a bubble bath? There you go.

JOURNALIST: In an opinion poll pandas and politicians, who would win?

WONG: In any opinion poll, generally except against banking executives, we lose so I just don’t bother engaging in that.

JOURNALIST: From China’s point of view, are they keen for us to continue to have the pandas?

WONG: I might throw to Sarah on that, but I would say, obviously as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, you work on the bilateral relationship, the relationship with China, across a whole range of domains. And working with them on conservation is a good thing. It was a good thing for the bilateral relationship when John Howard signed the agreement at APEC, to make sure the pandas could come here and it is still a good thing.

BROWN: And that’s very much the case as Penny said. So, they would be very keen for us to retain the pandas and continue contributing towards those conservation efforts.

JOURNALIST: Is there any thought of changing the terms, or changing the pandas themselves?

BROWN: We haven’t had those discussions as yet. We want to firm up our funding first before we started those negotiations and then we will explore what our options are.


JOURNALIST: The Government has today released a video message targeting towards people smugglers. They say the video message is aimed at international markets. Do you think this is the case or do you think it is about hitting home domestically?

WONG: You know, Scott Morrison’s problem is that he says one thing one week and another thing another week. Scott Morrison’s problem is that it’s become very clear, in these last weeks, to Australians, that this bloke wants a campaign on fear. That’s what he wants his election campaign to be about.

He can’t run on his record because his record is cuts and chaos. He can’t run on stability because his record is disunity. So what does he want to do? He wants to run on fear and his problem with this video is that it is not what he was saying last week. People know a politician who is being authentic and one who is not

JOURNALIST: Has Labor given the Government an opening though on this issue?

WONG: I know the Government wants you to be telling people that. Their problem is that they know Labor has the same position on border protection as the Government; offshore processing, regional resettlement arrangements and turnbacks where it is safe to do so. This is about the existing cohort and giving people in our care the medical care they need.

JOURNALIST: Was Labor advised by security agencies that Christmas Island would have to be reopened and the rules changed?

WONG: Look I never discuss what the security agencies advise but we act on the advice of security agencies and we do not believe that this move by Scott Morrison is necessary given the way in which the bill was constrained and related only to the existing cohort.

Now I know Mr Morrison wants to run on fear. I know he is the only person who wants to give a message to people smugglers. There is only one person who wants to give a message to people smugglers that this is a change of policy and that is Mr Morrison.

JOURNALIST: If this is such an important issue why won’t you tell voters who your Home Affairs Minister will be in a Labor Government?

WONG: Well did the Liberals tell people who the Prime Minister would be at the last election?

Let’s be clear that’s a matter for Bill. We have got to win government first. Shayne Neumann is doing an excellent job in the Immigration portfolio but as to the shape of the new cabinet if Labor wins government that is a matter for the Prime Minister of the day which would be Bill Shorten.

JOURNALIST: The longer border security stays in the news do you think this is going to hurt your chances at the next election?

WONG: I think Australians are alive to what is happening. I think Australians are alive to the way in which Mr Morrison can’t talk about schools, can’t talk about hospitals, can’t talk about the fact that people‘s wages haven’t had the sort of increases that people need. That cost of living is going up. He can’t talk about the fact that he has just junked his 11th energy policy since 2016. He can’t talk about any of those things that are relevant to the lives of Australian families so he has got to talk about something else. And I think Australians are alive to that.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you might encourage the trade with his warnings?

WONG: I think Mr Morrison’s behaviour in the Parliament last week, and the things he said, were utterly irresponsible.

JOURNALIST: The Attorney-General says the Government is carrying out security and criminal checks of those on Manus Island and Nauru when they seek to come to Australia under those new laws. Should these checks have already been done?

WONG: You would have thought – we are talking about some people who have been in our care for years – that these checks have been already done.

But I want to make one point about the Attorney-General. He had a lot of trouble on television today trying to explain a $420 million contract, which has been given by closed tender to a company which has had a whole range of problems, including a director who is being investigated for a whole range of activities.

This Paladin contract really has a lot of questions around it. It is deeply concerning that we have had $420 million of your money going to a company which has got such a poor track record.

And tomorrow is Senate Estimates. What I would say to the Government is stop hiding. You have got $420 million of taxpayers’ money. Why don’t you front up and tell the truth about why that contract was awarded in such circumstances? Why it went to closed tender? The answers by Mr Dutton and the Attorney-General, Mr Porter today are not consistent. I think Australians deserve an answer.

JOURNALIST: Just on Paladin can you talk more about those concerns you might have about Paladin being paid that $420 million for Manus Island despite that business address previously being a beach shack on Kangaroo Island?

WONG: Well $420 million for a company, as you said, the headquarters are a beach shack on KI. I mean I love Kangaroo Island, but it doesn’t fill you with confidence in terms of their capacity.

What fills you with even less confidence is their track record and the fact that we have one of their directors, at least, under a cloud. And what doesn’t fill Australians with confidence is the answers which have been given. This went to a closed tender. Not an open tender, a closed tender and when questions were asked about this Mr Dutton tried to wash his hands of this. Well he can’t It’s in his portfolio. It’s nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. Senate Estimates are on tomorrow. I invite the Government to tell the truth.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.