E&OE - PROOF ONLY
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: First I want to respond to Christopher Pyne’s resignation today and his announcement this morning formally.
Christopher leaves a gaping hole in the Morrison Government. He is one of their most senior ministers. He’s Leader of the House, one of their most senior tacticians and of course one of the longest serving Liberals in the Parliament.
Christopher has been a political opponent but he has been a tough opponent and a worthy opponent. He is irrepressible. He is tenacious, at times to the point of ruthlessness and he is occasionally extremely entertaining and I do wish he, and Carolyn, well for this next phase in their lives and I acknowledge his service to his party, to this state and to the Parliament of Australia.
But more broadly what we are now seeing is a stampede, a stampede for the exit. Bishop, O’Dwyer, Scullion, Keenan now Pyne and Ciobo. What will the Morrison Government be remembered for? A stampede for the exit and jobs for their mates. After years of cuts and chaos, division and disunity this lot have actually given up governing. The focus is on the stampede for the exit and jobs for their mates.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor confident that Sturt is well in play now, something you might be able to pick up?
WONG: We want to fight in every seat and certainly Christopher was a very good marginal seat campaigner. But we know it is a tough seat to win and we will be working on it.
JOURNALIST: What do you think his greatest contribution to Australia was?
WONG: You should ask Christopher, I’m sure he could tell you that.
JOURNALIST: He did.
WONG: (Laughter) Well whatever he said no doubt. Look, I do acknowledge, as one of the few moderates in the Parliament – they seem to be mainly leaving now – but he obviously, on a whole range of social policy issues, was prepared to occasionally work with the Labor Party to do the right thing.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see the party run a woman in Sturt?
WONG: The Liberal Party? Well the Liberal Party seem to have this problem with pre-selecting women. They seem to have a problem with promoting women. They seem to have a problem with actually having women in their party room. What are they at? One in five? It’s a matter for them but I think Kelly O’Dwyer said it well when she described their party as women-hating.
JOURNALIST: Mr Pyne in his presser this morning actually mentioned you as someone he will miss.
WONG: Did he?
JOURNALIST: What did you make of that?
WONG: He was being charming wasn’t he? Christopher can be very charming.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor be running a woman in Sturt?
WONG: That will be a decision for the Party. I’m sure we will be making announcements where appropriate.
JOURNALIST: Mr Pyne said the leadership spill had no influence on his decision. Do you buy that?
WONG: I think the division and disunity has left this Government crippled and we see this in the stampede for the exit. Senior women going – Julie Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer. We see senior moderates going. Really, this lot have given up governing.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor think it is inappropriate for Marise Payne to appoint Patricia Forsythe, a friend and former Liberal MP, as High Commissioner to New Zealand?
WONG: One thing about the Liberal Government is that you can always count on them to look after themselves first, their mates next and then the Australian people. They always put the Australian people last.
What we have seen is this pattern of appointing mates to jobs – Joe Hockey, George Brandis, David Bushby and now Ms Forsythe.
We will certainly be looking at all of these appointments if we are elected, as is appropriate. But I have to say, to the Australian people, what does this look like? Stampede for the exits and jobs for the mates.
JOURNALIST: If you are elected, who will be the Defence Minister and Home Affairs Minister?
WONG: I think you might have asked me that previously and I have said to you, obviously we have got a very settled line up. Cabinet positions – if we are elected, which is a matter for the Australian people – are a matter for the Prime Minister. Mr Shorten will be making his decision, if he is elected, about the best people for the job.
But I would make this point, unlike the Coalition, who have been characterised by disunity, division and chaos, we have the same Leader, the same Deputy Leader, the same Senate Leader and the same Shadow Treasurer.
JOURNALIST: Christopher Pyne says he will miss you. Is the feeling mutual?
WONG: Well he is very entertaining on those flights to Canberra, I have to say, certainly more entertaining that some of his colleagues.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.