9 March 2019




SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much for coming. It is great to be here outside WOMADelaide, a great festival here in Adelaide the festival state. But I’m here to talk about International Women’s Day and the Liberal Party.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and breakfasts and celebrations were held all around Australia. We had over 2500 South Australian women here at the Convention Centre, lots of young people, lots of school kids, people coming together with such energy and optimism about working towards a more equal Australia. It was a great event.

And as we left the event reports started filtering in through the day of a speech that Scott Morrison had made. And at first most of us thought it was a parody. Most of us thought somebody had written a bit of a joke for International Women’s Day, but unfortunately the joke was the Prime Minister. This Prime Minister has basically said to Australian women you can be equal, as long as you don’t put anyone out.

Now, the problem with this Prime Minister – he has many problems – but the fundamental problem he demonstrated yet again yesterday is he is out of touch. Scott Morrison does not represent the women of Australia. He does not understand their hopes, he does not understand their aspirations and he doesn’t respect the things that they want.

Actually what Scott Morrison was doing was justifying himself. He was justifying the fact that Julie Bishop could not be elected Prime Minister because it might displace a man. He was justifying the fact that only one in five of his Members of Parliament are women because he wouldn’t want anyone to displace a man. He was justifying the fact that Liberal women are actually being replaced by men, so they are going backwards. Jane Prentice, Ann Sudmalis, both replaced by men. And really what it showed us, yet again, was that Kelly O’Dwyer was right when she said the Liberal Party is anti-women

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says the point that he was making yesterday was that he wants all Australians to work together for the advancement of women not setting men against women. What do you think about his explanation?

WONG: I invite all of you to look at what he said. And he might have worked out overnight that it was a bit of a problem saying it because the women of Australia understood what he was saying. He was saying to them you can be equal but don’t put anybody out and justifying the fact that women in his party are not represented.

When it comes to women Kelly O’Dwyer was right. The Liberal Party are anti-women. They are anti-women when it comes to representation, when it comes to policy. They simply don’t reflect the views of modern Australia.

JOURNALIST: His comments have made international headlines. What do you think that has to say about the Prime Minister?

WONG: I think it demonstrates what a joke it was. This bloke doesn’t understand where people are. He doesn’t understand where Australian women are and frankly Australian men. Australian men have daughters and sisters and mothers and granddaughters. They don’t want women to continue to be behind the eight ball, to retire with $113,000 less, to have fewer opportunities. Nobody wants that. Well, perhaps the Liberal Party do want that.

JOURNALIST: Do you think these sorts of comments do play to his base?

WONG: I think he was more worried about justifying himself to his party room than to some part of his base. And it is unsurprising that Australian women are looking at the Liberal Party and saying you don’t stand for me.

JOURNALIST: Does he have a point though about not wanting to push one side of the community against another?

WONG: You know what? How about we all build a more equal Australia together? How about we do that? A pretty simple proposition and the school kids who came to our International Women’s Day breakfast they understand that. We can build a more equal Australia together and that is good for all of us. The person who has a problem with that, the person who is setting people apart, is Scott Morrison.

JOURNALIST: It’s just been confirmed that Milo Yiannopoulos has been granted a visa here to Australia despite concerns from the Home Affairs Department about his character. What do you think about this decision?

WONG: I think we can decide who we want to come to Australia. This is the bloke who has condoned relationships between younger boys and older men. He’s a bloke who has described feminism as a cancer and Islam as AIDS. Do we really want these ideas given this sort of coverage in Australia? The Home Affairs Department itself said he shouldn’t come. That it was a bad idea, that it wasn’t good for national cohesion.

Let’s be clear about what has happened. Some right wing commentators have got angry about it so the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party decided to change their mind.

It really demonstrates just what a bubble the Liberal Party live in. I often think that. Mr Morrison often talks about the Canberra bubble. Well there’s a Liberal bubble and the Liberal bubble is one where women don’t have equal representation, where women aren’t afforded equal rights, where women can’t afford to put anyone out and where right wing commentators decide who should get visas to this country. That’s the Liberal bubble.

JOURNALIST: The Government says they are considering personal income tax cuts. Is this a sign of desperation?

WONG: Let’s wait and see what the Budget says but I think Australians know one thing, they know their wages aren’t going up.

Even more importantly this week we saw the Finance Minister, one of the most senior economic spokespeople in the Government saying that low wages was part of the Coalition’s economic architecture. In other words it’s okay.

Well I can tell you when I walk around Adelaide, when I go interstate, when I talk to Australians and their families, there is nobody saying that low wage growth is a good thing. So again, this Government, this Liberal Government is out of touch

JOURNALIST: On Milo Yiannopoulos, is the decision an embarrassing backflip for the Government?

WONG: I think it is inexplicable. And the only way it is explicable is they are doing what some right wing commentators want them to do. They are not acting in the interests of Australians. I don’t think him coming to Australia is in the interests of Australians.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.