14 May 2019




SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Welcome to Adelaide all of you. We are really glad that Bill has arrived and is here to talk about Labor’s plan for better schools and hospitals in South Australia, and most importantly, the fact that Labor will act on climate change. Unlike the Coalition, which remains bitterly divided; an internal war that we have seen over a decade, which has ensured that they cannot do anything ever about climate change.

I am joined here by Mark Butler, who is obviously our climate change spokesperson; Nadia Clancy, our fantastic candidate for Boothby; and Saskia Gerhardy, our fantastic candidate for Mayo. Unlike Mr Morrison’s party, we actually think it is a great thing having women run for parliament (applause). Hello to all the Labor people here today, it is great to have you out supporting us.

I just want to make a couple of comments and then I’m happy to take questions. First about Nicolle Flint. Today we saw footage of the Flint sprint – Nicolle Flint running away because she didn’t want to answer questions while standing next to Scott Morrison. What I would say is Nicolle you can run as fast as you like, but you’re still part of the chaos, you’re still part of the division. You can’t run from the fact that you helped bring down Malcolm Turnbull and you support Peter Dutton. You can’t run from the fact that you were part of the internal war inside the Liberal Party, which has ensured they are utterly incapable of ever acting on climate change.

So if the people of Boothby want action on climate change, vote for Nadia, vote for Labor. If the people of Boothby want better schools and hospitals, investment in the emergency department at Flinders Medical Centre, vote for Nadia Clancy; our fantastic candidate for Boothby.

Nicolle Flint is part of the problem. She is part of the very problem that has led to the division and chaos that has marked this government for its last six years, but particularly the last three, where we have seen three prime ministers in a row.

I also wanted to make a comment about the Liberal Party and a couple of their candidates who continue to make, frankly, homophobic comments publicly, and have views which I think are out of step with the vast majority of Australians. What is the Liberal Party’s problem? You’ve got a couple of candidates who have made it clear they don’t support marriage equality, that they think gay people should be banned from having children – it’s a little late, we did (laughter). But the reality is these people don’t speak for the majority of Australians, they don’t speak for the overwhelming majority of Australians. Scott Morrison really should show some leadership. Mr Bain and Mr Green, I think their names are. They should be disendorsed by the Liberal Party because their comments don’t reflect what I think modern Australia is and what I know modern Australia to be.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the problem is that homophobic attitudes within the Liberal Party starts at the top perhaps when the Prime Minister can’t give a clear answer around marriage equality?

WONG: Well we know what Scott Morrison’s view on marriage equality was. He was against it, he opposed it. Then even when his electorate supported it, he left the parliament so he didn’t have to vote for it.

So I think it is pretty clear what Mr Morrison’s view on equality is. It is pretty clear the way he’s refused to stand up for LGBTIQ students to make sure that they are not discriminated against. I thought it was a pretty odd fact yesterday he couldn’t answer a straight question. I thought it was a pretty clear example of a question a prime minister should’ve been able to answer. I think Kelly O’Dwyer has got it right when she said the Liberal Party is seen as “homophobic, anti-women, climate change-deniers”. I think that’s pretty right.

JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison accused Bill Shorten of taking a cheap political shot. Is that what he did on this issue this morning?

WONG: Bill spoke for the majority of the Australian people. I think what he showed was leadership. Scott Morrison made this a story because he couldn’t answer the question.

JOURNALIST: There was also a pretty clumsy answer to a question about the US-China relationship where the Prime Minister described China as being Australia’s customers. Was that a sensible choice of words?

WONG: I know he’s an adman, but I think the relationship with China is a complex relationship and shouldn’t be reduced to that kind of language. I think it was clumsy, lacked sophistication. I think Julie Bishop was right when she distanced herself from it.

JOURNALIST: Senator, do you think in this late stage of the election campaign independent candidates should be upfront with Australian voters and say which major party they back in the event of a hung parliament?

WONG: We are focused on gaining a majority for a Labor government. We are focused on trying to make sure the Labor Party gets enough seats to form a majority government.

JOURNALIST: As Labor’s Senate Leader, how much work are you having to do at the moment talking to crossbenchers who are definitely going to be there in the next parliament and also those who might find their way in there? You may have to be negotiating with them on some issues that they have already expressed their concern on.

WONG: There’s a lot of commentary about that but our focus is on electing a Labor government so we can have better schools and hospitals and do something about climate change (applause). We should do this more often, you guys can all come to Parliament House (laughter). It would make press conferences much easier.

JOURNALIST: There is going to have to come a time though, if you are elected, where you will have to deal with the Senate crossbench and you will have to negotiate. Some have already been very active in voicing their concerns about some of your tax plans for instance. How do you approach that issue and how do you approach those crossbenchers in a negotiation?

WONG: Well I’d say two things. First, we want to elect a Labor government. We want a Labor government elected because we think it is the right thing for the country and that’s what we are focused on.

The second point I’d make is you don’t get better schools and hospitals just by wishing for them. You get them by going to the Australian people and getting a mandate for those policies and the policies which fund them, and that is what we’re doing.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.