SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

TRANSCRIPT

9 May 2019

DOORSTOP – BRISBANE

TOPICS: AUSTRALIA-CHINA RELATIONS, LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATES, SA PRESS CLUB FEDERAL ELECTION DEBATE

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Hello everybody. I think a couple of you were wanting to ask me a question about yesterday, and I was very happy to answer it, but you were all asking very different questions before Bill finished the press conference.

I just want to make this clear – I will always look to Australia’s national interest. I understand, as Shadow Foreign Minister, the risks of playing domestic partisan politics with the relationship with China. The answer I gave reflected that understanding. I did not give a partisan answer in that debate. What I’d say about Senator Birmingham is he regrettably did not follow the same approach. As a senior Trade Minister, as a senior minister in this Government, he ought to have done so.

JOURNALIST: Is it not in relation though…

WONG: The national interest matters, and it matters to me very much, and it matters to the Labor Party very much. I’ve explained the reasons why that is the case.

JOURNALIST: Has Mr Birmingham asked for an apology?

WONG: No, we’ve got a good relationship. We’ve had robust exchanges over the years. You know, you live in Adelaide, so we know how to deal with that. He hasn’t asked for an apology and I wouldn’t expect him to do so.

JOURNALIST: Is it right though for Labor to criticise the negativity in politics at the moment when you do see those images, such as you refusing to shake his hand after the debate?

WONG: Well I think that the issue here is the national interest. As I said, I understand the risks of playing domestic, partisan politics with the China relationship, and we chose to take a different approach and it’s regrettable Senator Birmingham didn’t.

Now I want to also talk – because there was one other question that didn’t come at me in the press conference and that’s about the candidate for Scullin, Mr Gurpal Singh, who’s made comments linking same-sex marriage to paedophilia and child abuse. Can I just say, Mr Morrison – you said the standard you all pass is the standard you accept, you need to disendorse this man. His views are not consistent with what you say your values are and they are not consistent with the values of the Australian community.

Thank you.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.