E&OE - PROOF ONLY
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about the US alliance? Do you think the US would come to defend us and do you think that alliance has enduring value for Australia?
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Yes absolutely. The US alliance is an enduring pillar of Australian foreign policy and as I’ve said repeatedly, including since Mr Trump was elected, our relationship is with the nation. It is with the institution and it remains an important part of Australia’s strategic and foreign policy.
JOURNALIST: Do we need to be able to defend ourselves?
WONG: Both parties have a very strong view about the importance of increasing defence spending but we do have to continue to make sure we work closely with our region and of course the US is our key strategic ally.
JOURNALIST: Is there a need to acquire nuclear weapons?
WONG: I think Mr Albanese might have been asked that this morning. We support the existing framework including the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
JOURNALIST: Senator, on the tax cuts that are going to confront the Parliament, have you been in discussion with the crossbenchers like Jacqui Lambie and Centre Alliance?
WONG: I think Senator Patrick has already said to you that they are supporting it hasn’t he? And I would make the point that the Government has certainly got an easier ride with this Senate than they had in the last Parliament.
Look, there’s one party that is putting forward a proposition which will enable tax cuts for every Australian this term and that is the Australian Labor Party. There is only one party that is putting forward a tax plan that will give every Australian a tax cut this term and it is the Government which is holding those tax cuts hostage to tax cuts which they want to bring in next term after the next election. That remains our position.
WONG: We will continue to fight for our amendments. That’s our position.
JOURNALIST: If you’re not supporting Stage Three, why not just pass it and then repeal it if you’re elected?
WONG: Thank you for running Labor strategy for us but we will run our own strategy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think China will become the great power in the Asia Pacific?
WONG: China is a great power in the region. It is a very important trading partner for Australia. It is a very important regional power. We think Australia’s interests are best served by the United States being deeply and constructively engaged in the region and we also think Australia’s interests are served by increased cooperation, not competition, between the two great powers. The best example of that is in terms of trade. I have said repeatedly no one wins from a trade war and Australian interests, certainly, they need to be advocated and may well be at risk in a trade war. We are a middle power, a substantial power, and we are a trading nation and we benefit from multilateral, open, fair trading arrangements.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.