16 October 2018




SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Well, today we see just how desperate Scott Morrison is. Just how desperate he is to hold on to the seat of Wentworth. Floating a change in Liberal foreign policy, a change in bipartisan foreign policy just to try to hold on to the seat of Wentworth. And does anyone actually believe he’ll carry this through? He is just posturing ahead of a by-election that he is desperate to win in order to hold on to a slim majority.

Let’s be clear – the move that Scott Morrison is floating today is a position that was not held by Alexander Downer, was not held by Julie Bishop, was not held by Malcolm Turnbull and guess what, wasn’t held by Scott Morrison just a couple of months ago. But this is a bloke who is prepared to do and say anything to hold on to his parliamentary majority.

I would say one thing about this proposition, no matter what Scott Morrison does, no matter how many games he plays and no matter how much bipartisan foreign policy he is prepared to play political games with – highly irresponsible – this is a bloke who doesn’t share the values of the voters of Wentworth.

We saw yesterday Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party vote for a motion put forward by Pauline Hanson saying it is OK to be white. This is a phrase used by white supremacists. So no matter what Scott Morrison does, whether it is the issue of white supremacist motions, whether it is on climate change, or whether it is on discrimination against LGBTIQ Australians, this is a boke who does not share the values of the people of Wentworth and no amount of irresponsible foreign policy changes is going to distract attention from that.

JOURNALIST: Why is this issue so controversial, given the US has already made this move and West Jerusalem would be part of Israel in any two state solution?

WONG: I’d refer you to what Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and the Secretary of DFAT have said prior to this time, which is this; it is unhelpful to the peace process.

The reality is Jerusalem is contested territory. Its status has to be resolved as part of any peace process discussion, as part of any discussion about a two state solution. The fact that this has been a bipartisan position I think demonstrates the lack of wisdom in Mr Morrison floating this.

I think that is very important. He’s not actually saying he will do it, he just wants to float something ahead of a by-election.

JOURNALIST: What do you think Dave Sharma’s motives are in pushing that position?

WONG: Dave Sharma wants to win the seat. He’s desperate to win the seat and that’s what this reflects.

JOURNALIST: If the Government went ahead and made this move rather quickly, would Labor return the embassy to Tel Aviv?

WONG: We continue to hold the long-standing position, as do the vast majority of the international community, and as did Mr Downer, Ms Bishop, Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison until the day before yesterday, that the appropriate thing to do is to ensure the status of Jerusalem is part of any discussion in the peace process, and that until that is resolved the embassy should remain in Tel Aviv.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it would jeopardise the peace process if that were to go ahead?

WONG: That was Julie Bishop’s position and I think she was right.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor seen the Government’s proposed amendments to the anti-discrimination bill? Because at the moment we don’t know whether it would just be about expulsion or actually about enrolments?

WONG: That is a very good question and another example of the way in which Scott Morrison has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a position that is held, and supported, by a majority of the people of Wentworth and the majority of Australians.

I’ve not seen them. It may be that our Shadow Attorney-General has. But I would encourage Scott Morrison to take up Bill Shorten’s bipartisan offer to ensure that the exemptions are removed both in respect of students and teachers. I think Bill Shorten was right when he said these exemptions no longer reflect the views of the Australian community.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor seriously considering industry bargaining reforms?

WONG: You’d have to speak to Brendan O’Connor. I’m not sure which story you are referencing, but Brendan O’Connor obviously is having long discussions with many stakeholders about this issue.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor welcome calls from some Liberal MPs who have asked Scott Morrison to remove some asylum seeker children from Nauru?

WONG: I did see that story and I think it demonstrates that even inside the Liberal Party people recognise that the way this Government has run offshore processing is unacceptable. The treatment of children, the indefinite nature of detention, has rendered it unacceptable in its current form.

Now we maintain our support for this framework but not for the way the Government is running it and I think it is a demonstration of the concern that we have even Liberal MPs and Senators saying that we need to deal with children in a much more humane way, particularly when it comes to the issue of medical treatment.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.