16 November 2017




SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Senator, good morning to you. It was a profound moment for so many and for you in particular. Where did all that emotion come from?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Good morning, good to be with you. I’m just sort of trying to get over the somewhat embarrassed feeling of having cried in front of the entire country.

JEFFREYS: Not at all.

WONG: But I think it is overwhelming, isn’t it? I mean, by that stage I thought we were probably going to win, although you always worry. The night before I was pretty worried. But it has been such a long campaign, both inside the Labor Party and in the community. Over these last months of the survey there’s been a lot of pent up emotion and you know the relief and joy actually, that the Australian people had affirmed us and our family and made such a strong statement about equality and fairness. It was actually really moving.

JEFFREYS: It has been a deeply personal campaign for you. And there was a time not too long ago when you did not publicly support gay marriage and you have faced a fair amount of criticism for that. Was there any regret wrapped up in that emotion yesterday?

WONG: No, not at all. I did find it very difficult that the Labor Party had a position that I didn’t agree with but as I think I have said before on this show, you have two choices when you are a member of a political party and a senior Minister in that Party. You either leave, or you try and change the policy. And along with a lot of allies we did change the policy in 2011, I voted for it in 2012, and now I’m co-sponsoring a bill that we are going to start debate on very shortly in the Senate and I hope that this will actually be the bill that makes this law and this chapter can be dealt with.

The most important thing, if I can, is just to say thank you to the Australian people. It was a wonderful moment for the country, and I really want to thank so many people across this country who voted Yes and campaigned with us.

JEFFREYS: You have personally weathered a lot. So I imagine it has been an incredibly gratifying 24 hours for you. The stats are fascinating though, aren’t they? Most importantly an 80 per cent response rate and 62 per cent of people saying Yes. Do you think now that the plebiscite was worthwhile?

WONG: Look, I still have the view that we should have just dealt with it in Parliament. I am really overjoyed that we have got the result that we have got, not just for me and for gay and lesbian couples everywhere, but for the whole Australian community. Because I think this went to what sort of country we are.

But I also will say this, we know this was really hard for many people. And the personal stories you hear about, not just people being abused, but families being fractured, because of differences of views. This has been a hard time for the LGBTIQ community.

JEFFREYS: Malcolm Turnbull told Karl earlier on the program he is highly confident still that the bill will pass by Christmas. Do you still share that confidence?

WONG: The motion we passed yesterday in the Senate, Dean Smith, myself and a number of other Senators from across the Senate does two things. It introduces the bill to make marriage equality real, which will start debate as I said shortly. But it also requires that that bill be finally dealt with by the Senate by the Thursday of the next sitting week. So that’s 30 November. That leaves the House of Representatives a week to deal with the bill. The intention of all of us, and certainly my intention and the Labor Party’s intention, is to get this done before Christmas.

JEFFREYS: I know that Penny, on a personal note, you have said that you will discuss any wedding plans if, when, how with your partner Sophie privately. But I do wonder, what you think this all means for your children?

WONG: Well, it’s – it is the right question. Because this has never just been about – as much as I love Sophie – our relationship, it has actually been about the sort of country we want. And I often think about my daughters, beautiful daughters Alexandra and Hannah, and the sort of country I want for them. What Australia did yesterday was voted for that nation and for that, I am eternally grateful.

JEFFREYS: Yesterday was an amazing day in our history and an amazing day for you Penny Wong. We appreciate your time this morning and congratulations.

WONG: Great to be with you.

KARL STEFANOVIC: If she does get married, can we go to the party?

JEFFREYS: Yes. We are all willing and available – very available to attend any wedding you may throw in the future.

WONG: I will let you know.

HOSTS: Right. In the Barossa Valley, that’s for sure. We will await the invitations. Thank you so much.

WONG: No worries. Great to see you.