SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

TRANSCRIPT

25 February 2015

NOVA FM MELBOURNE WITH MESHEL AND TOMMY

TOPICS: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, SENATE ESTIMATES

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

MESHEL: Senator Penny Wong, welcome to the show.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: G’day, how are you going?

MESHEL: Look I am sure it is not inappropriate for me to say I love you so much!

WONG: That’s pretty funny.

MESHEL: Tell us, what the hell was going on in there yesterday, they were trying to kick you out, you wouldn’t go, they tried to kick Sarah Hanson-Young out, she said ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ She told one bloke ‘That might be how you talk to your wife mate but you don’t talk to Senators like that.’ It was kicking off, Gillian Triggs on the stand, what happened?

WONG: Look, it was pretty willing, I think you might say. The subject of the discussion was of course the President of the Human Rights Commission which as you know is an independent watchdog which has put out a report which is critical, frankly, of both sides of politics, about children in detention. A lot of people from the Government have been really hacking into her and in that hearing I think we saw really bullying, bovver-boy behaviour by a couple of Liberal Senators. And I wasn’t very pleased about it.

MESHEL: It was amazing wasn’t it? Senator Macdonald at one stage interjected and then said ‘I thought you might just like to hear a man’s voice.’

WONG: Yeah, I didn’t actually hear that, I saw it on Twitter, I was focussed on what was happening. Apparently he said that, it might have been Senator O’Sullivan or Macdonald, I can’t recall, but I saw on Twitter that he said that after I had been questioning –

MESHEL: You’re right it was O’Sullivan, it was Macdonald who said he hadn’t read the report because it was biased.

WONG: Yeah, that’s pretty good isn’t it? I just know it is biased. It’s the vibe.

MESHEL: He could be making 75 bucks an hour with those sort of skills, those sort of mind reading abilities.

JIMMY: I think I’ve used the same argument about Fifty Shades of Grey, I said I know it is crap so I don’t have to read it.

WONG: That’s slightly different. I’m with you on that, I’m with you on that.

TOMMY: Senator do you get frustrated sometimes? I don’t think I would have the restraint. Do you sometimes just almost let a swear word out?

WONG: Oh yeah. Yep. Yep. But I think, look we have pretty robust discussions. I’ve got grumpy myself and I understand that at times it does get willing in there. But I actually thought – I’ve been in politics a long time, I’m getting pretty old now, and that was the worst committee hearing I have ever seen, the behaviour in that.

MESHEL: I just don’t know how you can be bothered to be honest.

WONG: Because I think this is worth fighting for. Whatever you think of Professor Gillian Triggs’ report, she is the president of an independent body that, without fear or favour over many years has stood up for the human rights of Australians and criticised both sides of politics when they thought it was appropriate. It is part of our democracy and she ought not be attacked in the way she was yesterday, including by the Prime Minister. I think the principle is that people who have those positions should not be subjected to that sort of personal and partisan attack.

MESHEL: But don’t you ever feel like maybe you could leave politics and live a happy life without having to deal with this. I know that is a terrible attitude on my part but most of us don’t get involved, most of us just sit back and go  ‘I don’t know, politicians, they’re all weird, they’re all liars, they’re all just doing their own thing in Canberra and I don’t want to get any more deeply involved in it.’ Don’t you want to come and join us sometimes?

WONG: Every Sunday night when I leave my daughter and my partner to come to Canberra I reckon I have those thoughts. And I guess at some point in my life I will make that decision. But what I would say to you and to your listeners is this. Our system of democracy does depend on you noticing. And you can make a decision not to be interested in politics, but you can never make a decision not to be affected by it. And I reckon if you are going to be affected, take a bit of an interest because you should hold us all accountable. Our system depends on people like you taking enough interest that politicians are accountable and I think that is what yesterday’s hearing was about. I thought the online response, you know it went off on Twitter and on social media and what that showed is there are enough Australians who just think ‘Look whatever my politics, this isn’t OK.’

MESHEL: Do you ever want to hang out, if you’re in Melbourne?

WONG: That’s very sweet of you. If I can I will, but I have got two sisters in Melbourne who I probably don’t see enough of anyway, if they are listening, g’day, and I get told off by them for not –

MESHEL: Me too, I’m busy too.

WONG: Why don’t I come into the studio sometime?

MESHEL: Yes. Thank you Senator Penny Wong, that would be awesome, love you, bye.

WONG: Cheers.