19 September 2017




SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Joining us now live from Adelaide to discuss this and other issues including North Korea, that the United Nations is obviously debating and discussing this week, is Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong. Penny thanks a lot for your time this afternoon.


MAIDEN: Can we just start with same sex marriage. This polling that the No campaign have, that suggests that there is a softening of support for Yes, I suppose in some ways that is no big surprise, that tends to happen during a campaign period like this. But is there anything in those numbers that concerns you?

WONG: Sam you’re right, it isn’t surprising that this is a tough fight. We’ve always known that this was going to be a tough fight. We’ve always known that the No campaign would engage in untruths and scare tactics. Really, this polling simply serves to reinforce that we need fair-minded Australians to vote and to vote Yes and to encourage others to vote Yes. We need people who support equality and believe in a fair go to support us in this and vote Yes in this survey.

MAIDEN: This is obviously a really tough debate for a lot of people in the LGBTI community. The other interesting thing about that research is that it was suggesting that protections are very important, they drive how people vote. And it had this figure saying that 60 per cent of people want protections for children. But what are those protections in terms of this debate? I mean gay and lesbian couples can already have children? There is some evidence I suppose in the other way, that some of those families are being affected in a negative way by this debate?

WONG: That’s correct. And that’s one of the saddest things about this campaign is that the No case says they care about children but spend a lot of their time denigrating our families, suggesting that our children are being harmed.

The reality is same sex couples already have children in this country. And if I can tell you just one brief story I was at the Royal Adelaide Show a couple of weekends ago and a woman with a couple of kids and her husband walked up to me and she said to me ‘I was brought up by two mums, you keep doing what you are doing’. And it just reinforces that the reality of same sex families is already here in Australia.

All the NO case are actually saying is that those families shouldn’t be headed by a couple who have made a formal commitment in marriage. I, for one, would have thought that that sort of stability and commitment might be a good thing for children. Certainly it would be a better thing that some of the negative messages about children that we see from the No campaign, people who profess to have the interests of children at heart, but are prepared to use them in this debate.

MAIDEN: What about this debate in relation to Woolworths? Roger Corbett is obviously in the No camp. There have been calls for a boycott of Woolworths in relation to this debate.

WONG: I didn’t see his 7:30 Report interview, I was preparing for ABC Q&A which ran later in the evening. But the reports of that interview, I think, demonstrate the arguments that the NO case use and frankly the paucity of their arguments. It doesn’t seem like it was a particularly fine interview.

MAIDEN: Let’s get back now to the big issue that’s running at the United Nations this week. Obviously the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is there talking about North Korea. We keep getting told that the sanctions are working, they keep seem to be firing off missiles. Where do you see this going this week?

WONG: I think the UN General Assembly is an important opportunity to continue the international pressure on North Korea which, as you know – because we have spoken about this before – is obviously acting contrary to international law and is acting in a provocative way that is disruptive of regional security and global security and peace.

Sanctions are important. They are one element of the way in which the international community should stand, and is standing against North Korea. They must be accompanied by economic and diplomatic pressure, political and diplomatic pressure and the General Assembly is an opportunity for that pressure to be applied.

It has been heartening to see the major powers working together in the UN Security Council on this. We would continue to hope that we see cooperation across the globe, and particularly China, the United States, Russia and others acting as one in putting pressure on North Korea. All nations have an interest in this being resolved peacefully and diplomatically. All nations have an interest in global peace and security and that is being threatened by North Korea.

MAIDEN: And what is your reaction to the other story that is running this week, Aung San Suu Kyi finally breaking her silence on this refugee crisis the United Nations has described as ethnic cleaning. She didn’t exactly seem to be suggesting in that speech that she thought it was necessarily as bad as everyone was suggesting. Do you think that she is really damaging her standing in this? She has been widely condemned for not speaking out on this earlier.

WONG: Let’s start with the most important thing which is that the violence must end. That is the most important principle here and that is what the international community must keep pressing on all of Myanmar’s leaders. We have seen gross violations of human rights in Myanmar – as you said, what the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. The international community has rightly responded and is rightly putting pressure on Myanmar.

I know there are many people who will be disappointed at some of what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had to say and some of what she didn’t have to say. I think there were two things that were very important that she said. One was the importance of the recognition of upholding human rights and the second was an openness of international observers.

I think the international community should continue to put pressure, not only on Daw Aug San Suu Kyi, but on all of the Myanmar leadership to make good on those commitments.

MAIDEN: And just returning to the energy debate – this is something that you are more than familiar with given your previous roles.

WONG: Just like old times isn’t it?

MAIDEN: It is. In relation to Liddell we spoke to the General Manager Kate Coates of Liddell and Bayswater and she said look, you’re kidding yourself basically if you think you can keep this open. The lift was breaking down while they were taking the media around today and she was pretty dubious at the idea there is a serious buyer, although they are taking that idea to the board. Why do you think the Government is so hell bent on keeping Liddell open if everyone who seems to work there, including the General Manager, is saying that you just can’t really keep propping it up?

WONG: Because they have no plan. This is the sort of activity you engage in, the sort of distraction you engage in, when you don’t have a plan. And the Prime Minister is focussing on this ageing power station – which the owners have said they don’t wish to continue operating beyond the timeframe they have outlined – while reducing 4000 megawatts of power under his watch, under Malcolm Turnbull’s watch exited the system. You have got two thirds of baseload capacity, plants beyond their design life and we’ve got the market saying they don’t want to invest because there is no plan.

So the first thing the Prime Minister should do, if he actually wants to fix the crisis, is instead of tiptoeing around Tony Abbott, actually come forward with a Clean Energy Target. Labor said we are willing to work in a bipartisan way and everyone needs to start behaving like adults. We’ve had, frankly, childish behaviour inside the Liberal Party which has ensured this energy crisis in this country and the Prime Minister really needs to act like a Prime Minister and come forward with a genuine plan that addresses this crisis – not just for this Summer, but for the years ahead.

MAIDEN: Okay, well good luck with that. We even had the World Coal Association on today that said the Government needs to make a decision on how they are going to pursue, and if they are going to pursue, a Clean Energy Target, sooner rather than later. We’ll see how they go.

WONG: There you go.

MAIDEN: Thanks very much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

WONG: No worries, good to be with you.