ABC News Breakfast - 01/12/2020

01 December 2020

SUBJECTS: Australia’s relationship with China; Australians stranded overseas.

LISA MILLER, HOST: Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong joins me now from Canberra. Good morning, welcome to Breakfast.


MILLER: What's China playing at here?

WONG: Look, I think it was a deliberately provocative image. It was an offensive, inflammatory image. And it was rightly condemned by all parties and by the Australian community. I think we are united as a community in our condemnation of it. I would say this though: in the face of deliberate provocation, what we need to do, and what we should do, is to respond calmly and strategically, and not be emotional in relation to what was a deliberate provocation.

MILLER: Do you think that's the approach the Prime Minister is taking?

WONG: I think we are unified in our response in our condemnation of this image. And I made a statement, as did Anthony Albanese, yesterday. But if we throw forward - and in your introduction you rightly pointed out we have a range of very substantial difficulties in our relationship with China at this point. We have economic challenges with the problems we've had with a whole range of exports, which is obviously a major issue for the Australian economy, for jobs, and for all the Australians who rely on those industries. And we have this deliberate provocation. I think it's very important that we respond in a calm and measured way and make very clear what we believe is acceptable. This isn't the behaviour, as I said yesterday, the offensive doctored photograph is not the behaviour of a responsible, mature international player.

MILLER: And the Prime Minister has taken this approach where he almost believes the relationship has sunk so low that perhaps there is now the environment for a reset. But it seems like there would be Buckley's chance of that at the moment, given that we've seen them double down on comments they make. And, Penny Wong, I just checked again - the tweet is still there. It's pinned to the top of the official's Twitter feed. That's sending a message. Is it a message not just to Australia but to others around the world, ‘This is how China will act’?

WONG: Clearly, it is sending a message, and we have to choose how we respond to it. And I think we have to respond with unity, as we have. And we have to recognise it for what it is - deliberate provocation - and that it is inflammatory. But I think what we need to do now is to work out how we deal with a China that regrettably behaves like this.

MILLER: Well, how would you do it?

WONG: Well, I think there are two things we need to do. The first is we need to work with like-mindeds, with partners and allies, aligned nations, in reinforcing both the rules and the norms and the standards of behaviour that we want for our region and for the world. And I think the second point is we need to continue to reinforce the rules which underpin, obviously, the trading arrangements we have. I think it's very important we work with others to try and reinforce, and strengthen, the rules-based order that has served Australia and, frankly, served China well. And, you know, obviously there's an opportunity with the incoming Biden Administration for Australia to do that, and we need to focus on that.

MILLER: And, Penny Wong, you have been highly critical of the Government's approach in regards to getting Australians home by Christmas. How many are going to miss out, do you think, at this stage?

WONG: Well, we know the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison's, promise is going to be broken, and he doesn't even have the decency to acknowledge that.

MILLER: But there were more people added to that list, double the numbers?

WONG: No, see, you've picked up what he said, one of the shifty things he uses to try and get out of the broken promise. Even if you looked at who was overseas, and on the list at the time he made the promise, they won't get home. So, let's be very clear about that. The reality is the Prime Minister is not going to deliver on his promise, and that is because he is refusing to take responsibility, he's refusing to ensure that the Federal Government takes some responsibility for quarantine, that it sets up a federal facility. It was told months ago by its own adviser it could do so. And it has refused to do so. And so, what has happened is, since the Prime Minister's promise, not only have more people been added to the list but more people have been classed as vulnerable, and they will not be home by Christmas. Now, that is, I think, a great sadness for them and their families, and a great abdication of responsibility by Mr Morrison.

MILLER: Penny Wong, thanks for joining us this morning.

WONG: Good to be with you.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.