ABC News Breakfast - 09/11/2020

09 November 2020

SUBJECTS: US election; climate policy; China trade.

DAVID SPEERS, HOST: Well, now for more reaction to President-elect Joe Biden's win and what it means for Australia, Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong joins us from Parliament House. A very good morning to you.


SPEERS: Now, I saw you issued a joint statement with Anthony Albanese congratulating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris yesterday on their victory. But having a read of it, I couldn't find any reference to Donald Trump in there, Penny Wong. Honestly, how did you feel when you found out the Trump presidency was coming to an end?

WONG: Well, as you know, as we've said in interviews before, our alliance is with the nation, not the individual. Obviously, there are a whole range of things I might personally think, but ultimately...

SPEERS: Share those with us if you will!

WONG: No, no, I mean, as the Shadow Foreign Minister, the US Alliance is a cornerstone of our foreign policy regardless of who is in the White House. But we do congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris on their win. And it demonstrates what centre-left parties can do when you bring people together, present a platform, including an ambitious climate platform. You can still win an election and win it in the way they did...

SPEERS: And I want to come to that.

WONG: It's a great moment for America and a great moment for the world to see a new administration elected with a very substantial climate agenda - one that really does isolate Scott Morrison.

SPEERS: I want to come to the climate issue. But seriously on Donald Trump - I know that you have some personal views that perhaps you're not willing to share. But did he damage, do you think, the alliance in any way during his four years?

WONG: No, I think that the alliance has remained the bedrock of our strategic arrangements and that the alliance is beyond politics. What the Trump Administration has done, however, is advocate on a range of issues, a position which we did not believe is in Australia's interest. We did not believe that the erosion of multilateral institutions, whether it’s the World Trade Organization or the World Health Organization, has been in Australia's interests and we said so and we said that the Government should say so. So that is one example. Obviously, another is on climate. We believe that the Paris Agreement, a multilateral agreement to confront the warming of the planet and the disastrous consequences for this generation and beyond - it's in our interests for the world's greatest power to be in that. And it is a great thing on the day that America actually withdrew from the Paris Agreement, was election day, and now that will, once a Biden administration is sworn in, be re-introduced.

SPEERS: I want to ask you about this, because clearly Labor is focused on what this means for the climate debate. And I know Labor has been holding off settling a position on emissions targets in Australia - certainly in the short-term. You've got the 2050 target, but anything for 2030, 2035 we don’t know. One thing that Labor is waiting to see is what happened in the United States with this election. So, does the Biden victory influence Labor's thinking now on what sort of target Australia needs?

WONG: You know, what the Biden victory demonstrates is that a centre-left party can be elected with an ambitious climate policy. President-elect Biden's policy is not only net zero by 2050. It's zero emissions from the electricity sector by 2035. It's a massive investment in clean energy. And that demonstrates that we have the world's greatest power on track to be part of the fight against climate change, part of trying to control what we are seeing already occurring. And that's what matters. That's what matters and what matters also is that we have a government which is now increasingly isolated. We have the US, we have Japan, we have South Korea, United Kingdom, the European Union and many others, all signed up to net zero by 2050. And here we have Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan playing politics on climate. I'd invite you and others in the media to focus on a climate policy that is about science and about hope, rather than about politics.

SPEERS: Let me turn to the trade relationship with China. We were hearing from the Trade Minister earlier. He's left open the prospect of taking China to the World Trade Organization over what's going on in relation to Australian goods. Do you think that's something that the Government should be doing?

WONG: Well, look, whenever any country unreasonably blocks our exports, we do have to act. Whether that's through the WTO or bilaterally or more broadly. We do have to act and we're deeply concerned about the consequences for our exporters and the consequences for Australia's economy about the sorts of trade problems we are seeing with China. I have to say, you know, I think that the Government's ‘go it alone’ advice to exporters is not helpful. We see reports that what exporters are being told is find another market. Well, we can't just leave our exporters to go it alone, and the Government really needs to ensure that it advocates and supports our export sectors.

SPEERS: Penny Wong, Shadow Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us this morning.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.