Penny Wong was born in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Her family moved to Australia in 1976, when she was eight years old, and settled in Adelaide. Penny studied law and arts at the University of Adelaide, graduating with honours in 1992. After university she worked for the trade union covering furniture industry employees, taking part in campaigns to improve pay and conditions for the union’s members, including poorly-paid female migrants working in upholstery workshops. Penny moved to Sydney in 1995 to work as a Ministerial adviser to the then NSW Labor Government where she helped develop forests policy. She returned to Adelaide in 1997, was elected to the Senate for the Australian Labor Party in 2001 and has been re-elected twice, in 2007 and 2013.
With the election of the Rudd Government in 2007, she was appointed Minister for Climate Change and Water. In this position she significantly expanded the Renewable Energy Target, which has driven significant investment in wind and solar power. She also represented Australia in international climate change negotiations and developed the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme, a market based mechanism to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in the most economically efficient way.
After the federal election of 2010, Penny was appointed as Minister for Finance and Deregulation. As Finance Minister she worked with the Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan to deliver three Budgets in the difficult economic and budgetary aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. She also implemented a policy to ensure women are considered for appointments to senior positions in government agencies and corporations.
In 2013 Penny was elected as Leader of the Government in the Senate and, after the change of government in 2013, became Leader of the Opposition in the Senate – the first woman to hold either of these roles. Following the 2016 federal election she was re-elected as Opposition Leader in the Senate and appointed Labor’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In this role, she has made out the case for Australia’s role as a good international citizen, supporting peace, prosperity and stability through a commitment to the rules-based international order.
Penny believes Australian Labor’s central values are to strive for a fair society, to promote a growing economy, and to build a better future for the nation. Her policy interests include economics, environmental issues, gender equality, and international relations. She speaks out against prejudice and campaigns for equality for women, LGBTI rights and a multicultural Australia.
As a proud representative of South Australia in the federal Parliament she has advocated for her State’s interests, including safeguarding the future sustainability of the Murray River and advancing the State’s economy. Penny lives in Adelaide with her partner and their daughters. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, shopping for fresh produce at Adelaide’s farmers’ markets and, from time to time, enjoying one of South Australia’s great wines.