6PR Mornings with Liam Bartlett - 05/10/2021

05 October 2021

SUBJECTS: Dominic Perrottet; GST distribution; Labor’s campaign for the seat of Pearce; Taiwan; Scott Morrison picking fights with the states; Beetaloo Basin; Bill Shorten.

LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: The federal election is still another six months away, at last count, but you would be forgiven for thinking that we are being showered in love by our federal pollies making an extra effort to come to WA - border controls, of course, notwithstanding. They spread the message and try to make an impact obviously on some of the potential swing seats here in the west, come that election. Now this week's visit is headed by Senator Penny Wong, who is leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and joins us in the studio this morning. Senator, good morning.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Liam. I'm not sure I'm "showering love" but I'm here and I do enjoy being here.

BARTLETT: I was hopeful, I was hopeful. I try to say that about all our South Australian cousins.

WONG: Well, I always remind Western Australians, I know everybody thinks just over the Nullarbor, everybody's east, but we do not think of ourselves as east coast Australia so, there you go.

BARTLETT: That's what we like about you. Even though you think that the Barossa is better than Margaret River, but we will put that to one side...

WONG: Or the Clare Valley. We could get into a big argument now couldn't we. I actually think the Margaret River is excellent, really.

BARTLETT: Thank you. That's a big consolation. Speaking of elections, the New South Wales Liberals, of course, have decided this morning that Dominic Perrottet is the new Premier. No doubt, you want to congratulate him.

WONG: Good question, Well, you know, he has said some pretty extraordinary things. And so, we've got a situation where Scott Morrison's New South Wales Liberals have just elected a bloke who says that Mark McGowan is like Gollum. Took me a while to understand the analogy, I mean, I know the Lord of the Rings and all of that but the precious is the GST, did you know?

BARTLETT: Correct.

WONG: Took me a while to work that out.

BARTLETT: Instead of the ring.

WONG: Yeah, whatever. So, I think that sort of demonstrates what he's like. So, we'll see how he goes. He's got some pretty out there views on the record, we'll see if they continue.

BARTLETT: Well, look on that subject. So where do you stand on that? Are you happy for that to remain in place...

WONG: The GST? Absolutely. I think Albo has made that clear. I think on your show, but also at the Labor conference he spoke at on the weekend, the WA Labor conference, and also to the West Australian paper. We've been really clear. We understand, there was obviously a long period where Western Australia didn't get their fair share. You've got commodity prices which go up and down, so having the floor is a sensible position that we will continue to support. So, no "precious" from us.

BARTLETT: Great. We can come out of the cave. Fantastic.

WONG: Yes. I said yesterday at an event, I've come from my cave to yours but yours is bigger.

BARTLETT: That’s about right. Well, that's good to know for us, because we need that floor and that 70 cents so great that we've got the support in the Senate.

Are you here to help campaign against Christian Porter in the seat of Pearce?

WONG: I am here to campaign with a whole bunch of candidates, including Tracey. Last night I launched Patrick Gorman's campaign and I'm doing an event with Zaneta Mascarenhas, who is our candidate for Swan. But obviously Pearce is a pretty important seat for us and, you know, as I said in the paper today, I do think that people deserve a better standard of representation than that which Christian Porter is giving now.

BARTLETT: Do you really believe he will stand again? I know he says he will.

WONG: Well, I can't answer that, but I couldn't imagine why he would.

BARTLETT: I would be surprised.

WONG: Well, you probably know more, Liam.

BARTLETT: I doubt it.

WONG: He's the man with the secrets.

BARTLETT: What's the swing? What does Tracey have to get?

WONG: I actually can't remember off the top of my head.

BARTLETT: She's currently Mayor of Wanneroo.

WONG: She's Mayor of Wanneroo, she has been now for 15 years?


WONG: Yes, and she's a fantastic local candidate and I think that kind of local representation is really what's needed. There's also been a redistribution in that seat, as you might know, so that's changed the dynamics and brought more of the area she's mayor for into the seat. That's a good thing. She'll be a great candidate. We've got some great people running in this state. I'm really proud of our candidates. I actually met a number of them last night. It's very modern Australia too, the face of modern Australia - a lot of people from lots of different cultural backgrounds.

BARTLETT: Senator, are you happy to take a call? A couple of calls?

WONG: Okay, I'll do that. Brace myself.

BARTLETT: If anyone, you know, given the opportunity, you're in the studio, if you'd like to ask Senator Wong a question 133 882.

I wanted to talk to you as - just put your hat on for a minute - as Shadow Foreign Minister -Taiwan. Now, the Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu is calling for closer links with Australia. Here is a tiny little bit of the plea that he made a couple of days ago:

AUDIO OF JOSEPH WU, TAIWANESE FOREIGN MINISTER: The defence of Taiwan in our own hands, and we are absolutely committed to that. If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan, we will fight to the end. And we would like to engage in security or intelligence exchanges with other like-minded partners, Australia included, so that Taiwan is better prepared to deal with the war situation.

BARTLETT: Where do you stand on that, Senator?

WONG: I will be very clear about our view about Taiwan. And I would say, I'm really conscious, particularly in my role, you've got to be very careful what you say. And unlike this Government, I don't like to discuss foreign policy for domestic political purposes. What I would say on Taiwan is that the resolution of differences over Taiwan has to occur peacefully and without either the threat of, or use of force or coercion. And I would say publicly and also to China, that that, I believe, is the expectation of the whole region, including Australia. That is my view and I think it is the view of both parties of government.

BARTLETT: The idea that he's throwing out there, that he's basically reaching out for extra security and intelligence cooperation, that's pretty reasonable, isn't it?

WONG: Both parties of government have what's called a One China policy. People, sometimes, misunderstand what that means. It means we recognise, or we have a diplomatic relationship with China, with Beijing - that's where we have our embassy - and we acknowledge China's position in relation to Taiwan. What that's meant over successive governments is, short of diplomatic engagement, so a recognition, there has been engagement by Australian governments on other matters with Taiwan, whether it's health cooperation, trade, cultural engagement. And within those parameters we should continue to engage with Taiwan.

BARTLETT: But what, not recognise them independently?

WONG: I think that would go counter to the long-standing Australian position of both parties of government, that both the Liberals and the Labor party have recognised...

BARTLETT: Strange position though, isn’t it?

WONG: It is a historical position which recognises the differences of views. You make the point, underlying what your saying is you've got 20+ million people who live in Taiwan and have views about how they want to organise and how they want to operate…

BARTLETT: And have a vote.

WONG: And have a vote. And we have tried to ensure we engage with Taiwan within the parameters of the diplomatic recognition point that I’ve raised.

BARTLETT: We'll come back in just a moment. 133 882 is our talkback number if you'd like to ask Senator Penny Wong a question, talk to the Senator. Perhaps you're a voter in the seat of Pearce and you'd like to chuck your two bobs worth in and tell the Senator what you think about the chances of anyone, Tracey Roberts, or anybody else, beating Christian Porter, if indeed he does recontest the seat. We'll come back in just a moment.


BARTLETT: Kevin's on the line, Senator. Good morning, Kevin.

KEVIN, CALLER: Good morning, the state election was basically promoted and won singlehandedly by McGowan. How do you plan to transfer that to Albanese, as the Leader of the Opposition?

WONG: Well, thanks for the question, Kevin. Look, I think we have to earn it. We know we've got to earn the trust and support of Western Australians. But I do think one of the things that was demonstrated both in the state election but also federally, since COVID has been with us, is different styles of leadership. And what you've seen is Mark McGowan who's been very focused, rightly, on protecting the Western Australian community. And I think what you see with Mr Morrison is a real habit, or a reflex, to pick fights. And I think he seems to believe that divide and conquer is better than unite and lead, and I think Australians actually want us to unite and lead. We've seen that here in WA with the fight over the borders and backing Clive Palmer, trying to challenge the Western Australian border closure. And you see it today with Mr Morrison claiming Queensland was trying to extort them for wanting more hospital funding. When it seems to me, we all want to make sure we come through this safely. And it’s probably a good thing if the Federal Government worked with the states to make sure a whole range of things including hospital capacity were up to scratch.

BARTLETT: So that's the image is it? Albo will be on almost the unity ticket image, whereas Morrison is seen as being almost the nit-picker?

WONG: It's not just an image, Liam. You're very cynical. I actually think it's true, I mean I've worked with Albo, you've dealt with him, he's authentic, but he also knows how to work with people. Mr Morrison - he loves to pick a fight, and I think we've seen that.

BARTLETT: Kevin thanks for calling in. Steve's next. Good morning, Steve.


WONG: Hey, Steve.

BARTLETT: Go ahead, Steve.

STEVE: I've just got a query about the Beetaloo Basin and the Labor caucus support for giving $50 million to gas companies to do exploratory drilling. So, I just wonder how you justify supporting the Liberal Government to give so much money to fossil fuel companies. Also, what do you think the carbon dioxide impact will be from opening up the Beetaloo gas basin in terms of a million tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide permission.

WONG: I know Malarndirri McCarthy in the Senate has been working on the Senate inquiry on this front. And we've got concerns about the way the program has been implemented but we accept, including I think it's the Northern Territory government isn't it, the people's desire to have those explorations occur.

I would make this point, and you're obviously somebody who cares a lot about climate, I was Climate Minister between 2007-2010. I went to Bali, I went to Copenhagen, worked very hard to get an Emissions Trading Scheme up, got a deal with Malcolm Turnbull to do one, which would have been good, frankly for the country, to have bipartisanship, and watched the Liberals tear him down because they didn't want action on climate change. And the same people who tore him down are still the ones arguing against net zero emissions, so I would say to you...

BARTLETT: And now he's trying to tear them down.

WONG: Yeah, exactly. What I would now say to you is, if you want action on climate change, you have to change the government. I would say, absolutely, the Coalition, despite the fact the market is moving, despite the fact business is moving, the Coalition, I don't believe will ever be able to do what is needed on climate, because they're just too internally divided.

BARTLETT: Steve, thank you. Hello, John.

JOHN, CALLER: Good morning, Liam. Penny, good morning.

WONG: G'day

JOHN: As a long-standing, ancient Labor supporter.

WONG: I don't reckon you're ancient.

JOHN: I'm saying this is Labor's probably best chance ever to get into power, probably got one of the worst, probably one of the worst Prime Ministers and governments for a long time. But I was listening to your explanation on China and Taiwan, and I thought, you can't have it both ways. That was a very weak, pardon the expression, a very weak answer that you gave on China and Taiwan. That was just weak, as weak as water. It's like saying that China and Hong Kong is, you know, the way the handover, the way it was done, that was weak. And I think, you know, you've got to draw a line in the sand, Penny. You've got to be one way or the other, with the Taiwan issue. I would back Taiwan to the hilt. But if Labor continues down this path, that they sit on the fence, they don't know what they're talking about. The best chance you've got is today.

BARTLETT: Alright, John. You've made your point. Let's give the Senator a chance to respond.

WONG: Foreign policy, sometimes is a lot of, what do you call it, nuance or a lot of careful language - not just black and white.

BARTLETT: I was going to say BS. Nuance is better.

WONG: It's about how to keep Australians safe and secure. And do I think talking up a war with Taiwan keeps Australians safe and secure? No, I do not. And I would not be irresponsible. And neither would Marise Payne, and I suspect she would have given exactly the same answer, or a version of that. But if you want to ask me what my view is about China, which I think is what lies behind John's question,


WONG: I think China has changed, and under President Xi has become much more assertive, at times, much more aggressive. And that means there will be differences, whoever is in government that a government has to manage. But there isn't a disengagement option, so we have to work out how we work our way through it. And we don't do it by playing domestic politics with the relationship.

BARTLETT: Last call Senator, we'll squeeze in Janet. Hello Janet.

JANET, CALLER: Oh hi, how you doing? I just want to ask Penny Wong why the Labor party continues to allow Bill Shorten to speak from the backbenches. He's a very unpopular person, as far as I'm concerned, in the voter population. And I think it will do Labor a lot of damage for him to continue to promote himself from the backbenches. I just want to know what her opinion is on that.

BARTLETT: That's a hard one for the Senator.

WONG: Yeah, look, Bill is a member of the Shadow Cabinet but he's obviously not a member of the leadership group. As a former leader sometimes he speaks outside his portfolio. That's a matter for him. We are all very focused on trying to win the next election.

BARTLETT: He still thinks he's got a chance, doesn't he? He still thinks he has the comeback kid thing in the back pocket.

WONG: Well, I just... Not many people have put that to me, I've got to say, that's why I'm a little bit shocked.

BARTLETT: Senator, one thing you've never been is shocked.

WONG: Well, I at least pretend not to be, how about that?

BARTLETT: That's brilliant. Hey, listen, thanks very much for coming in and having a chat to our listeners. We appreciate it

WONG: No worries. Good to be with you.

BARTLETT: Good to see you in Perth.

WONG: It's good to be here, I enjoy it.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.