PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Penny Wong is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, she joins me this afternoon. Welcome.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good to be with you again Patricia.
KARVELAS: Our nation has been focused on, of course, Indigenous incarceration rates here, racial inequity in this country but there are other issues that you have been watching in the next couple of days. I want to start with the economic issues and then move to the others.
The Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, has taken full responsibility for the error that saw the Government overestimate the number of people on JobKeeper. Are you satisfied by the explanation that has been provided?
WONG: Well, I'm not satisfied by the Government's explanation.
I have been the Finance Minister and I suspect Mathias Cormann, when I was the Finance Minister, wouldn't have copped a public servant taking responsibility for Josh Frydenberg's mistake. That's what's happened.
It is the Treasurer's mistake, its Mr Frydenberg's mistake and Mathias Cormann's mistake.
The problem is, this Government, they are very good at slogans. They are very good at announcements but they are incompetent when it comes to delivery.
They came up with a snappy title, a snappy slogan - JobKeeper - and they followed it up with the biggest budget mistake the country has ever seen.
That is on top of the Robodebt, thats on top of the Ruby Princess. Thats on top of having, enabling or allowing criminals to steal Australians superannuation.
Just not very good at delivery.
KARVELAS: The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt wants an examination of the relationship between Indigenous people and the police as part of the justice targets for Closing the Gap. Is that something you want to see, do you feel the Government is making good inroads here?
WONG: I think on your program before and publicly, I have talked about the rates of incarceration of Indigenous Australians and why Labor is so clear about the importance of reducing those incarceration rates.
But I have to say, yes always willing to be bipartisan on these issues, always willing to work with the Government, but when youve got people like Mathias Cormann making the sorts of comments he made over the weekend I think that really says to so many Australians, both First Nations Peoples but also the many Australians who want a better outcome for Aboriginal Australians, for Indigenous Australians, it really says the Government is not listening.
Instead they just want to tell people off.
KARVELAS: We saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets on the weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and we're seeing, for instance, in your own state, police saying or the Government saying they don't want more protests to happen even though there was, they were allowed to meet. Do you think they should be shutting down that protest?
WONG: I think the important thing here is what is behind these protests, what is driving these protests and trying to deal with that.
And, you know, I think Senator Cormann said that people were selfish for attending and that has been some of the language from his colleagues as well.
People attended because they were moved to act. People attended because they were distressed. People attended, some of them, because they are grieving. And these genuine emotions are about where we find our country now.
So instead of having a fight over protests, which the Government seems intent on doing, why don't we start listening and why don't we start acting to reduce the number of Aboriginal Australians who we put into jails and to reduce the number of deaths in custody, where we have seen in excess of 400 since the Royal Commission.
KARVELAS: I just want to move to your portfolio. Reuters is reporting that the China Education Ministry says that Chinese students should carefully consider their decision about studying in Australia, and this is in relation to what they say is an increase in anti-Chinese attacks. What do you make of that warning?
WONG: First, I think that we are a multicultural nation that has been deeply enriched by people coming to our country, including yours and my family, but also by people coming here to study.
We should remember how enriching that has been for our community and how economically beneficial it's been.
We have to always stand against racism. All leaders should do so. And that's what we should be saying to the world.
In terms of - this is obviously a disappointing announcement from the Chinese Government. And I think Senator Birmingham respond very well over the weekend on this issue.
KARVELAS: I just want to ask you finally about something the Prime Minister has told his party room, he said that on the Five Eyes, he wants to work on the Five Eyes to take it into the commercial sphere in order to build trusted supply chains. What's your read of what the Government's trying to do there and do you support it?
WONG: I think working more closely, not only with Five Eyes partners but partners more broadly, should be standard operating procedure.
It is a good thing to deepen our engagement and broaden our engagement not just with the Five Eyes community but more broadly.
I would make this point; we do have to work hard in our region, we do have to work with ASEAN, we have to work in the G20.
I would say this to Scott Morrison more generally, I know - I think you and I have discussed previously the G7 invitation, Patricia - I know that Mr Morrison is very close to President Trump. I know they have a lot in common, I know they tell us they are very good friends. But it is very important both on issues economic but also issues such as the protests we are seeing in the US, that Australia does put its view, Mr Morrison does put his view to President Trump.
KARVELAS: What do you want Scott Morrison to say to President Trump in relation to this issue? You know, it is an issue that the President's dealing with, usually we say that's their domestic issue, why do you think this is different?
WONG: This is on the protests? I think that it is important for us to express Australian values, and our interests and values, and they include that we would hope that leaders unite their countries in the face of prejudice and discrimination and we should be expressing that hope and that view to President Trump.
KARVELAS: Is it your view that President Trump is dividing his nation?
WONG: Well, I'll leave others to enter into commentary about that. I think leaders should always unite and not divide and I have made that point very clear.
I think Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister should be expressing that view to the Trump Administration.
KARVELAS: Do you think that our Prime Minister is uniting?
WONG: I was very disappointed with some of the commentary around the protests and I've expressed that in this interview.
I think that we have people who attend events because of their genuine heart felt concern, because they are moved to act as citizens, they're moved to act as Indigenous Australians.
We should listen to them with respect and we should understand what is motivating that and we should try to bring people together.
Regrettably, I don't think that is the way in which Mr Morrison or Senator Cormann or Mr Hawke, Alex Hawke, one of the Morrison Government ministers recently, I dont think they are behaving in that way and I can understand why people are reacting so strongly.
KARVELAS: Penny Wong, thank you for joining us.
WONG: Good to speak with you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.