SUBJECTS: US election including climate policy; multilateralism; US-China relations; Donald Trump; Australia’s trade with China; Four Corners program; Myanmar election.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I'm joined tonight by the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong. Penny Wong, welcome.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Patricia.
KARVELAS: How much of a role do you think Joe Biden's policies on climate change actually played into his election victory?
WONG: I'm not an election commentator for the United States, but I would say this is an election in which President-elect Biden has won with the most ambitious climate policy that we've seen in any Presidential candidate. And I think that's instructive that the Democratic Party, which has to win votes - just as Labor does - from across a range of constituencies won that election with, as I said, a very ambitious climate policy and I think what that does demonstrate is just how isolated Scott Morrison is.
KARVELAS: So what are the lessons for Labor?
WONG: I think the lessons for all of us are that it's important, first that having a science-based climate policy, one that recognises the urgency of action is compatible with winning elections. I think it demonstrates that when you work together you can have the sort of ambition that we saw in President-elect Biden's campaign. I think it shows that some of the ways in which people, particularly on the Coalition side of politics try to frame this is jobs versus climate are not correct, but that it's about both and it's about recognising that workers, ultimately benefit from a transition to a cleaner energy economy and an investment in that future. That's what Joe Biden was putting forward and certainly the way in which Labor has been and will approach this between now and the next election.
KARVELAS: How does Labor unite the opposing views of people like yourself and Mark Butler and people like Joel Fitzgibbon who even today has warned about reading too much into this election result?
WONG: I assume Joel has read what the Democratic agenda was. And it was a very clear policy around reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, around net zero emissions from the electricity sector by 2035, so it's a very ambitious policy agenda. I assume he's aware of that.
But I think that the more important lesson in many ways is unity, what we saw is that whether on climate, or on all other policy issues, the Democratic Party, and its supporter base - which traverses such a wide range of states and people in American life - people come together in order to ensure an electoral victory. I always think that that's a reminder for all of us who seek to govern that ultimately, we have to work together to defeat the opposing party, in this case Scott Morrison.
KARVELAS: Can a Joe Biden presidency restore the so-called international rules-based order or is it too late?
WONG: There's two points I'd make in answer to that, actually. The first is, we can't turn the clock back and where we are now is a very different set of strategic circumstances, a very different set of economic and public health circumstances, than we had two, three or five years ago. But having said that, there are two points I'd make about President-elect Biden: he places a greater weight on alliances and a greater weight on multilateralism. And that is a good thing for Australia. We are an alliance partner. We're a country with a deep interest in strong multilateral institutions, a strong multilateral framework. And so, that instinct that I think we have seen from the President-elect, for many years in public life, is one that is in Australia's interest.
KARVELAS: Should Australia expect Joe Biden to be any less hawkish on China than Donald Trump has been?
WONG: I think there is a great deal of bipartisanship in the United States about China and seeing China as a strategic competitor. How they go about dealing with that competition, how they go about dealing with the reality that China is also a great power, that may differ. And one of the key ways in which I hope that it will differ is, as I said, a stronger emphasis and predictability around alliances and also multilateralism.
KARVELAS: Labor called on Scott Morrison to kind of be more active in calling for the democratic process to be respected with Donald Trump. Was that overreach? Did that need to happen, given the Prime Minister said, 'yep, Joe Biden won'. He's congratulated publicly, he's acknowledged the democratic process, why should he have gotten on the blower?
WONG: I thought the overreach actually was the spreading of disinformation by Coalition MPs. Matt Canavan, George Christensen and a very unfortunate intervention by former Ambassador Joe Hockey, on some of the allegations of fraud and undermining of confidence in the electoral process. I thought that was unreasonable and an inappropriate intervention by those Coalition members. Labor said, I think, what is a fairly unremarkable thing which is, we as a democratic nation, as an ally and friend, our position should be that the democratic process be respected. I think that should be an unremarkable proposition, actually.
KARVELAS: Okay but should the Prime Minister have done anything differently to what he's done?
WONG: Our view was that it would have been a good thing for the Prime Minister to make clear - particularly given the sort of disinformation and public comments made by some of his Coalition MPs - that Australia did urge the United States, all parties, because remember at the time you're discussing there hadn't been somebody who'd declared victory, that we would expect the democratic process to be respected. I think that's a reasonable proposition. We share an alliance that is above politics with the United States. We share common interests. We share values and amongst those values and interests, is a belief in democracy and democratic practice.
KARVELAS: Just on a personal level given some of the things that Donald Trump has said, were you relieved?
WONG: I think I'm on the program as Shadow Foreign Minister so, you know, my personal views are not...
KARVELAS: Perhaps as a feminist and a member of a minority group...
WONG: People would know from my time in public life, my views about the treatment of women, the marginalisation of people on the basis of who they are. Ultimately, as I have said for the last four years, we have an alliance with the nation, not the individual.
KARVELAS: Just on a couple of other issues, what do you make of the fact that some exports we thought China had banned seem to be getting through?
WONG: Well, look, that's a good thing. I mean it is deeply concerning to see more of Australia's exports under a cloud. And it was very disappointing to see in addition to the restrictions we've already seen, the most recent example of the lobster shipment which wasn't able to get through. That's Australian jobs and that is a bad thing for Australia. Having said that, I think it is a good thing that it has been reported that there have been some exports reaching their destination and being let into the country. I think broadly what we'd say is the Prime Minister and the Government really need to make sure they are really clear with exporters what the situation is. They shouldn't be asking them to deal with this alone.
KARVELAS: I'm sure you're across the fact that there is currently a cross examination of the ABC Managing Director in relation to a Four Corners story that is about the Canberra bubble. That's going to be aired tonight and we'll all be watching now given the actual cross examination, Penny Wong, of the Managing Director is longer than the actual story itself, an observation made..
WONG: Is that right?
KARVELAS: ...yeah - by Casey Briggs. Full points to him for measuring that. What do you make of these allegations of political interference into the ABC's reporting tonight?
WONG: I have seen some of that. I've been in and out of meetings and then I've been talking to you. But I understand that there has been evidence to the Senate committee this evening, that there has been political pressure brought to bear. I think that is disturbing and concerning. And I would say there is a pattern of behaviour by this Government, which is a desire to keep - avoidance of transparency and a desire for less transparency and less scrutiny. And we've seen that, not just here but across the board. And that is one of the hallmarks of Mr Morrison's Prime Ministership.
KARVELAS: It seems like the critique is that there perhaps hasn't been enough scrutiny on Labor MPs, about political, that the sort of political, you know, who may be in this piece. We haven't seen it yet, but is that valid?
WONG: That's not for me to determine. That's a matter for the journalist. I understand that the MD has said that the story went where the evidence went. And that's obviously a matter for the journalists - who are highly respected Australian journalists involved.
KARVELAS: Just finally Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to win Myanmar's second general election since the end of military rule. Now, Rohingya Muslims are banned from voting. What are your reflections on the vote?
WONG: Well, we should, you know - just as we were talking about this earlier - we should always advocate privately and publicly for democratic processes to be respected. There are obviously concerns about the democratic process in Myanmar and we should continue to reflect those.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
WONG: It's really good to speak with you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.