Doorstop - Adelaide - 13/06/2021

13 June 2021

SUBJECTS: G7-plus Dialogue, Net Zero Emissions by 2050, Biloela Family, UK Free Trade Agreement, US Capitol Insurrection.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thanks very much for coming this morning. I just wanted to make some comments about the G7-plus overnight and make a couple of observations. Now more than ever, Australia needs a seat at the table. We need to maximize our influence because of the strategic circumstances we face. And maximizing our influence means doing more than turning up. You see announcement without delivery doesn't work here in Australia for Australians, and it doesn't work for our allies. It doesn't deliver for Australians at home and it doesn't deliver for Australia abroad.

Mr Morrison's stubborn refusal to sign up to Net Zero Emissions has left him isolated and has left Australia isolated. I'm disappointed that Mr Morrison couldn't secure a one on one meeting with President Biden, just as I'm disappointed that Mr Morrison, on behalf of Australia, spoke so late at the recent Climate Summit that the President wasn’t even in attendance.

And I suggest that Mr Morrison reflect on whether or not his stubborn refusal to sign up to Net Zero Emissions, along with so much of the rest of the world, is really delivering for Australia, and for Australians.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: It appears the only topic on the agenda with Scott Morrison's meeting with Joe Biden and Boris Johnson was China. Is that surprising? And do you think the messaging hits the right tone?

WONG: Well, look, I think we all understand what China's behaviour means in our region and something Australia has to address, Australia has to deal with with our allies, with our partners here and abroad. But I think the more important issue, in many ways, has been Mr Morrison's refusal, stubborn refusal to sign up to Net Zero Emissions by 2050. We all understand that Mr Morrison is driven on this by his internal party politics and I think that’s the wrong thing for Australia.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the fact that the Prime Minister didn't meet with President Biden one-on-one?

WONG: It's disappointing and I think Mr Morrison should reflect on whether his stubborn refusal to do the right thing on the climate is delivering for Australia at home and overseas.

JOURNALIST: Some liberal backbenchers are now calling for the Biloela family to be granted visas. Do you think that will happen?

WONG: Well, speaking of stubbornness. Look, this is a family whose community in Biloela want them back. This is a family who pose no risk to national security. When you've got Ken O’Dowd from the National Party and other members of the Coalition – I think Trent Zimmerman and Katie Allen - saying they should come to Australia; I think that should happen.

JOURNALIST: This matter is now attracting global media attention. Do you think it's hurting our reputation abroad?

WONG: I think under under this Government, we know that offshore processing has become long term off shore detention. I think on this, nobody wants to see children in the circumstances that these kids are, so I’d say to Mr Morrison: let's do the right thing and do what the community wants; do what your own backbenchers want.

JOURNALIST: And Dan Tehan says it’s not certain that a UK trade deal will be agreed on principle in time for the PM’s meeting with Boris Johnson on Tuesday. Does it have to be finalised by them?

WONG: Look, we've said for a long time, particularly given, going back to your earlier question, China's greater assertiveness, one of the things we can do to make sure we are more resilient is to diversify our export markets and our export sectors. So obviously, we'd say the more different markets you can identify as an Australian government the better for Australian jobs. So I hope Mr Tehan can get this thing done.

JOURNALIST: And just finally, from me, are you surprised the deal is proving to be so complex and negative?

WONG: I'm surprised that the Government has been focused on this for some time and yet hasn't achieved a great deal of progress. And I know I hope that they can achieve an outcome because they've been talking about it for many, many years.

Anything more? Anything from Pablo?

JOURNALIST: (via phone) Hey, Senator, how are you? Look, I know you obviously said that it was disappointing that Morrison wasn’t unable to secure a meeting with President Biden. I just want to be clear, are you suggesting that this is perhaps a reflection of Prime Minister Morrison's relationship with President Biden that he wasn't able to secure that meeting?

WONG: I’ll leave commentary to others. I would say it is disappointing that we didn't have the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with the President just as it was disappointing that Mr Morrison's presentation to the climate summit was such an afterthought. I'd simply say that Mr Morrison should reflect on whether his stubborn refusal on net zero emissions is delivering for Australia, here and overseas.

JOURNALIST: Do you think these are the consequences of Scott Morrison's close personal relationship with President Trump?

WONG: I made clear earlier, Pablo, I made clear much earlier this year as did Anthony Albanese, we thought it was the wrong thing to do when Mr Morrison failed to condemn the Capitol riot, and failed to condemn the incitement of the Capitol riot.

We said at the time regardless of your position, your partisan political position, we are all supporters of democracy and democracy required people to step up. Mr Morrison was one out on that occasion when you look at other worldly leaders at the time, and we were critical at the time for that.

JOURNALIST: And just lastly, Senator, back on the Biloela family, if the Government does allow the Biloela family to stay in Australia, how do you think it would affect the country's stance on asylum seekers arriving by boat policy that Labor also supports the government's policy [inaudible]?

WONG: Two points I’d make. The first is Labor supports offshore processing. What this Government has put in place was long term offshore detention. So that's the first point. The second reason I don't think anyone looking at this family think that they’re a risk to national security, which is why you see members of the Coalition themselves calling for them to go home to Bilo. Thank you.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.