SENATOR PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER
SHADOW CABINET SECRETARY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE
LABOR SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
SUBJECTS: Andrew Laming; cuts to domestic violence support services; single parent home loan deposit announcement; Australians stranded in India; death of an Australian permanent resident in India.
DONISHA DUFF, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOWMAN: I'm Donisha Duff. I'm the Labor candidate for Bowman, and today we've welcomed Senators Penny Wong and Jenny McAllister here to Bowman, to participate in a rally for women's justice. The women of Bowman, and the people of Bowman, have had enough. And we're here to actually send a message to Scott Morrison and the LNP that Andrew Laming needs to go.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thanks very much and can I thank Donisha for the intro, thank Jenny for being here and thank all the women and men who came today to stand up and say 'enough is enough'. And I just want to make a couple of comments before I go to questions about Andrew Laming. Andrew Laming has had a history of persistent harassment of women - online, and personally. And I was really appalled when I spoke with some of the women who have been subjected to his inappropriate behaviour, I was really shocked at how scared some are, I was shocked at the extent of the online harassment, and I'm shocked at how long this has been going on for. One of the women I spoke to today has been complaining about this since 2015 and she said to me 'I'm scared about what he will do after this'. We also hear that Mr Laming was, in fact, watching the rally as it went past. So, I'd say this to Scott Morrison: you have a responsibility. You have a responsibility to women everywhere, and you have a responsibility to those women who are fearful of Mr Laming's behaviour. And the test for Scott Morrison is this: if you let Mr Laming into your partyroom on Monday, if you let Mr Laming back into parliament and accept his vote as a member of your Government, you will be demonstrated to be a hypocrite. You will show your weakness. You will show that when you stood up and told the women of Australia that you got it, that you cared about them, you will show that that was not true. Because if you continue to accept the vote of a man who behaves as he has, as Mr Laming has, your words are hollow. Scott Morrison, it's a test for you next week - if you let Andrew Laming back into your party room, and continue to accept his vote, women across this country will see that your words are hollow. I'm happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Senator, you touched there on the word fear, fear of what might happen in all your years of politics, have you ever had somebody say to you that they fear what might happen next?
WONG: I've had women tell me they're frightened yes, but I've never had a woman, speak to me about how frightened she is that a Member of Parliament may continue to harass her. I just find it extraordinary that he's been allowed to behave in this way for so many years. And it's only these women’s courage and to be fair to you, to you and others in the media, who have been prepared to have women tell their stories. That's the only reason the Government has acted. That says something.
JOURNALIST: It's a balance of power here, really isn't it for Scott Morrison. I put that to Peter Dutton yesterday. He answered with policy babble pretty much but I said to him, you know, let's flip the coin here. If it wasn't the balance of power, if Andrew Laming wasn't that important, would he still be here? In your opinion, do you think Scott Morrison would act if he wasn't the balance of power?
WONG: I think Scott Morrison is refusing to act out of politics. I think Scott Morrison is refusing to act because he needs Mr Laming's vote and that says something. He's prepared not only now, to accept his vote, but the LNP has been prepared to condone this man's behaviour for years. And that is really the most shocking thing about all of this; that this has been going on for years, people have known about it, and nothing has been done.
JOURNALIST: You've never been afraid to express your opinion on the floor. This will probably, this budget, with some of the issues that are going on behind the scenes, will probably get pretty heated over the next few weeks.
WONG: I think this budget is an opportunity for the Government to show they're serious when it comes to women's safety, and I might throw to Jenny McAllister shortly to talk a little bit about that, because time and time again we see Scott Morrison, good words, not followed up with actions.
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thanks Penny, my name is Jenny McAllister and I'm Labor's spokesperson on the prevention of violence. The country is facing an epidemic of violence against women. It is the number one cause of death and disability for women aged between 15 and 44. And if we are serious about allowing women to take their rightful place as full participants in our society, we have to tackle this crisis. Penny and I will be meeting later today with advocates, frontline advocates from Queensland who work daily with women who are in fear for their life. And as we proceed towards this budget my message to the Government is this: you need to stop the cuts, which are coming down towards frontline services here in Queensland. Without action from the Government in the budget next week, Queensland services will face a cut of more than $35 million. That is not a cut that these services can afford to experience, because they are telling us that they are already stretched. They are already turning women away. And this Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and show that all of this talk about women is not just an attempt to deal with a political problem, but a serious attempt to deal with a national crisis.
JOURNALIST: Senator, can I just get one off topic - it is still topical but a preview announcement today by the Government to get single parents particularly single mothers into the property market - your response?
WONG: Well, the Government has had 8 years to do something about housing affordability. The Government has had eight years to do something about the number of women who are in need of housing. It's an announcement which will help some but not help many. It's capped I think initially at 10,000. There's a lot more than that who need it. And it's not going to help the group who are the fastest growing group in homelessness in Australia and that is women over 55. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: I've got some about India. Are you satisfied that the Government now has a proper plan to get Australians home?
WONG: The only thing we can be satisfied of is Scott Morrison has a plan for a press conference. He's got a plan for press conference and another set of announcements but he doesn't have a plan to get Australians home. If he had a plan to get Australians home, we would not have nearly 10,000 Australians stranded in India, we would not have had Australians stranded overseas, and we would not have 173 kids, unaccompanied minors, who are Australian citizens or permanent residents, who are stuck in India. I want to say this; we have been calling, since the borders were closed, just after the borders were closed, for safe national quarantine because the only way you keep Australians safe both here and overseas, is to have a quarantine system that's fit for purpose. Scott Morrison has refused to put one in place, and as a consequence of that, people are stranded. We said a year ago that their situation will become more perilous, that is precisely what has occurred in India. So, I'd say to the Prime Minister; how about instead of having a plan for a press conference, why don't you have a plan to get Australians home safely.
JOURNALIST: Given the number of children who are unaccompanied over there, what should the Government be doing to get them home?
WONG: Taking some responsibility, and ensuring we have national quarantine that's safe. I think one of the saddest things about the evidence yesterday was that until we asked the question, they didn't know. They didn't know how many children there were.
JOURNALIST: It appears that as an Australian citizen may have died over there. Does the Government have blood on its hands?
WONG: The consequence of refusing to step up and do the job the Prime Minister should do, which is ensure that there is safe, national quarantine - it's a federal responsibility - was always going to be that Australians would be placed in increasingly risky situations. This was always foreseeable, and it is tragic. Thanks all.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.