Today Show - 27/10/2020

27 October 2020

SUBJECT: Treatment of Australian women at Qatar airport.

ALLY LANGDON, HOST: Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong joins us now. Penny, this is such a disturbing story. How did you react when you first heard it?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Ally. Well like everybody, I was horrified - genuinely horrified. These women have been subjected to an outrageous violation, and it is a dreadful thing to have occurred, and can I just say to all of those women, you know, we are with you and we understand how appalling and distressing this must have been.

LANGDON: We understand this happened earlier this month and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne is investigating the manner. We have had no word back yet from Qatari officials. Do you think that's acceptable?

WONG: None of this is acceptable. None of this is acceptable. The treatment of the women is not acceptable, and as yet, the absence of a response - I mean, we need to get a response. We need to get to the bottom of what happened. We need to know why this happened, what happened, who is accountable for it, and there needs to be appropriate response from the Qatari Government.

LANGDON: Well, what can our Government do here? Could it ban Qatar airlines say from Australia?

WONG: Qatar airlines is one of the few airlines trying to bring some 32,000 Australians who are stranded overseas home. If I were Foreign Minister I would talk to the women and talk to them about how they want to respond and what they want from the Qatari Government. Certainly, I think, an apology is required. There should be an apology for what has occurred, as well as people fronting up as to who made the decision to engage in such outrageous behaviour, such an outrageous violation of Australian citizens.

LANGDON: I just don't think an apology is going to cut it. I don’t think that’s nearly enough. This is a country that's going to be hosting the 2022 football, the soccer World Cup. Should Australians be advised against travelling to Qatar given this incident?

WONG: What the Foreign Minister should be doing is ensuring that Australians who do travel for the World Cup are safe, and making sure that there are agreements and arrangements in place with both Qatar and also our people on the ground to make sure people are safe, because no Australian, no person should ever have to be treated in the way these women were treated.

LANGDON: But our Government needs to be showing strength here, doesn't it?

WONG: Absolutely. They need to go beyond words and actually ensure that there is action taken - not just an apology - which I would anticipate would be something that would be helpful to the women concerned - but measures taken both to ensure people know who was responsible and that Australians are safe. Because it is obviously an airport that people transit through.

LANGDON: Would you ever jump on a Qatar airlines flight after hearing this?

WONG: Like I said to you. I've flown Qatar before and it is an airline people fly. But people would want this resolved. I do understand from reports that airline staff were horrified and were sympathetic to the women when they came on board,
but I think what this demonstrates is that we need to ensure that there are answers to how this occurred.

LANGDON: All right. We really appreciate your time this morning.

WONG: Great to be with you.

LANGDON: Thanks, Penny.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.