Interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings, Fiveaa Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: International Women’s Day; Adelaide International Women’s Day Breakfast; ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

Will Goodings, Host: We're delighted to be joined on International Women's Day by the longest-serving female Cabinet Minister, South Australian Senator and Foreign Minister of Australia, Penny Wong. Senator, good morning to you.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Good morning to you both. Great to be with you.

David Penberthy, Host: Great to have you on, Penny. Penny, I didn't know until Will said that earlier, I didn't know that you'd reached that amazing milestone. That is – I know you're a modest person – but that's a feather in your cap, I reckon.

Foreign Minister: Oh, Penbo, to be honest with you, and full credit to Amanda Vanstone, I didn't know until she wrote an article about it to say that, you know, I was going to pass her, and she very, you know, kindly wrote me a note and dropped a gift off, which is very generous of her.

So thanks to Amanda, who, you know had an eye to history and milestones, because it would have passed completely unnoticed if she hadn't done that, so I'm very happy to publicly thank her for that.

Penberthy: Well, that's interesting because thinking back to, you know, the earlier stage of your career, Amanda Vanstone was the Education Minister in the Howard Government and was responsible for jacking up HECS massively, and you, and I know this quite well, you know, having cut your teeth in student politics, you always railed against that sort of stuff.

It's great that on a day like today you tell a story like that, 'cause it shows I guess that party politics can be transcended by the achievements of people like you, and indeed Amanda Vanstone.

Foreign Minister: And I think, you know, I think there are times that, you know, there's contest over ideas, and there's times where we recognise the contribution of each other. I mean I had the privilege yesterday actually of being at the ANU with Julie Bishop, who is, you know, actually now the third‑most long-serving woman in terms of time in the Cabinet, so we spoke about that as well.

So it is, I think, heart‑warming when you can, you know, have that kind of engagement with people who you have very, you know, pretty tough political contests with, very different ideas about which way the country should go, but you can nevertheless respect service and people's contribution to the nation.

Goodings: Would you say it's been a quantum leap in terms of how women are treated in politics in this country over the course of that journey that you've had, Penny?

Foreign Minister: Yeah, I think it has shifted remarkably actually, and I was just reflecting – I was just looking at a list of the things that this Government's done in relation to women's policy, and I remarked to my colleague that it does make a difference when you have, you know, this many women in a Cabinet.

But more broadly, I think if you look at when I first came into Parliament, which was a fair while ago now, 2002, till now, there are many more women on both sides of politics, there are many more women in senior positions, and I think that has changed things. We've still got some way to go, but it is certainly better than it was 20 years ago.

Penberthy: We were saying before, Penny, that in a broader sense, I was thinking about during my youth there was still a lot of really obvious and stupid barriers to female participation, and I gave the example of a great organisation like Rotary, which only about 20, 25 years ago finally started letting women become members.

Do you feel – I mean as a parent of two girls, and I was talking about my own daughter, Sophie, who's 20, do you feel now that girls are entering a world where they operate with the presumption that they should be allowed to do anything pretty much, and that the community is making that more possible than it was in the past?

Foreign Minister: Well, I think there's sort of two parts to that. Do I think that younger girls these days and younger women these days have a sense of their right to, you know, aspire to whatever they wish to be and to do, and they are not willing to accept some of the barriers and prejudices that probably my generation and the generation before me did? Yes, I do, I think that young women are that empowered and it's wonderful to see, I mean they are fearless, and you've seen that.

But does the world enable that? Not as fully as we want, but I think we're well down the path, and I'm very hopeful about the next generation of feminists and young women who, as they take, you know, positions of authority and leadership in the community and in our society, I think they are fearless, and they are very clear about the importance of everyone being included and everyone being judged on merit.

Goodings: Senator, you were in the news earlier in the week, as we just said, for breaking the record, longest‑serving female Cabinet Minister, but also too, because you're on the end of a withering Paul Keating attack following ASEAN.

Do you think – Paul Keating seems to be of this view that with you as a Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister, we're drifting closer to the US and further away from China, and this is his lifelong mission. Does the former PM have anything of value do you think to offer, to add to that debate?

Foreign Minister: Look, Paul Keating's entitled to his views. Obviously we – our job, the Prime Minister's and mine and the Cabinet's is to guide this country in circumstances of today, not of the 1990s, and that's what we do. And I think if you – the way in which he constructed, you know, the sort of proposition about, you know, who are you closer to, I mean we're a US ally, but obviously we're also very clear about the importance of our engagement with our region, and you saw that this week with the ASEAN Summit here in Melbourne, here in Australia, and I think it was very successful. You've seen that in terms of how we've reached out to the region, the weight we're putting on international engagement, which is all about security and prosperity for Australians.

Penberthy: Well, Penny, you've got a breakfast to go, and it's one that –

Foreign Minister: And I've got kids to get in the car to go to it.

Penberthy: We can hear the clank of Weet‑Bix and spoons in the background. We'll get out of your hair, but how about you have a good morning this morning, and you've been – this Breakfast has been something that since – I think it was Rosemary Crowley started it, wasn't it?

Foreign Minister: Rosemary Crowley started it and was generous enough to let me take it over, and you know, Adelaide, particularly Adelaide women and girls have really adopted it – and we started with a few hundred women, and now we're going to have over 3,000 people at the Convention Centre –

Penberthy: Crikey, that's huge.

Foreign Minister: So, you know, we're pretty pleased with the support and I'm really pleased with people coming together to celebrate the event.

Penberthy: Good stuff. South Australian Senator, Penny Wong, thanks for joining us this morning.

Foreign Minister: Thank you. Cheers guys.

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