Radio interview, WSFM 101.7 Jonesy and Amanda
AMANDA KELLER, HOST: Sunday's Pride March shut down the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the rainbow-hued crowd made its way from Milson’s Point to the Domain and Hyde Park. Among the vast crowd of 50,000 people who made their way across the Harbour Bridge was our next guest, who was greeted with cheers as she joined the crowd to march. She's the Australian Foreign Minister and she was the first openly gay woman in Parliament. It is, of course, Penny Wong. Hello Penny.
PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Good morning to you both.
BRENDAN JONES, HOST: Thank you, Penny. It's great to have you on the show. I wish I walked across the bridge. I had to do a bunch of chores yesterday, so I feel bad.
KELLER: So the chores came first?
JONES: No, I was just doing the chores.
KELLER: Your commitment’s incredible.
JONES: But every time a bridge walk comes on, I go, “Damn, why didn't I do that bridge walk?”
KELLER: This one must have been incredible, Penny.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, it actually was. It was really moving and I was lucky enough to be in one of the first groups, so you got up early and you saw the sun rise and walking across the bridge and that sort of sea of colour in the morning, it was really beautiful. And such a wonderful celebration and such an iconic image of Australia, isn't it, everyone on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
KELLER: But also, how great Australians must feel to see you and our Prime Minister marching and supporting the LGBTQIA+ plus community. It hasn't always felt like that.
FOREIGN MINISTER: No, it hasn't. And equality and inclusion or accepting people for who they are, they always need work, don't they? You’ve got to keep working at it otherwise you go backwards. But I was really proud to walk alongside Albo and I was proud that he walked in Mardi Gras as the first Australian Prime Minister to do that. It says something about our country I reckon, so it’s great.
JONES: And Anthony, he's been doing that for a long time, hasn’t he? It's not the first time he's walked in the march, he's walked since the 80s.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes and he's very proud of that, actually. I think it means a lot to him that he walked before it was popular. But he also understands, as I do, and I think, as the whole community does, what a Prime Minister does and says means something to people. And I always think about a young kid who's struggling with who they are, what that says to them when they see a march like that, and leaders and people out there saying, “you belong, be proud of who you are” - it's a wonderful thing.
KELLER: The thing that's frightening is that none of this is set in stone. I've been looking at what's happening in America. Anti-gay bills are rapidly escalating and becoming law. Tennessee is making it illegal to perform drag in public places. Oklahoma is passing a bill that would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors and adults. So we can't assume, or can we assume that in Australia, our rights are sacred?
FOREIGN MINISTER: It sort of goes back to one of the things I said earlier, which is you can never – equality is an ongoing project, isn't it? I often think of like a car on a hill. If you don't keep your foot on the accelerator, you go backwards. And unfortunately, there are a lot of places around the world with laws different to ours. A lot of places around the world, countries, states, who don't share our approach. But I believe every human being has a right to be free from discrimination, has a right to be who they are, and we need to keep engaging within our community to make sure those values are protected, but also internationally.
KELLER: When you first started your relationship with your partner, Sophie, did you picture there'd be a day where you could walk hand in hand in front of television cameras like that?
FOREIGN MINISTER: No, I probably didn't think about that, actually, but look, I can answer it this way? It was very moving for me, because Soph is pretty private and she doesn't do a lot of public events with me, but she really wanted to do this, so it was lovely to be there with her and be there with the community and be there with Albo and Jodi. It was a lovely morning, it meant a lot to me.
JONES: And also being out is very hard for a lot of people. It's not something that people just go people just presume, I think, in the straight world, and I know this because my sister, she's gay, she's been married for a long time and I've got nephews, but I remember when she came out, when she was 18. I remember at the time, that was a long time ago, but it was a real struggle for that acceptance. Coming from a straight family, this was a bit of a bombshell. Now, to me, it's as natural as anything. It's part of acceptance.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Yeah. And probably that's how I should have answered Amanda's question, actually, to talk about when I first went into Parliament, it was still something many people felt ashamed about. It's still something I found it a little hard to talk about because I’m a reasonably private human being, believe it or not. So, I think that that shift over the last 20 years, which has been because of many activists, many people in the community working for change, but also many allies. One of the things that I was always very moved about in the marriage equality debate was how many people said, “Look, I'm not gay, but why not?”
JONES: Why not? Why not?
KELLER: That's right.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Australians are decent people. We're a country where the fair go does matter and basic decency does matter, and ultimately, that's what equality is about.
JONES: And that’s what makes us great in this country. The words fair enough, someone says something like, you could get someone to come into a room and go, I'm going to dress as a tea bag today. And the Aussie way would be fair enough.
KELLER: Stay away from the hot tap.
JONES: It's almost like Brian Brown's taught you. Fair enough. You do that, mate. You'll be all right. Penny, it's great to talk to you. Thank you for joining us.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Yeah, it was really lovely to be with you. Thanks.
KELLER: Thank you so much.
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