Politics

Labor Senator Penny Wong Slammed For Her “Seriously Disappointing” Comments About Coal

Scott Morrison has alienated our Pacific neighbours with his refusal to divest from coal. But it turns out Labor would have done the same.

Penny Wong on coal

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come in for a wave of criticism over his behaviour at the Pacific Island Forum in Tuvalu last week. But on the plus side, it turns out Labor wouldn’t have been that much better.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama accused Morrison of being “very insulting and condescending”, while New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern said Australia would have to “answer to the Pacific” on the issue of climate change, after Australia watered down calls for climate action in an official communique, and refused to back calls from low-lying Pacific nations to rapidly scale back global reliance on coal.

It was a callous, shameful display from the government, and seemed like a perfect opportunity for the other lot to take a stand.

Enter Labor Senator Penny Wong.

Wong hit out at Morrison on Saturday, saying his “arrogance has done great damage to our relationships and Australia’s standing in the region,” she said. “He’s undermined the Pacific step-up and alienated our friends … It’s no way to treat our neighbours. At a time when we need closer engagement with our region, Australia’s PM has diminished our influence.”

Sounds pretty good, right? But on Sunday, Wong went on ABC’s Insiders and conceded that Labor wouldn’t have signed up to the plan to ditch coal either.

“Coal is an important industry to Australia,” she said.

Asked by host Patricia Karvelas whether Labor would have signed up to “shutting [coal] down”, Wong replied, “of course not”.

Wong’s poor imitation of an opposition senator did not go down particularly well with folks on social media. Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi tweeted that the comments were “seriously disappointing”, a sentiment that was echoed across the platform.