Senator Hon Penny Wong, Australia’s new Minister for Foreign Affairs, was sworn into the role on Monday this week, and then headed straight out to Tokyo with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to meet with the Quad leaders.
Before that, however, Wong took the time on her first day on the job, and as one of her first formal tasks as Foreign Minister, to introduce herself to the Pacific, and in a recorded message, committed to do more, and do it better..
“Hello my name is Penny Wong and I have just had the great honour of being sworn in as Australia’s Foreign Minister..
“I look forward to visiting the Pacific soon, but the first thing I wanted to do after being sworn in, is to share a few thoughts with our Pacific family..”
Wong acknowledged that she has taken up the role of foreign Minister at a time when the region faces unprecedented challenges, and assures that, “we will face these challenges together, and we will achieve our shared aspirations, together..” says Wong.
An opposition MP for the past 9 years, Wong has long advocated for Australia to play a greater role in the Pacific region in light of the changing strategic circumstances around the globe. In her first message to the region, Wong says her government is committed to Pacific development..
“We want to help build a stronger Pacific family.. and that is why we will do more, but we will also do it better,” says Wong. “We will listen, because we care about what the Pacific has to say”.
Wong was Australia’s first Minister for Climate Change from 2007 to 2010 under the Rudd government. In her address, Minister Wong says Australia will take up a leading role in addressing the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island Countries.
“The Australian Government knows that nothing is more central to the security and well-being of the Pacific, than climate change.. We’ve heard the Pacific, and will act.. Standing shoulder to shoulder with you as we address the climate crisis,” says the Minister.
“Australia will also deepen its defense in Maritime Co-operations”.
Wong, who had also served as Australia’s Minister for Finance from 2010 to 2013, commits to boosting Australia’s assistance to support the region’s recovery from the global Covid-19 pandemic, now crippling economies around the world.
Seasonal Worker Employment
The newly sworn-in Foreign Minister says Australia will work with the Pacific to expand opportunities for seasonal workers and improve working conditions.
“Currently over 24,000 Pacific workers are here contributing to vital Australian industries and sending money home to support their families, while gaining skills they can use when they return”.
Voices of Indigenous Peoples
“We will also deliver a first nations foreign policy that weaves the voices and practices of Australia’s indigenous peoples into our diplomacy, and strengthens connections between First Nation’s Peoples and the Blue Pacific.
Australia Commits to Being a Generous, Respectful and Reliable Member of the Pacific Family
“Our government is committed to being there for our Pacific family in times of need, as you have been there for us,” says the Minister.
“We will be a generous, respectful and reliable member of the Pacific family.. we know that together, we can build a stronger future,” concludes the Minister.
“I look forward to visiting very soon.”
Penelope Ying-Yen Wong
Born in Malaysia to an English Australian mother and a Chinese Malaysian father, Wong moved to Australia with her mother and younger brother at the age of 8. She was educated at Scotch College in Adelaide, and then attended the University of Adelaide, graduating with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees.
Prior to entering the Senate, Wong worked as a lawyer and political advisor. Wong has been described by her biographer as “principled, intellectual, private, restrained and sane”.
In 2008, she became the first Asian-born member of an Australian Cabinet. She was also the first female openly-LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian. Wong lives in Adelaide with her partner, Sophie Allouache and their two children. She was a supporter of the legalisation of same sex marriage, memorably shedding tears in parliament when the ‘Yes’ result of the plebiscite was revealed.
Australian political writers say that during her time in politics, Wong has developed a reputation for being a highly capable politician of fierce intellect, with a cool head and biting sense of humour.