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Penny Wong
Senator Penny Wong 2015.jpg
Wong in 2015
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Assumed office
18 September 2013
DeputyStephen Conroy
Don Farrell
Kristina Keneally
LeaderBill Shorten
Anthony Albanese
Preceded byEric Abetz
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
Assumed office
11 July 2016
LeaderBill Shorten
Anthony Albanese
ShadowingJulie Bishop
Marise Payne
Preceded byTanya Plibersek
Leader of the Government in the Senate
In office
26 June 2013 – 18 September 2013
Prime MinisterKevin Rudd
DeputyJacinta Collins
Preceded byStephen Conroy
Succeeded byEric Abetz
Minister for Finance and Deregulation
In office
14 September 2010 – 18 September 2013
Prime MinisterJulia Gillard
Kevin Rudd
Preceded byLindsay Tanner
Succeeded byMathias Cormann
Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water
In office
3 December 2007 – 13 September 2010
Prime MinisterKevin Rudd
Julia Gillard
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byGreg Combet
Senator for South Australia
Assumed office
1 July 2002
Preceded byChris Schacht
Personal details
Penelope Ying-Yen Wong

(1968-11-05) 5 November 1968 (age 52)
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Political partyLabor Party
Domestic partnerSophie Allouache
EducationUniversity of Adelaide (BA, LLB)
University of South Australia (LPC)

Penelope Ying-Yen Wong (born 5 November 1968) is an Australian politician who has been a Senator for South Australia since 2002.[1] She has served as Senate leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) since 2013, and is currently Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. She was a cabinet minister in the Rudd and Gillard Governments from 2007 to 2013.

Born in Malaysia to an Australian mother and Malaysian father, Wong 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 Federal parliament, Wong worked as a lawyer and political advisor.[2] Wong has been described by her biographer as, "principled, intellectual, private, restrained and sane."[3] In 2008, she became the first Asian-born member of an Australian cabinet.[4] She was also the first female openly-LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian and federal government cabinet minister, and was an instrumental figure in the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia,[5][6] despite having previously endorsed former Labor Party policy that opposed the practice.[7]

Early life

Wong was born in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to Jane (née Chapman), an Australian, and Francis Wong, a Malaysian of Hakka[8] origin.[9][10][11][12] Her father was an architect.[13] After her parents separated, she moved to Adelaide, South Australia, at the age of eight with her mother and younger brother.[14]

Education and student politics

After starting at Coromandel Valley Primary School, Wong gained a scholarship to Scotch College, Adelaide where she studied chemistry, physics and mathematics, and was accepted into the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Adelaide.[15] After spending a year on exchange in Brazil,[16] Wong found she had an aversion to blood. She then studied and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Laws with Honours at the University of Adelaide, and completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the University of South Australia.[15][17][18]

While at university, she became involved with the leadership of the Adelaide University Labor Club in 1988,[19] and has been a delegate to the South Australian Labor Party State Convention every year since 1989, (with the exception of 1995).[20] She also worked part-time for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and won a position on the National Executive of the National Union of Students. A number of her contemporaries at university went on to become Australian politicians; former senator for South Australia, Natasha Stott Despoja, former Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill[16] and Mark Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide, were contemporaries.[15][16][19]

Professional career

Wong graduated from the University of South Australia in 1992, and continued her association with the CFMEU as an industrial officer.[21] She was admitted to the South Australian Bar in 1993. During 1995 and 1996, Wong acted as an advisor to the CFMEU and to the newly elected New South Wales state government, specializing in the area of forest policy in the middle of the fierce 1990s environmental battles over logging in NSW.[22]

On returning to Adelaide, Wong began practicing law, working as a solicitor at the firm Duncan and Hannon (1996–1999).[23] From 1999 to 2002, she worked as a legal officer with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union. During this time she also won a position on the ALP's state executive.[24]

During her legal career (1996–2002), Wong appeared as counsel in 11 published decisions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 15 published decisions of the South Australian Industrial Relations Court, 8 published decisions of the South Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 3 published decisions of the South Australian Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal and 10 published decisions of the South Australian Workers Compensation Tribunal.[25]

Parliamentary service

Entering Parliament

Wong ran for pre-selection for the Senate in 2001, and was selected for the top position on the Labor Party's South Australian ticket. She was elected at the 2001 election, her term commencing on 1 July 2002. Wong is a member of EMILY's List Australia,[26] the support network for Labor women, and sat on a number of Senate committees, primarily those related to economics.[27]

Wong in 2007
Wong in 2007

Shadow ministry

In June 2005, Wong was appointed Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation,[28] and Shadow Minister for Corporate Governance and Responsibility. Following the reshuffle in December 2006, she became responsible for the portfolios of Public Administration and Accountability, Corporate Governance and Responsibility, and Workforce Participation.

Government and first ministry

Wong in 2012
Wong in 2012

In December 2007, in the wake of the Labor Party victory in the 2007 election, Wong was appointed to the Cabinet of Australia in the First Rudd Government as the Minister for Climate Change and Water[29] and later, for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water in early 2010.[30] She later remarked that her own father was most proud, not so much at her becoming the first Asian-born person to serve in an Australian Cabinet, but because she was subsequently given "a fleeting mention"[31] in a book by Lee Kuan Yew. She accompanied then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Bali for the international climate change talks. Wong led final negotiations as Chair of the United Nations Working Group in the closing days of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2007,[32] shortly after her appointment as minister. She was said to be one of the "Rudd gang of four", who made "the key decisions."[33]

Minister for Finance and Government Leader

Shortly after the commencement of the Gillard Government in June 2010, Julia Gillard promoted Wong to succeed Lindsay Tanner as Minister for Finance and Deregulation.[34][35] At this time, Wong said she agreed with the Labor Party policy on marriage[36] because there was a, "cultural, religious and historical view of marriage being between a man and a woman".[37][38]

Penny Wong stands by Kevin Rudd at a press conference at Balmain Town Hall in July 2013.
Penny Wong stands by Kevin Rudd at a press conference at Balmain Town Hall in July 2013.

In February 2013, Wong was elected as the ALP's deputy Senate leader following the resignation of Chris Evans, thus becoming Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.[39] Wong retained the position of Minister for Finance after Kevin Rudd's successful leadership spill in June 2013. Following Stephen Conroy's resignation and the beginning of the Second Rudd Government, she also became the Leader of the Government in the Senate. She was the first woman to be elected as ALP Senate leader, and the first woman to serve as Leader of the Government in the Senate.[40]

Wong held these roles until Labor's defeat at the 2013 federal election.[41] Strikingly, "she emerges well from the memoirs of both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, despite the poison between the two."[3]

Opposition Leader in Senate and Foreign Affairs

Following Labor's defeat at the 2013 Australian federal election, Wong was elected Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, becoming the first woman to hold the position.[42] She was also appointed Labor's foreign affairs spokesperson. In this role, she helped negotiate Australia's interests in the Trans-Pacific Partnership which was ratified in late 2018.[43] When a journalist noted that this was unexpected, given she is a member of her party's Labor Left faction, she replied, "I know, it's odd isn't it."[44] In March 2019, Wong was named the 2018 McKinnon Political Leader of the Year.[45]

Following the 2019 Labor leadership contest, Wong retained her positions as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in the new cabinet of Anthony Albanese.[46] At this point she was named part of Albanese's four-person ALP leadership team, along with Richard Marles and Kristina Keneally. In this role, Wong has delivered "forthright"[44] views on Australia–United States relations. While she believed the election of Donald Trump meant there should be a "global rethink"[47] on working with the US, she maintains a very high view of the alliance, which has been a feature of Australian Labor Party thinking since it began under wartime leader, John Curtin, saying, "I think America has been the key guarantor in an international system which has enabled more peace and prosperity than probably any period in the world’s history."[44] Similarly, she strongly believes in both Australian and US engagement with South East Asia through ASEAN. During a speech to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in January 2018, Wong said: "it is in the interests of all South-East Asian nations that the US remains strategically engaged with the region."[31] She sets both the US alliance and the need for engagement with Asia in historical terms:

The calamity that was WW2 in the Pacific provided the setting for one of the most interesting, stable and enduring alliances of the 20th century – the ANZUS alliance between the US, Australia and New Zealand. While it was forged in war, it has matured in peace. What began as a response to a threat to the security of both the US and Australia has evolved into a relationship built around shared strategic objectives underpinned by shared fundamental values. Our alliance with the US has stood strong for 70 years. But of course, our history, our friendship and our co-operation are even greater. The 100 years of mateship we honour this year is a celebration of shared values as much as of military co-operation.[48]

Senator Penny Wong speaking on national security at Australian National University in 2017
Senator Penny Wong speaking on national security at Australian National University in 2017

In September 2020, Wong and her party were accused by radio presenter Deborah Knight of being "soft" in its response to the "bullying" behaviour of communist China.[49] However, Wong has been firm that Australians, and Australian political leaders, need to speak freely about Australian values and where they differ from those of our neighbours: "We're a democracy so freedom of speech, open dialogue and the exchange of ideas is part of who we are and I would hope that all countries would expect that when dealing with Australia."[50] As leader in foreign affairs, she has come under pressure from ALP elders, such as Paul Keating and Gareth Evans, for Australia to "cut the tag" with the United States. However, Wong has remained resolved that the alliance would remain, "deep, long-standing and institutional."[51]

In early December 2020, Wong joined her Labor and Coalition colleagues including Opposition Leader Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in condemning a Twitter post by Chinese Foreign Ministry official Zhao Lijian which shared a falsified image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the neck of an Afghan child in response to recent Sino–Australian tensions and the Brereton Report. Penny stated that the community was "united" in condemnation of the post, but argued that Australia needed "to respond calmly and strategically, and not be emotional in what is obviously a deliberate — in relation to what was a deliberate — provocation."[52][53]

Personal life

Wong is a practising Christian, attending Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide.[16] She has said that, "I do not ever remember having the sense that I denied the existence of God."[54] She has talked about the value of faith and prayer in her life, which comes from Christian members of her family, though many parts of her wider family in Sabah are Buddhist.[55] She held Malaysian citizenship until 2001.[56]

Wong is a lesbian and came out publicly a month after she assumed her Senate seat in 2002.[57] In 2010, Wong was selected by readers of Samesame website as one of the 25 most influential lesbian Australians.[58] Wong's domestic partner, Sophie Allouache, is a public servant and former University of Adelaide Students' Association president.[1] In December 2011, Allouache gave birth to their first child,[59] after announcing the IVF-assisted pregnancy using donor sperm in August 2011.[60] Allouache gave birth to their second daughter in 2015, at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital.[61] While at university, Wong dated Jay Weatherill, who later became Premier of South Australia.[16]

In 2002, Wong's brother Toby took his own life ten days after her election to the Senate.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "The 45th Parliament Shadow Ministry". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  2. ^ "The Hon. Penny Wong Lecture on Climate Change". Faculty of Law. Queensland University if Technology. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b Simons, Margaret (2019). Penny Wong: Passion and Principle. Australia: Black Inc. ISBN 9781760640859.
  4. ^ "Panellist: Penny Wong - Q&A - ABC TV". Archived from the original on 9 January 2014.
  5. ^ Farouque, Farah (10 June 2006). "Why, oh why can't I have a civil union?". The Age. Australia. Archived from the original on 24 February 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  6. ^ "Australia's Rudd sworn in as PM". BBC News. 3 December 2007. Archived from the original on 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  7. ^ "Brown "horrified" at Wong's anti-gay marriage stance". Sydney Morning Herald. 26 July 2010. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Passion and principle: Penny Wong is far from done". Crikey. 11 October 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Profile". Asian Currents. Asian Studies Association of Australia. August 2004. Archived from the original on 1 October 2004. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  10. ^ Grattan, Michelle (25 September 2007). "Labor voice inspired by the fight for ideas". The Age. Australia. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  11. ^ "lumen – Making their Mark". Archived from the original on 25 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Penny Wong – Q&A". 20 December 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  13. ^ "lumen – Australian experience builds global perspective". Archived from the original on 3 October 2015.
  14. ^ "First Day: Penny Wong's journey from shy student to Senator". 27 January 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Kitchen Cabinet: Episode 3 Penny Wong". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 March 2012. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Freakish powers of a formidable operator". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 December 2007. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  17. ^ "ALP personal profile". Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Australian Parliament personal profile". Archived from the original on 1 August 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  19. ^ a b Gordon, Josh (5 July 2008). "Can Wong avert carbon-fuelled train wreck?". WA Today. Australia. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  20. ^ "Senator Penny Wong: Biography". Australian Labor Party. Archived from the original on 13 February 2006.
  21. ^ "Penny Wong citation" (PDF). Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  22. ^ Taylor, Lenore (23 May 2009). "Racism driving force for Penny Wong". The Australian. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Penny Wong, as South Australian senator, sets firsts as Asian-born federal minister; openly gay parliamentarian". AdelaideAZ. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  24. ^ "Penny Wong". Q+A. 27 April 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  25. ^ "AustLII: 159 documents found for ("P Wong")". Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  26. ^ "Breakfast with Penny Wong". EMILY's List Australia. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  27. ^ "What we do". EMILY's List Australia. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  28. ^ "Penny Wong". Australia-Indonesia Centre. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  29. ^ "ParlInfo – Biography for WONG, the Hon. Penelope (Penny) Ying-Yen". Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Garrett pays price for insulation debacle". ABC News. Australia. 26 February 2010. Archived from the original on 24 June 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  31. ^ a b "Peace and Prosperity in a Time of Disruption – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy – Singapore". Senator Penny Wong. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  32. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (30 November 2007). "Garrett Stripped of Climate Change Role". The Age. Australia. Archived from the original on 4 November 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  33. ^ Taylor, Lenore (8 November 2009). "The Rudd gang of four". The Australian. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  34. ^ "The Gillard ministry". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2010. Archived from the original on 12 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  35. ^ Gillard, Julia MP (11 September 2010). "Prime Minister announces new Ministry" (Press release). Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  36. ^ Dick, Tom (26 July 2010). "Married to the mob". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  37. ^ Hayward, Andrea (26 July 2010). "Brown "horrified" at Wong's anti-gay marriage stance". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  38. ^ Abrahams, Scott (25 July 2010). "Penny Wong labelled a hypocrite". Star Observer.
  39. ^ Ministerial Representation & Senate Office Holders in the Senate 43rd Parliament • 25 March 2013 • The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia Archived 1 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 8 September 2013
  40. ^ Senator The Hon Penny Wong Archived 26 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine,, accessed 8 September 2013
  41. ^ White, Cassie (11 September 2010). "Gillard unveils major frontbench shake-up". ABC News. Australia. Archived from the original on 15 September 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  42. ^ "Tanya Plibersek elected deputy Labor leader, Penny Wong re-elected to lead Labor in Senate". ABC News. 14 October 2013. Archived from the original on 31 July 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  43. ^ Karp, Paul (11 September 2018). "Labor drops opposition to Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  44. ^ a b c Wroe, David (9 February 2018). "Penny Wong, the woman who could be Australia's next foreign minister". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  45. ^ "Penny Wong and Jordon Steele-John celebrated for political leadership". Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  46. ^ "Labor leader Anthony Albanese announces frontbench in wake of federal election 2019". 2 June 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  47. ^ Wroe, David (18 July 2018). "Donald Trump has sparked 'global rethink' on dealing with the US: Labor's Penny Wong". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  48. ^ "Senator Penny Wong | The US in Asia: An Australian perspective — United States Studies Centre". Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  49. ^ "Deborah Knight confronts Labor leader over soft response to China". 2GB. 3 September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  50. ^ Hunter, Fergus (17 November 2019). "'Shocking': MPs from across politics defend China critics Hastie and Paterson". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  51. ^ Riordan, Primrose (28 June 2020). "Penny Wong defies ALP elders to back US alliance". The Australian`. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  52. ^ Snape, Jack (1 December 2020). "Penny Wong calls for strategic approach on China as Labor leaders back 'Team Australia'". ABC News. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  53. ^ Wilson, Jim (1 December 2020). "Senator urges calm response as Chinese embassy blasts Australia's 'overreaction'". 2GB. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  54. ^ Williams, Roy (28 July 2018). "God Is Good For You by Greg Sheridan; Fountain of Public Prosperity". Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  55. ^ Sheridan, Greg (23 July 2018). "In defence of Christianity". The Australian. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  56. ^ Lewis, Rosie; Hutchinson, Samantha (21 August 2017). "Bill Shorten won't produce UK citizenship renunciation proof". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  57. ^ "Penny Wong biography: SameSame". Archived from the original on 9 February 2016.
  58. ^ "Samesame 25: The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians 2010". Samesame. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  59. ^ Murphy, Katharine (14 December 2011). "Wong's joyous vote for new parenthood". The Age. Australia. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  60. ^ Kenny, Mark (9 August 2011). "Baby joy for Finance Minister Penny Wong and partner Sophie Allouache". AdelaideNow. Australia. AAP. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  61. ^ "Senator Penny Wong welcomes new baby girl into family". The Advertiser. News Limited. 7 April 2015. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.

External links

Political offices
New ministry Minister for Climate Change,
(Energy Efficiency) and Water

Succeeded by
Greg Combet
as Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Succeeded by
Tony Burke
as Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Preceded by
Lindsay Tanner
Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Succeeded by
Mathias Cormann
as Minister for Finance
This page was last edited on 27 June 2021, at 23:28
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