Senate debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Questions without Notice

Australian Embassy: Israel

2:00 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Leaked messages between Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reveal that Australia's close friend and neighbour believed Prime Minister Morrison's decision to overturn longstanding bipartisan foreign policy would 'slap Indonesia's face', 'be a really big blow' and 'affect bilateral relations'. Why is Prime Minister Morrison putting the Liberal Party's political interests ahead of the national interest?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

That is not what Prime Minister Morrison is doing. Prime Minister Morrison is putting the national interest ahead of anything else. It is quite appropriate for the Australian government, from time to time, to consider the best way forward in relation to an important foreign policy matter. Of course it's appropriate, and that is what we're doing. Of course we continue to engage and talk with all of our friends and partners, including and in particular our great friends in Indonesia.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, a supplementary question.

2:01 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the Minister confirm that the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Quinlan, was formally summonsed by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno in response to Prime Minister Morrison's decision to overturn longstanding bipartisan foreign policy?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

What I can confirm is that the Australian government continues to engage positively and constructively with all of our friends in Indonesia.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask the minister to take on notice the previous question as to whether the ambassador was summonsed. The leaked exchange between Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian foreign minister is in stark contrast with Prime Minister Morrison's claims that the announcement is 'not an issue of concern' for Indonesia. Why isn't Mr Morrison telling Australians the truth about the impact of his decision to overturn longstanding foreign policy five days out from the Wentworth by-election?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

He's lied. He has lied. He's told—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, I would ask you to withdraw that personal reflection.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Alright. I withdraw it. He has misled.

2:02 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

As I've indicated before, Australia continues to engage positively and constructively with all our friends around the world, including in particular our friends in Indonesia. Minister Payne and her Indonesian counterpart had a very constructive discussion on Tuesday regarding Australia's announcement. Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia's commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allows Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side within internationally recognised borders. And, of course, Senator Wong is misrepresenting what was announced earlier this week. What was announced earlier this week was a process. Australia, as a sovereign country, is entitled, from time to time, to engage in processes of this kind.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I note that Senator Payne is not present. I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate missed ministerial arrangements.