Penelope Ying-Yen Wong (born 5 November 1968) is an Australian politician who has represented South Australia in the Senate since 2002, and is the current Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Wong is a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and was a member of the Federal Cabinet in both the Gillard Government and the first and second Rudd Governments.
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. Wong is the first Asian-born member of an Australian cabinet. She is the first female openly-LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian and federal government cabinet minister, and supported legalising same-sex marriage in Australia despite previously opposing it.
First elected to the Senate at the 2001 federal election (and sitting from July 2002), Wong was named Minister for Climate Change and Water following Labor's victory under Kevin Rudd at the 2007 election. She went on to be Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water in early 2010 . On 13 September 2010, Wong was sworn in as Minister for Finance and Deregulation following the reelection of the Gillard Government. Wong retained the position after Kevin Rudd's successful leadership spill in June 2013, and became Leader of the Government in the Senate, holding these roles until Labor's defeat at the 2013 federal election.
Wong was born in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to Jane (née Chapman) and Francis Wong. Her mother was an Australian and her father was Malaysian Chinese of Hakka origin. At the age of eight, after her parents separated, she moved to Adelaide, South Australia, with her mother and younger brother.
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. After spending a year on exchange in Brazil, 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.
While at university, she became involved with the leadership of the Adelaide University Labor Club in 1988, and has been a delegate to the South Australian Labor Party State Convention every year since 1989, (with the exception of 1995). 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, was a contemporary, along with former Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill (with whom she had a relationship) and Mark Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide. Wong graduated from the University of South Australia in 1992, and continued her association with the CFMEU as an industrial officer. 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, specialising in the area of forest policy in the middle of the fierce 1990s environmental battles over logging in NSW.
On returning to Adelaide, Wong began practising law, working as a solicitor at the firm Duncan and Hannon (1996–1999). 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.
During her legal career (1996–2002), Wong appeared as counsel in 11 reported decisions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 15 reported decisions of the South Australian Industrial Relations Court, 8 reported decisions of the South Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 3 reported decisions of the South Australian Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal and 10 reported decisions of the South Australian Workers Compensation Tribunal.
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, the support network for Labor women, and sat on a number of Senate committees, primarily those related to economics.
In June 2005, Wong was appointed Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation, 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.
In December 2007, in the wake of the Labor Party victory in the 2007 election, Wong was appointed Minister for Climate Change and Water. 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, shortly after her appointment as minister.
In February 2013, Wong was appointed Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, following the resignation of Chris Evans, the then Government Leader in the Senate. In June 2013, following Stephen Conroy's resignation, she became the first female to be appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate. Following Labor's defeat at the 2013 Australian federal election, Wong was appointed the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, becoming the first woman to do so.
Wong is a lesbian and came out publicly a month after she assumed her Senate seat in 2002. In 2010, Wong was selected by readers of Samesame website as one of the 25 most influential lesbian Australians. Wong's domestic partner, Sophie Allouache, is a public servant and former University of Adelaide Students' Association president. In December 2011, Allouache gave birth to their first child, after announcing the IVF-assisted pregnancy using donor sperm in August 2011. Allouache gave birth to their second daughter in 2015, at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital. While at university Wong dated Jay Weatherill, who later became Premier of South Australia.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Penny Wong.|
- Parliamentary Profile: Australian Parliament website
- Parliamentary Profile: Labor website
- Penny Wong in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia
- Summary of parliamentary voting for Senator Penny Wong on TheyVoteForYou.org.au
|New ministry|| Minister for Climate Change,
(Energy Efficiency) and Water
as Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
as Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
| Minister for Finance and Deregulation
as Minister for Finance