As of November 14, 2017, Penny Wong has been a hero to many Australians. In the referendum that day, 61.6 percent of people voted in favor of same-sex marriage.
For years, Wong, an openly gay parliamentarian in Australia’s parliament, campaigned for marriage for all. When the result was declared, she burst into tears and celebrated with her partner.
Today Wong is not only a symbol of the bizarre scene, the 53-year-old is Australia’s most powerful woman. He is the Secretary of State in the cabinet of the new Prime Minister, Anthony Albany.
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Your tasks are challenging: Wong must improve very poor Australian-Chinese relations as well as strengthen its role as a bastion of Western democracies in the Pacific.
He is always trusted: many experts see him as the real leader of the government. He is seen as having more foreign policy experience, and stronger nerves and determination, than his boss. In March, she was also voted Australia’s Favorite Politician.
The first years in Australia were a “shock”.
His career is one of those rising stars who are loved by Australians as much as Americans do. Even if it started far from Down Under.
Penelope Ying-Yen Wong was born in 1968 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, in northern Borneo. His father is Malaysian of Chinese descent and his mother is Australian. After his parents divorced, Wong did not return to his mother’s homeland until the age of eight.
In an autobiographical text, she describes her first time in the metropolis of Adelaide as her “shock”. He and his brother were the only Asians in their neighborhood and felt like animals in a zoo.
“For the first time, I realized that other people notice my origins, that it’s an issue,” recalls Wong. He tried to counter the boycott with a demonstration. “I wanted to be better than the people who named me.” And she was better.
She studied law, joined the Union and the Social Democratic Labor Party, and in 2002 became the first Member of Parliament in Canberra.
But while she was building a career for herself, her brother was broken by Australian racism. “People are different. And he was more vulnerable and gentle. That’s a wonderful thing, but it makes it difficult in our world,” she writes in her autobiography. Toby Wong died in 2001 at the age of 30.
Learned early on how to deal with negative
But all these experiences, Wong reports, will help him as a politician today. “I just learned long ago how to deal with the negative. In the end, things are no different in politics than on school grounds.”
What used to create trouble for the neighboring class may now be China for them. Relations between Canberra and Beijing have almost frozen over the years. Shortly before the Australian parliamentary elections in mid-May, the then Defense Minister – and now the Leader of the Opposition – spoke of preparing for war.
Conflict: China is working to increase its supremacy in the Pacific. Until now, Australia mostly treated the region as its own backyard and for long did not treat island states on an equal footing.
Power struggle with China over the Pacific
But even now, in his first days in office, Wong is showing that this is about to change. He visited different Pacific states twice.
Eventually, he voiced against a deal proposed by Beijing, with which China wanted to secure better access to resources or locations for military bases. In return, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa now expect more help from Australia – even in dealing with the consequences of climate change.
Wong, after all climate change minister from 2007 to 2010, has already apologized for the “lost years” and speaks of what the “Pacific family” refers to. Which in his view is not related to China.
The Chinese Foreign Minister is currently traveling in the region along with Wong. The power struggle is in full swing. Or as Wong said in his speech: “The race for influence.” And if his life story has shown the Chinese one thing, it is this: Australia’s new foreign minister is not one to give up easily.