Penny Wong was asked whether she ‘got out of bed on the wrong side’ in the morning after a fiery exchange during Senate estimates.
The senator went head-to-head with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, on Thursday as they discussed the 36,000 Australians still stranded overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Payne was explaining that the number of Australians who have returned home since the borders were shut could be provided to estimates when Senator Wong interjected.
‘That’s not what I asked minister,’ she said, before Ms Payne asked if she could finish her statement.
Senator Wong continued: ‘I didn’t ask that actually. I ask the questions.
‘It’s a non-responsive answer. I have asked her.’
Ms Payne then cut in: ‘Well you wouldn’t know if it’s a non-responsive answer senator because I actually didn’t even finish the sentence.’
Senator Wong then said the minister could ‘spruik’ what she wants through a press conference or media release.
‘I’m asking her a question, can she please answer it?’ Senator Wong said.
Senator Wong was then asked about her mood by Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
‘What happened senator? Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed or something?’ she questioned.
Senator Wong replied bluntly.
‘I’m just tired of this government’s obfuscation, I’m tired of the spin and I’m tired of people not telling the truth,’ she said.
Senator Wong went head-to-head with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne on Thursday as they discussed the 36,000 Australians still stranded overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic
The squabble was shared to Twitter, where other angry Australians threw their support behind Senator Wong.
‘Penny Wong is most women in Australia right now, tired, fed up and very cranky cause of the absolute bollocks we are being fed,’ one person tweeted.
‘We are all tired of the spin/deflection and lies. Senator Wong could not have made it clearer how she and Australians feel,’ another said.
A third wrote: ‘Penny Wong in senate estimates could be pay-per-view and I’d subscribe.’
On Thursday morning, Senator Wong suggested she would press for answers to get Australians home.
‘First up this morning in #Estimates, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and DFAT – will they have more to offer #strandedAussies than last time?’ she wrote on Twitter.
More than 36,000 Australians remain stranded overseas with around 4860 considered to be vulnerable as coronavirus travel restrictions continue.
India and the UK have the most Australians registered to return home, followed by the US, the Philippines and Thailand.
On Thursday morning, Senator Wong suggested she would press for answers to get Australians home. ‘First up this morning in #Estimates, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and DFAT – will they have more to offer #strandedAussies than last time?’ she wrote on Twitter
In September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to get as many people as possible on the list home by Christmas.
‘Since that commitment was made, there are more people who are vulnerable who are stranded,’ Senator Wong said.
Ms Payne defended the numbers, saying the Government had facilitated more than 100 commercial repatriation flights since the start of the pandemic.
Between Mr Morrison’s September announcement and Christmas, 24,000 registered Australians returned home with more than 5000 classified as vulnerable.
Senator Wong urged DFAT or the minister to provide a target date for citizens and permanent residents to be returned.
Senior official Lynette Wood said it was hard to give an indication with new people constantly joining the list.
‘The cup keeps refilling,’ she told the hearing.
‘It’s not as if it’s a finite number and the door has closed. More and more people keep registering.’
Ms Wood believes the northern hemisphere winter triggered a spike with a new coronavirus wave sweeping large parts of the world.