Penny Wong

Senator The Honourable
Penny Wong
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Deputy Stephen Conroy
Leader Bill Shorten
Preceded by Eric Abetz
Leader of the Government in the Senate
In office
26 June 2013  18 September 2013
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Deputy Jacinta Collins
Preceded by Stephen Conroy
Succeeded by Eric Abetz
Minister for Finance and Deregulation
In office
14 September 2010  18 September 2013
Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Kevin Rudd
Preceded by Lindsay Tanner
Succeeded by Mathias Cormann
Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water
In office
3 December 2007  13 September 2010
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Julia Gillard
Preceded by position created
Succeeded by Greg Combet
Senator for South Australia
Assumed office
1 July 2002
Personal details
Born Penny Wong
(1968-11-05) 5 November 1968
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Domestic partner Sophie Allouache
Children Alexandra, Hannah
Residence Australia
Alma mater University of Adelaide
Profession Lawyer
Religion Uniting Church in Australia

Penelope Ying-Yen "Penny" 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. Wong is a member of the Labor Party 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.[1] Wong is the first Asian-born member of an Australian cabinet.[2] She is the first female openly-LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian and federal government cabinet minister, and supports marriage equality in Australia[3][4] despite previously opposing it.[5]

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. Her appointment was amended on 26 February 2010 to Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water.[6] On 13 September 2010, she was sworn in as Minister for Finance and Deregulation in the Gillard Government. Wong retained the position after Kevin Rudd's successful leadership spill in June 2013, and also gained the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate, holding these roles until Labor's defeat at the 2013 federal election.[7]

Early life

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.[8][9][10] At the age of eight, after her parents separated, she moved to Adelaide, South Australia, with her mother and younger brother.[11]

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.[12] After spending a year on exchange in Brazil,[13] 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 at the University of Adelaide, and completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the University of South Australia.[12][14][15]

While at university, she became involved with the leadership of the Adelaide University Labor Club in 1988,[16] and has been a delegate to the South Australian Labor Party State Convention every year since 1989, (with the exception of 1995).[17] She also worked part-time for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and also gained a position on the National Executive of the National Union of Students. Her time at university was one where a substantial number of contemporaries became Australian politicians. Former senator Natasha Stott Despoja was a contemporary, along with current Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill and Mark Butler, Labor MHR for Port Adelaide.[16][12][13] 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.[18]

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.[19]

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,[20] shortly after her appointment as minister.

In mid 2010 Wong said she agreed with the Labor Party policy on marriage,[21] because there was a, "cultural, religious and historical view of marriage being between a man and a woman".[22]

In September 2010 Prime Minister Julia Gillard promoted her to succeed Lindsay Tanner as Minister for Finance and Deregulation.[23][24]

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.[25] In June 2013, following Stephen Conroy's resignation, she became the first female to be appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate.[26] 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.[27]

Personal life

Wong is lesbian and a month after she assumed her seat on 1 July 2002 she came out.[28] In 2010, Wong was selected by readers of as one of the 25 most influential lesbian Australians.[29]

Her brother took his own life soon after her election to the Senate.[13]

Although her father remains overseas, they keep in touch.[13]

Wong's 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, Alexandra,[30] after announcing the IVF-assisted pregnancy using donor sperm in August 2011.[31] Allouche had a second daughter, Hannah, on Good Friday, 3 April 2015, at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital.[32]

Wong is a practising Christian, attending Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide.[13]

See also


  1. "The Hon. Penny Wong Lecture on Climate Change". Faculty of Law. Queensland University if Technology. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  3. Farouque, Farah (10 June 2006). "Why, oh why can't I have a civil union?". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  4. "Australia's Rudd sworn in as PM". BBC News. 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  5. "Brown "horrified" at Wong's anti-gay marriage stance". Sydney Morning Herald. July 26, 2010. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  6. "Garrett pays price for insulation debacle". ABC News. Australia. 26 February 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  7. White, Cassie (11 September 2010). "Gillard unveils major frontbench shake-up". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  8. "Profile". Asian Currents. Asian Studies Association of Australia. August 2004. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  9. Grattan, Michelle (25 September 2007). "Labor voice inspired by the fight for ideas". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  12. 1 2 3 "Kitchen Cabinet: Episode 3 Penny Wong". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Freakish powers of a formidable operator". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  14. "ALP personal profile". Retrieved 2012-07-30.
  15. "Australian Parliament personal profile". Retrieved 2012-07-30.
  16. 1 2 Gordon, Josh (5 July 2008). "Can Wong avert carbon-fuelled train wreck?". WA Today. Australia. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  17. "Senator Penny Wong: Biography". Australian Labor Party.
  18. Taylor, Lenore (23 May 2009). "Racism driving force for Penny Wong". The Australian. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  19. Figures from AustLII, accessed at;results=50;submit=Search;mask_world=;mask_path=;callback=on;method=auto;meta=%2Fau;view=database-natural;offset=0.
  20. Topsfield, Jewel (30 November 2007). "Garrett Stripped of Climate Change Role". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  21. Dick, Tom (26 July 2010). "Married to the mob". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  22. 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.
  23. "The Gillard ministry". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  24. Gillard, Julia MP (11 September 2010). "Prime Minister announces new Ministry" (Press release). Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  25. Ministerial Representation & Senate Office Holders in the Senate 43rd Parliament • 25 March 2013 • The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, accessed 8 September 2013
  26. Senator The Hon Penny Wong,, accessed 8 September 2013
  27. "Tanya Plibersek elected deputy Labor leader, Penny Wong re-elected to lead Labor in Senate". ABC News. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 212 July 2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  28. Penny Wong biography: SameSame
  29. "Samesame 25: The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians 2010". samesame. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  30. Murphy, Katharine (14 December 2011). "Wong's joyous vote for new parenthood". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  31. Kenny, Mark (9 August 2011). "Baby joy for Finance Minister Penny Wong and partner Sophie Allouache". AdelaideNow. Australia. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  32. "Senator Penny Wong welcomes new baby girl into family". The Advertiser. News Limited. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Penny Wong.
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
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