Labor highlights bipartisanship over North Korea – October 2017

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Foreign Affairs,

With Parliament in recess until October 16, Labor leader Bill Shorten seized the opportunity to demonstrate bipartisanship with the Government on the question of North Korea.

With shadow foreign minister Penny Wong, he travelled to South Korea and to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) - the frontline of the acute tensions on the Korean peninsula caused by Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

Mr Shorten and Senator Wong visited the DMZ as part of a trip to South Korea and Japan.

North Korea has positioned thousands of artillery tubes and rockets that could devastate the South Korean capital, Seoul, if conflict broke out.

Senator Wong said the visit ‘‘reinforces that sense of the immediate risk for South Korea’’.

‘‘First hand, you get a difference sense of the immediacy of the . . .scale of the challenge,’’ she said.

Senator Wong said there was ‘‘strong bipartisanship’’ between Labor and the Turnbull government on how to handle North Korea, with both believing diplomatic and economic pressure needed to be given time and could force the Kim regime back to the negotiating table.

The North Koreans played propaganda music through loudspeakers when they saw Mr Shorten. ‘‘It really struck home that more than 60 years since the Korean War, this is an unfinished conflict in every sense,’’ Mr Shorten said.

On the home front, Mr Shorten has criticised the anti-gay marriage campaign for making mileage out of a random act of violence perpetrated towards former prime minister Tony Abbott. He emphasised that the alleged head-butting of Mr Abbott on a Hobart street was “completely unacceptable”.

“But I would be careful of either side of the marriage equality debate seeking to grab some political opportunity out of the random violence [of] which Mr Abbott was on the receiving end,” he said.

“This marriage equality survey is about making sure all Australians have the same chance to get married. I certainly don't want to see other issues, extraneous issues from the fringes, being used to discourage people from voting in this survey.”

Mr Abbott maintained he was head-butted because of his opposition to same-sex marriage, but his alleged attacker said he was motivated by his “personal hatred” towards the former prime minister.

Mr Abbott said the incident highlighted the “intolerance” and the “ugliness” of the Yes camp as he urged people to vote No.

Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek hammered one of Labor’s established themes when she delivered the annual Light on the Hill speech, honouring former prime minister Ben Chifley, in Bathurst, his home town.

Australian society is less equal than it's ever been in the past 75 years and the government must set a goal of getting 'inclusive prosperity' right, for the sake of working Australians, she said.

After 25 years of continuous economic growth, there were still 2.9 million people living below the poverty line and 1.8 million either unemployed or underemployed.

“Australians are working harder than ever, but they are not getting ahead,” she said.

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