United Kingdom hits back at Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong

United Kingdom hits back at Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong after she urged the nation to confront its colonial history: ‘Can’t erase the past’

The United Kingdom has hit back at Penny Wong’s suggestion Britain needs to do more to confront its colonial past, saying history cannot be eradicated or erased. 

Earlier this week, Senator Wong gave a speech to Kings College, where she spoke about her own family’s history of British colonialism, and said that only by acknowledging the past could the UK truly seek to modernise its relationships, particularly with Indo-Pacific countries.

‘Such stories can sometimes feel uncomfortable – for those whose stories they are, and for those who hear them. But understanding the past enables us to better share the present and the future,’ she said.

The UK’s Foreign Minister James Cleverly rejected suggestions, saying the former colonial power was conscious of it in its dealings.

Following ministerial meetings in Portsmouth on Thursday (UK time), Mr Cleverly said the pair had discussed ‘the nature of the relationship between the UK and other countries which are now in the Commonwealth but which were previously British colonies’.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong (pictured) has urged the UK to confront its colonial past in the Indo-Pacific

 ‘(But) these were not the mainstay of the conversations we’ve been having,’ he said.

When probed further, he pushed back: ‘You’re asking the black foreign secretary?’

‘The bottom line is we have a Prime Minister of Asian heritage, a home secretary of Asian heritage, a foreign secretary of African heritage,’ he said.

Senator Wong said the ‘modern face of Australia and the modern face of Britain is apparent here in this room’, making reference to her Malaysian descent and Mr Cleverly’s African heritage.

‘(It’s) one of the ways in which we can make ourselves stronger and more influential. In this time of strategic competition, we have to make sure we are not being framed by others and that we frame ourselves,’ she said. 

Defence Minister Richard Marles (pictured) said ‘We want to see a Great Britain which is engaged in our region’

The earlier AUKMIN meeting confirmed that Australia’s nuclear submarine deal with the UK and the United States – the basis of AUKUS – would be announced ‘soon’.

Both the Australian and British Prime Ministers will travel to Washington next month to meet with US President Joe Biden.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said having such technology would ‘change Australia’s international personality’.

‘It will dramatically build our capability and with that, it will build our sovereignty,’ he said.

‘The significance of Britain and America working together to help us to have that technology is one which in international terms is also highly significant.’

His counterpart, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said whatever decision the Australian cabinet made on submarines would be a ‘joint endeavour’.

‘Whatever is chosen will be a collaborative effort,’ he said.

All four ministers were glowing of their meetings and their two day trip, saying it had been a ‘refresh’ of the 250-year-old relationship.

While in the UK, Senator Wong and Mr Marles accompanied their British counterpart to visit the Australian and UK troops training Ukrainian soldiers.

Australian ministers Penny Wong (left) and Richard Marles (right) are in the UK for strategic talks with their British counterparts James Cleverly and Ben Wallace

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