Author Margaret Simons sure set herself a high bar when she took on the biography of Labor politician Penny Wong, as despite giving interviews for the book, Penny Wong – Passion and Principle, Wong kept her cards close throughout.
The title is apt as passion and power are the two overriding traits that come through as Simons charts Wong’s life story from her early life in Malaysia to formative school and university years in Adelaide where her passion for politics developed.
Simons unearths a family history that dates back to colonial times and gives a fleshed-out account of how even in Kota Kinabalu life for the Wong family was lived on the fringe.
Wong’s early years as an outsider meant that she kept her cards to herself while being astute enough to study party politics under some of South Australia’s Labor greats. A move which would prove invaluable as she strode the larger stage of federal politics, rising to become Labor’s leader in the Senate.
As Wong’s politics were developing so too was her sexual identity as it moved from an Adelaide Labor identity to her first committed same-sex relationship.
This powerful account of Wong’s life is raw, emotional and above all intelligent.
Reviewed by John Moyle