Penny Wong does not always present as an inspirational political leader. She is calm rather than boisterous. She prefers privacy and understatement to publicity or hyperbole.

When the University of Melbourne profiled Wong last year for a series on leadership, its author noted: “Her public demeanour is not built around humour or memorable lines or personal revelation.

“Yet these very absences have become qualities that landed her this year’s McKinnon Prize for Political Leadership, an initiative of the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne’s School of Government.