It may only be brief but activists are calling the exchange a ''watershed moment'' in their campaign for same-sex marriage – both allowing people to understand the debate at a personal level and demonstrating its status as a mainstream political issue. Last Tuesday, Wong's response trended on Twitter and the clip has had nearly 150,000 Youtube views to date. A company has even started selling "I know what my family is worth" t-shirts and stickers.
The National Times understands that Wong and her office were overwhelmed by calls and messages of support immediately after her Q&A appearance and that the messages continued into the week – a rare occurrence as the Finance Minister does not seek to campaign publicly on the gay marriage issue.
But Wong was not expecting such a personal question on Monday night – as is clear from her look of surprise and intake of breath when the question was asked.
The shadow treasurer certainly squirmed under the spotlight of live national TV.
"I must confess my views have changed since I've had children", he said. "I think in this life we've got to aspire to give our children what I believe is the very best circumstances, and that's to have a mother and a father.''
In response, Wong began with: ''Well, there's almost nothing I can say.''
"It is sad that some families have to feel that they have to justify who they are," she said. "When you say those things, Joe, what you're saying to not just me but people like me is that the most important thing in our lives, which is the people we love, is somehow less good, less valued,'' she said. Wong went on to acknowledge that comments like Hockey's were hurtful, but concluded by saying: ''I know what my family is worth.''
Australian Marriage Equality campaign co-ordinator Rodney Croome has been a gay rights activist for more than 20 years and sees Wong's appearance as a "watershed moment" that will change hearts and minds.
This week, he says that AME have seen their web traffic double with people either getting in touch to offer messages of support or contact an MP via their website.
Croome says that even though Wong's appearance came off the back of US President Barack Obama's support for gay marriage last week, more people have been citing Wong as their reason for their messages.
"It was only a very short exchange, but I feel that it will have a tremendous impact,'' Croome says, noting that those contacting AME tend to be both older and straight. "It really struck a chord".
Croome says Wong's ''gentle, quiet, self-confidence'' also illustrates the importance of personal stories for making a difference in the same-sex marriage debate.
"People saw beyond the politics to how it actually affects people," he said.
Two marriage equality bills are before Australia’s parliament, but neither are expected to be passed as the opposition coalition has refused to allow a free vote for its MPs. Last December, the ruling Labor Party allowed its MPs a free vote. Australian Prime Minister Gillard is opposed to marriage equality.
Polls show support for marriage equality now above 60% in Australia. Campaigners say that President Obama’s support for marriage equality has also had a big impact down under.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald