OLI PETERSON: Tomorrow, Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will be heading to the United States to visit her United States counterpart.This will be her first visit as Defence Minister. She will meet Secretary Mark Esper. She can tell you more, she joins us live on the radio this afternoon – hello Minister.
LINDA REYNOLDS: Good afternoon Oli.
OLI PETERSON: It will be a whirlwind trip I believe to go and meet the United States Secretary for Defense?
LINDA REYNOLDS: It will certainly be a whirlwind – I will be in Washington DC for three days and they’re three jam packed days. As you said I will be meeting my counterpart, the US Defense Secretary. I am meeting with a whole range of other Defence and national security officials from many different agencies. We have a really big work program with the United States Department of Defense so it’s really all about going and prosecuting it to make sure we keep our interests front of mind and that we keep things going.
OLI PETERSON: I’m sure front of mind at the moment and will be a talking point certainly in those discussions in the United States will be what is next for Islamic State with the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend. Is this somewhat of a concern with Australia and US relations? Are you worried that Islamic State might actually strengthen as a result of his death?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Well as you know we were worried about Al Qaeda and ISIS after what has happened in northern Syria, however we do welcome the announcement by President Trump who confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. We think that is a good thing. Let’s be clear, he lead a murderous terrorist group who was responsible for widespread misery and destruction across large parts of Iraq and Syria. He also inspired cowardly attacks by ISIS followers including by Australians, here in Australia and overseas. We think this is a really significant thing towards defeating Daesh and its warped ideology. But we are certainly not taking anything for granted – we have a very long fight ahead of us.
OLI PETERSON: And on the home front, Anthony Albanese has just been in the studio with me at 6PR. He’s announced the Jobs and Skills Australia Agency. Has this got the Government on the back foot? Are you worried about the Opposition putting ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ on top of the agenda once again?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Well Oli, I have to say, I think most people listening to his speech today will feel just a little bit let down. We were told this was going to be a big, bold vision statement – but really listening to this, I think many viewers watching would have thought they were actually watching an episode of Utopia because the big vision was the renaming of an existing Government agency. I think listening to it, Rob Sitch would be incredibly proud – no plan, just the new name for an existing commission. Listening to Albo on your program just now, he did say jobs was the core function for the Labor party, but can I just remind your listeners of Labor’s track record last time they were in Government. Apprenticeships fell by 110,000, they ripped out $1.2 billion in employer incentives to employ young Australians but the really shameful indictment for Labor I think on this front was that when the Howard government left office, unemployment was 4.4% and when Labor left Government it was 5.7%.
So I think the Australian public was very clear at the last election who they trust on jobs and the economy. The statistics speak for themselves – this Government has created 1.5 million new jobs since we have been in Government. We have record numbers of young people and women in the permanent workforce. Listening to Albo, he doesn’t seem to understand the many things this Government already has underway so it was a bit of a letdown and I think Rob Sitch might be looking at this announcement for the new episode of Utopia.
OLI PETERSON: Well alright, jobs is certainly the catchy cry regardless of what your political stripes are. We wish you well in the US and visiting your counterpart there. Linda Reynolds thank you for sparing us a few moments of your time this afternoon on Perth Live. Travel Safe.
LINDA REYNOLDS: Thanks Oli.