TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH WENDY KINGSTON ON NINE NEWS 5PM EDITION
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
TOPICS: Removal of combat restrictions.
WENDY KINGSTON: Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, joins us live now from our Canberra studio. Minister, thank you very much for your time. Tell us what specific jobs will women now be able to take on?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well currently women are excluded from about 7 percent of roles, Navy clearance divers, infantry, artillery and also Air Force Defence guards. We're opening all of those roles up for women, and we believe that's right as a matter of principle; we shouldn't exclude women just because they're women, we shouldn't exclude them on the basis of their sex, and if they have got the physical and psychological and intellectual attributes to do the jobs then they should be able to apply like anyone else.
WENDY KINGSTON: Now these changes are going to be phased in over five years. Why so long?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we've said up to five years. We don't want to rush it, we want to make sure that we get it right. We also want to make sure that it's not just a paper entry, we want to make sure that we've got the training right, that we've got the standards right, but we've also made it clear it'll be a staged and a phased implementation. Some of the roles will be implemented fully before others. And so whilst we're not indicating which ones, the Navy clearance divers role may well take a longer period of time than Air Force Defence guard. So it'll be staged and implemented over that period of time.
There's some confidence we might be able to do it earlier but we don't want to fall short or cut ourselves short, that's why we've given ourselves plenty of time to implement it properly.
WENDY KINGSTON: Yeah, because it is a significant cultural change for the Defence Force. Are you expecting to meet any resistance with these changes?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well like any major change, and this is a change which comes after 110 years of the Army, 100 years of Navy and 90 years of Air Force, so this is a significant and major change and different people will have different views.
The Government and the Service Chiefs, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Service Chiefs strongly believe that this is the right thing to do, but we want to make sure that it gets community and general support, and implementing it over time, taking care about it, making sure there's no reduction in standards, making sure that we still are ensuring that the best people suited to a role can do it, will help overcome any cultural difference or any management difficulties.
But overall we think the community will very strongly support it and we also believe that overall the services themselves and the Defence Force generally will welcome it.
WENDY KINGSTON: Finally on another topic; Kevin Rudd's gaffe on radio. First of all before I get you to comment, let's have a listen to it.
STEPHEN SMITH: Sure.
KEVIN RUDD: You know something I'm a very happy little Vegemite being Prime Minister - being Foreign Minister of Australia. Your question was about being Prime Minister. There you've caught me getting off a plane, jet lagged. And as for the Prime Minister, as I said before and said in the United States, I fully support the Prime Minister.
WENDY KINGSTON: He doesn't even miss a beat. Was it a Freudian slip do you think, Minister?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I was asked about it at a press conference this morning when I was announcing the changes to combat roles for women, and I was asked 'what about his slip of the tongue?', and I said 'which one the Vegemite or the other one?'
Slips of the tongue occur all the time in my business and yours, I wouldn't read too much into it.
WENDY KINGSTON: All right. Minister, thank you very much for your time this afternoon, we appreciate it.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you. Thanks very much.