Liberal Minister Roasted For Embarrassing On-Air Backflip

It took just 17 seconds between "no I don't believe that" and "he's absolutely right" for defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, in an embarrassing stumble during a Sky News interview on Sunday morning.

Reynolds, a Liberal senator from Western Australia, was promoted to federal cabinet just last week, replacing the departing Steve Ciobo as minister for defence industry.

She joined Sky News host David Speers on Sunday morning, talking about issues from gender in politics -- Reynolds' recent promotion means Scott Morrison's cabinet has the most women ever -- the contest over who will replace the retiring Julie Bishop in the seat of Curtin, and Australia's new submarine fleet.

But it was an exchange about wages towards the end of the long on-air interview that has set tongues wagging on Sunday, where Reynolds first criticised her own colleague's comments, then quickly backflipped.

Speers, who has a reputation for tripping up politicians who come on his show, asked about comments on sluggish wage growth made by finance minister Mathias Cormann in another Sky interview on Friday.

Cormann said it was "a deliberate feature of our economic architecture" that "wages can adjust in the context of economic conditions".

Speers asked Reynolds whether she agreed with the sentiment raised by her Senate colleague Cormann.

"No, I don’t believe that, absolutely not," she answered.

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It appeared she believed the comment to have been made by Labor leader Bill Shorten, as she added: "for Bill Shorten to even suggest that, I think, shows a fundamental lack of understanding about economics."

Speers quickly intervened however, pointing out that the comments he quoted actually came from Cormann, not Shorten. It led to quite an extraordinary backflip.

"He’s absolutely right," Reynolds answered, after fumbling for words for a few seconds.

"But again my point is though, for Bill Shorten, if you want wages growth, you need to have a strong economy and you need to have a growing economy."


The slip-up was quickly pounced upon by Labor shadow minister Jim Chalmers, who tweeted a clip of the interview. Shorten's own media unit mocked the exchange as well.

Labor's shadow employment minister Brendan O'Connor called the interview a "fail".

"This morning’s gaffe by newly minted Minister Linda Reynolds was not only cringe worthy, it clarified, once again, this government’s intention to keep wages as low as possible," he said.

Others called it "hilarious", "embarrassing" and "awkward".

Several described it as a "train wreck".

Reynolds tried to get back on the offensive after the stumble, claiming Labor were promoting "politics of envy" and defending her party's economic management by claiming "this is a structural lag but it is closing, and there has been some positive signs now in wages growth".

Elsewhere in the interview, Reynolds was asked about Morrison's comments  on International Women's Day -- which were criticised around the world -- that "we don't want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse".

She claimed the PM's comments had been "completely misrepresented and I think somewhat mischievously".

"The Prime Minister's point was all about aspiration versus envy," Reynolds said.

"We want everybody to have equality of opportunity but unlike the Labor Party we don't want anybody's success, man or woman,  to come at the expense of another. We want everybody to have equality of opportunity."