MEDIA RELEASE - Ebola Crisis

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

THE HON CATHERINE KING MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT

 

MEDIA RELEASE

EBOLA CRISIS

 

WEDNESDAY, 1 OCTOBER 2014

In Question Time today, the Abbott Government again refused to offer support for skilled, experienced Australians willing and able to fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

This is despite Australia co-sponsoring a unanimous UN Security Council resolution calling on all nations to:

” …facilitate the delivery of assistance, including qualified, specialized and trained personnel and supplies, in response to the Ebola outbreak…”. 

UNSC resolution 2177

18 September 2014

The resolution was co-sponsored by a record 131 countries.

Labor supports the Government’s $8 million financial contribution to help tackle this crisis.  But the rapidly escalating situation demands Australia go further and support specialised personnel who wish to help fight the spread of Ebola.

The United States and the UK have already committed medical teams to the region.

Government claims that Australia cannot care for medical personnel sent to West Africa ignore the fact around a dozen Australian volunteers are already on the ground there dealing with the Ebola crisis.

If required, the Australian Government should negotiate with our international partners to ensure appropriate standby management arrangements for any Australian personnel.

Failure to act now will have incredibly serious consequences.

Of the around 6,500 Ebola cases so far, more than 3,000 people have died.  If we don’t do more, some predictions suggest the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million by 2015.

It also puts international peace and security at risk.

Today, the first case of Ebola in the United States was diagnosed.

If the international community pulls together, the Ebola outbreak may be possible to contain.  But the window of opportunity is closing fast.  That’s why Australia must significantly increase its efforts, immediately.

Urgent calls for assistance have come from across the world:

US President Barack Obama:

“We are not moving fast enough.  We are not doing enough.  Right now, everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic. 

 

“More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities -- whether it is air transport, or medical evacuation, or health care workers, or equipment, or treatment.” 

UN High-Level meeting on Ebola

18 September 2014

 

Médecins Sans Frontières:

“We have been very clear with the government that we are not asking for financial support. We are asking the government to evaluate Australia’s emergency medical capacity and mobilise it on the ground in West Africa.”

MSF Australian executive director Paul McPhun

18 September 2014

 

Australian Medical Association:

“We are witnessing a humanitarian and public health crisis of the highest order.

“The Australian Government can and must do more – much more.

“The AMA is calling on the Government to urgently coordinate the recruitment and deployment of volunteer doctors and other health professionals to West Africa, and provide ongoing practical support such as protective and medical equipment and supplies, transport and accommodation.”

AMA President Brian Owler

18 September 2014

 

 

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SPEECH - MH17 - Response to Tabling of Treaty Between Australia and the Netherlands

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

SPEECH


TUESDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

MH17 - RESPONSE TO TABLING OF TREATY BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND THE NETHERLANDS

 

Of course the Opposition in this, as with all things related to MH17, supports the Government. The Opposition welcomes the tabling of the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

There are dates that stick with us.

The years of war; the days of loss.

September 11, 2001.

October 12, 2002 and October 1 2005, the Bali bombings.

And now July 17. Each of us can no doubt remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard news of the tragic downing of MH17 on the 17th of July this year.

We know that 298 people on board lost their lives, that 38 of the victims called Australia home.

Beyond the dates and the numbers, we have also come to know some of the personal stories of the people on that plane.

Emma Bell, the teacher working in the Northern Territory community of Maningrida, where Aboriginal elders held a smoking ceremony last month to remember her.

Gary and Mona Lee, who migrated to Australia in the 1970s.

Sister Philomene Tiernan, a nun from Sydney.

Perth resident Nick Norris and his three grandchildren.

Evie, Mo and Otis Maslin.

Researchers travelling to the 2014 AIDS conference in Melbourne, including the former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange.

We know so many of the names, so many of the stories, and of course we know a little of the grief of the families.

Much of the past two months have been about coming to terms with what we saw on that tragic day in July.

We’ve seen the efforts that our investigators, part of an international effort, have made, to bring to justice those responsible for this terrible crime. Unexpected, unjust, and unjustifiable.

Of course the shooting down of an unarmed passenger jet in civilian airspace demands answers, and it also demands a reconnection of those grieving families with something of the people that they have lost.

James and Vanessa Rizk who lost their parents, Albert and Maree. They held a memorial service in early August with more than 1000 mourners, and were later able to hold a private family funeral for their parents.

The family of Mary and Gerry Menke from Mallacoota, who said ‘We look forward to receiving Mary and Gerry again soon in the place and the community they loved so much and which loved them.’

The work of returning the remains of those who lost their lives to Australia is phenomenally important to the families, those last objects that their loved ones touched, the things that they were holding and handling on their flight home.

The efforts of the international team have been helping families around the world both understand the source of the crime, and have their loved ones return to them.

One of the pilots, Captain Eugene Choo Jin Leong, was returned to his family for a funeral service in Malaysia.

His friend, another pilot, Azlan Abu Bakar, described flying home from the Netherlands, saying: "It was horrible bringing my very close friend. We used to fly together, and this time we fly together again but in different situation."

And yet as difficult as that journey was, that pilot’s remains were able to rest in an urn in his family home to allow his family to come and pay their respects.

These stories underscore the human tragedy underlying the efforts of Australian personnel in the Ukraine and the Netherlands.

The need for confidence in the investigation from all the loved ones of those 298 victims.

It is a mission that Australian personnel and their international partners have carried out with distinction in extremely challenging circumstance, including reports of a team spending seven hours – at times avoiding arms fire – to retrieve small pieces of debris and a silver necklace.

It is completely unacceptable that participants in this conflict on Ukrainian soil were not able to afford safe passage and security to the international team of experts working on the MH17 crash site.

Russia must accept its share of responsibility for the ongoing instability in the Ukraine, and must fully cooperate with efforts to understand the chain of events which led to this crash.

Australia has been an international leader in the discussion about the investigation, following the moving of resolution 2166 in the UN Security Council.

This is exactly the sort of use that we envisaged for Australia’s representation on the Security Council when we argued so hard that a country of Australia’s stature deserved its place on the Security Council.

Given the seriousness of the tragedy, and the urgency of the efforts by Australian personnel overseas, the Treaty being tabled today forms an important part of our national response.

The Treaty was signed and entered into force on 1 August this year, and acknowledges the responsibilities of Australian personnel, including to respect the sovereignty and laws of the Netherlands.

The Treaty also affords our personnel rights and protections during their important work, including allowing them to carry weapons and wear field uniform.

The arrangements provide that Australian personnel will remain under Australia’s command, and any necessary administrative or disciplinary action will be taken by Australia.

The Opposition notes that the Government relied on the National Interest Exemption to take binding treaty action before the Treaty was tabled in Parliament. We accept the time sensitivity of the situation at hand, and the primacy of affording proper protection to Australian personnel from the Department of Defence and Australian Federal Police.

I welcome the tabling of this Treaty and commend it to Parliament.

ENDS

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TRANSCRIPT - Sky News, Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

SKY NEWS

TUESDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S:  Police Raids, National security, Iraq, Syria, Hong Kong.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Now for more reaction on this story and other related issues, I spoke to the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, Kieran, obviously I can’t add anything to the details because this is information that’s just becoming available now. What I would make is a general comment – our national security agencies, our intelligence agencies have been doing excellent work keeping Australians safe.

GILBERT: Alright well, we can talk specifically about this report on the front page of The Australian then about this super security agency, there’s been a fair bit of speculation that the Government was heading in that direction, Julie Bishop has seemed to push back very strongly against this idea, what’s Labor’s view on that sort of agency, an overarching agency like that?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we’ve received no information from the Government, no briefing along these lines, Julie Bishop says that it’s not something that’s currently before the national security committee or the Cabinet. We’ve heard other criticisms of it from Michael Wesley and people like that. It’s really difficult to see whether this is a serious proposal from the Government or just some internal speculation.

GILBERT: There’s been some- well, a fair bit of strong speculation that this might be necessary because of a lack of coordination in terms of information flow, is that something that you heard separate to this issue that the agencies may not have been working as effectively as they should be?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, I haven’t heard that, I haven’t heard that suggested by any of the security or intelligence agencies or the federal police. They seem to have very good relations between them and very good cooperation and I think that the proof of that is in the pudding. We have in recent years disrupted a number of planned terrorist attacks in Australia, people have been gaoled for that, most recently there’s been activity that’s prevented an alleged plot. So I think the fact that we have managed to keep Australians safe in the way that we have is evidence that the agencies are doing good work.

GILBERT: Julie Bishop seemed to suggest that in the last 24 hours that Labor had not focussed as much as it should have on counter terrorism, hence the need for the Government to stump up more than $600 million in additional funding. What is your response to that criticism?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s extremely disappointing that she should be playing politics at a time like this. I have just described here that our agencies are doing excellent work, those staff - hardworking, dedicated personnel. In terms of funding, we increased funding to ASIO for example by about a third when we were in government and we increased their staffing levels by about a third. It’s just very disappointing that the Foreign Minister would be playing politics with this sort of very important issue.

GILBERT: Let’s look at a related matter and that being the fight against Islamic State. What do you say to criticism that the Australian leadership has not provided a clear enough, a cogent enough, strategic argument as to why we’re getting into this in the first place?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the argument on Iraq is very clear, we’ve been invited by a democratically elected government to help protect their civilians from an imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. That’s very clear, you couldn’t have clearer logic and frankly, you couldn’t have a clearer responsibility on Australians. We think of ourselves as good international citizens, we- when Labor was in government we ran for a position on the Security Council which of course increases our levels of international responsibility. We’ve had Foreign Ministers like Gareth Evans who’ve been involved in international moves to institute a responsibility to protect doctrine that says the world community, when a government can’t look after its own people for some reason, the world has a responsibility to protect so that we don’t see the mass atrocity crimes such as we’ve seen in Rwanda and Srebrenica and many places in the past. So that logic is clear, Syria becomes a much more complex question because the legal authority doesn’t exist for the same sort of intervention, however the humanitarian need is great and I think our responsibility as Australians at this stage is to focus on what we could do much better to assist the people of Syria, millions of whom have been displaced from their home. Around half the country has been displaced from their homes, millions in neighbouring countries, millions moved, about 200,000 dead. We could do much better than we are with humanitarian assistance.

GILBERT: Ok well given the blurred lines when it comes to Syria and when it comes to Labor’s view on Australian involvement there, what’s your view on the US involvement, because they have been leading the airstrikes against IS targets there?

PLIBERSEK: And that really has to be a matter for the United States, they have brought together a coalition of countries neighbouring Syria. They’ve got Arab league cooperation in what they’re doing. I think Australia has to make decisions that are in Australia’s interests and according to our laws and values and at this stage we haven’t seen a clear evidence of a legal basis for intervention and we haven’t, most particularly, we haven’t had laid out what would be our objective, who would we be fighting alongside of, how would we determine when we are successful? These are questions that you would really want to answer before you engage in military action.

GILBERT: I guess though there is the other argument that if you don’t target IS in Syria you’re not really targeting their strongholds because they are very, very strong in northern Syria, more so than Iraq.

PLIBERSEK: Look, I certainly understand the proposition that’s being put that you can’t have a- where you’ve got a porous border and people- terrorists moving back and forth across a porous border, you can’t ignore what’s happening in Syria. What I’m saying is that Australian military involvement is not the way that we should be involved at the moment, that we could provide much greater humanitarian assistance, of course we should be working with countries in the neighbourhood and countries around the world to starve IS of resources but it is much better if this is- if there is any military action that it is undertaken by countries in the region protecting their region from this threat.

GILBERT: To finish now on the Hong Kong protests, are you confident that the Chinese leadership will show restraint in the face of these ongoing protests from tens of thousands on the streets of Hong Kong?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly the signs over the last couple of days is that there has been a good change in the feeling of the protests, that they’ve become less tense, more celebratory. We are in Australia very strong supporters of democracy, one vote, one value, but it’s not for me to comment on the internal mechanisms for democracy in other countries.

GILBERT: But there is a legacy of cracking down on students as we all know, sadly in China, you’d be hoping the leadership shows restraint in this case.

PLIBERSEK: And certainly the indications over the last 24 hours is that the authorities have stepped down the pressure on the protestors and that the mood of the protest has changed significantly, which of course is something to celebrate.

GILBERT: Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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MEDIA RELEASE - Australia Must Contribute More to Fight Against West Africa Ebola Crisis

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

THE HON CATHERINE KING MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT

 

MEDIA RELEASE

AUSTRALIA MUST CONTRIBUTE MORE TO FIGHT AGAINST WEST AFRICA EBOLA CRISIS

 MONDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Abbott Government must listen to the pleas from medical experts and contribute more to the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by supporting skilled and experienced Australians who are willing and able to assist.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the worsening Ebola crisis as “unparalleled in modern times” with the disease now having killed more than 3,000 people.

Just because the Ebola crisis is not right on our border doesn't mean that we shouldn't be concerned about the scale of this humanitarian disaster.

The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is fast closing. As President Obama said last week in a speech to a high level UN meeting on the crisis, “everybody has to do more”.

In that speech, President Obama made clear the urgent need in West Africa is for nations like Australia “to contribute critical assets and capabilities — whether it is air transport, or medical evacuation, or health care workers, or equipment, or treatment.”

Labor supported the Government’s $8 million in financial contributions, but believes the crisis now demands Australia go further and support specialised personnel who wish to contribute to tackle this rapidly escalating crisis.

Government claims that Australia cannot care for medical personnel sent to West Africa ignore the fact around a dozen Australian volunteers are already on the ground there dealing with the Ebola crisis.

The US and UK have already committed medical teams to the region.

If required, the Australian Government should negotiate with our international partners to ensure appropriate standby management arrangements for any Australian personnel in West Africa.

Australia is a prosperous and generous nation and our Government should do all it can to assist this humanitarian crisis while it is still possible to contain this Ebola outbreak.

 

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MEDIA RELEASE - Australia Must Heed President Obama's Call and Contribute More to Ebola Crisis

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS & INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

THE HON CATHERINE KING MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH

MEMBER FOR BALLARAT

 

MEDIA RELEASE

 

AUSTRALIA MUST HEED PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CALL AND CONTRIBUTE MORE TO EBOLA CRISIS

 FRIDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Abbott Government must heed President Obama’s call and contribute more to the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by supporting skilled and experienced Australians who are willing and able to assist.

In a speech overnight to a high level UN meeting, President Obama has called for nations like Australia with the resources, to urgently do more to fight the Ebola crisis.

“We are not moving fast enough.  We are not doing enough.  Right now, everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic. 

 

“More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities -- whether it is air transport, or medical evacuation, or health care workers, or equipment, or treatment.” 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the worsening Ebola crisis as “unparalleled in modern times” with the disease now having killed more than 2,800 people and infected nearly 6,000 people in West Africa.

The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is fast closing. As President Obama said “everybody has to do more”.

Australia is a prosperous and generous nation and our Government should do all it can to assist this humanitarian crisis while it is still possible to contain this Ebola outbreak.

Labor supported the Government’s $8 million in financial contributions, but believes the crisis now demands Australia go further and support specialised personnel who wish to contribute to tackle this rapidly escalating crisis.

 

 

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STATEMENT - Visit to India

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS & INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

SENATOR LISA SINGH

SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER

LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA

STATEMENT

VISIT TO INDIA

 MONDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Tanya Plibersek, and Senator Lisa Singh will visit India this week.

Ms Plibersek and Senator Singh will meet with senior ministers, officials, academics, and non-government organisations.

India is one of Australia’s closest international partners and friends.

We cooperate on everything from education and research to defence and counter-terrorism.

And there are around 400,000 people of Indian ancestry living in Australia today who are significant contributors to our vibrant, successful multicultural society.

Australian Labor has a proud history of friendship with India stretching back as far as the Chifley Government’s close engagement with a newly independent India.

More recently, the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments elevated the relationship to an official Strategic Partnership.

Ms Plibersek and Ms Singh will use their visit to strengthen and deepen the relationship between our two great nations.

 

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TRANSCRIPT - Today Show, Friday 19 September 2014

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9

FRIDAY, 19 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Anti-Terror Raids; Iraq

BEN FORDHAM, PRESENTER: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us this morning along with the Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. I might start with you first of all if I can, Tanya. Yesterday like all of us waking up, watching what we saw and then hearing the detail about this plot, how frightened are you?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I would not say I am frightened, I would say that I am determined - to ensure that our Australian security and intelligence agencies that have done such a good job of preventing this attack on Australian soil have the resources and the authority to do what they need to keep Australia safe.

FORDHAM: Malcolm, does it scare you? It scares me when I hear about a plot to kidnap someone off the streets, possibly to behead them, to film them, wrap the body in the ISIL flag and send the video back to the Middle East to distribute worldwide, that scares the living you know what out of me.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Well this is not a time to be scared, this is a time to be determined as Tanya said, to be determined and united in our resolve to support our police, our security services and all of the instruments of government to protect the community and they are doing a very good job and they will continue to do that job. But the other thing that we have got to do is make it very, very clear that we are not going to be intimidated by terrorists like this. We must- it is absolutely important that all of us go about our work, our normal business, confident in the knowledge that we are a great country, very strong and united country, and we have the security apparatus to protect our citizens.

FORDHAM: Tanya, Malcolm says now is the time to be determined and united. Not everyone is united. There were protests last night in Lakemba, small protests, I should point out, but there are people who are concerned that the terror raids yesterday, they suggested these are some kind of conspiracy here to pick on Muslims in our community. What would you say to those people?

PLIBERSEK: Well this certainly is not any sort of conspiracy. This is based on intelligence work that has been going on over some time. But the other thing I would say is that those protests yesterday were small protests and what we saw that was much larger was the barbecue on the weekend with Australian Muslims rejecting the small number of extremists in their midst. I am not going to make any comment about this most recent investigation but I can tell you David Irvine, the outgoing ASIO chief, has said in the past that most of their good intelligence comes from members of the Muslim community who are talking about family members or associates who are engaging in behaviour that is troubling to them. So you’ve got to remember that this group of people yesterday, nut jobs for sure, but a very small section of the community.

FORDHAM: Fair comment, nut jobs.

TURNBULL: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Can I just make one really important point, and I think Tanya and I are on a unity ticket on this too. Those people who- what do the terrorists want us to do? They want to frighten us obviously. But they want to get the community to demonise the whole Muslim community. They want- those people who want to attack Muslims in general, attack Islam in general, are doing the terrorists work.

PLIBERSEK: Yep.

TURNBULL: Because the strategy of the terrorists is to enrage the broader community, get the broader community to then demonise, in this case the Muslim community, which will cause more Muslims to support the extremists. So it is really important that we recognise, as David Irvine has said, we are talking about a small number of extremists, nut jobs, fanatics, whatever you want to call them, really bad people, and we must recognise that the vast bulk of the Muslims in Australia are good, patriotic Australians and we have to get our arms around them because they are our best allies in the fight against extremism.

FORDHAM: It is a very good point isn’t it, Tanya, those with evil intentions are trying to wedge greater Australia-

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely.

FORDHAM: And wedge the peace loving Muslim community because if they can try and show to other people ‘look, we’re being picked on here’ then they increase their numbers. What can we do to try and deal with, particularly young men, let’s face it, they seem to be young men freshly out of school, and in many cases they have broken away from their family units and broken away from the friendship groups and they fall into these cells and only hang out with the same people over and over who say the same rubbish in their heads. What can you do to grab those young men away from those thoughts and those groups?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is very important- we had a program when we were in Government called countering violent extremism, and the funding for that was cut in the Budget but it has been restored by the Government now, so I give credit to the Government for restoring that funding. Programs like that, you support community leaders to engage with young men, respectable community leaders, community leaders who can provide guidance about how to grow up to be a good, young man, that does not mean engaging in this extremist sort of behaviour, but engaging with the Australian community, finishing school, getting a job, being part of society rather than setting yourself apart from it.

FORDHAM: We saw your boss, Bill Shorten, and also your boss, Tony Abbott, farewelling some of our troops yesterday. There were some who are arguing that our involvement in Iraq is somehow going to add to the terror threat here back home. Malcolm?

TURNBULL: I do not buy that. I think the terror threat is real here now and I do not- what we have to do, ‘we’ being the collective world, the global community and in particular, as Julie Bishop has said, the other Arab countries in the region, in the Middle East, what we have to do is combine to extinguish this ISIL group and demonstrate that they are not the all victorious, concrete army that they are holding themselves out to do it. I mean, the tragedy is that they have been successful because of the collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul recently and that- they have to be pushed back, they have to be taught a very, very palpable lesson.

PLIBERSEK: And I think the thing to add to that is just as Malcolm has said, we cannot allow the behaviour of terrorists at home to govern our behaviour. We cannot respond- if the threat is that Australia is involved in protecting civilians in Iraq, you will become a target. Well, we cannot allow that to control our behaviour either. Australia needs to make decisions that are in the best interests of Australia as a responsible global citizen and one of those decisions is to do exactly what we are doing, which is to support the democratically elected government of Iraq to protect its citizens.

FORDHAM: I know you are used are arguing a point but clearly this is one where there is no argument, it is fantastic to hear that and great to see you, thank you very much Tanya Plibersek-

PLIBERSEK: Great to be here.

TURNBULL: Thank you very much.

FORDHAM: Tanya Plibersek and Malcolm Turnbull this Friday morning on Today.

ENDS

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OPINION PIECE - Australia's Involvement in Iraq

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

OPINION PIECE

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GUARDIAN, 18 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

AUSTRALIA’S INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ

  

On the sixth of April, 1994, Hutu extremists began a shocking genocide of ethnic minorities in Rwanda.  The world condemned it, but took no action.  Just 100 days later, 800 000 people had been senselessly slaughtered.

Now, twenty years on, we grapple with the evil of ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria.  But this time, I am hopeful that as an international community we won’t look back and say we did nothing in the face of mass atrocity crimes.

There are confirmed instances of IS engaging in widespread ethnic and religious cleansing, targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, human trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, and the besieging of entire communities.  There are reports of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, thousands injured and almost two million people who have fled their homes.  These reports are so serious that the United Nations Human Rights Council has authorised an investigation into mass atrocity crimes in Iraq.

The horror of Rwanda and similar tragedies have caused the world to consider what our responsibility is to protect civilians where their own government is unwilling or unable to.  What emerged was a new international doctrine: the ‘responsibility to protect’.

Former Labor foreign minister, Gareth Evans, championed this idea, and its acceptance by the UN.

He uses a set of criteria to judge when ‘responsibility to protect’ should apply. On the current question of Iraq, these principles provide Labor a very useful framework to help guide whether we support Australian involvement – both now and into the future.

The criteria include whether there is just cause, the right intention, whether it’s a last resort, the action has legitimate authority, is proportionate, and has a reasonable prospect of success.

On the current information, Labor’s assessment is that these criteria have been met for Iraq.  Australia and the world have a ‘responsibility to protect’ and an obligation to act.

When Australians hear their government talk of involvement in Iraq they have good reason to be cautious.

The disaster of the 2003 invasion colours every debate. And we should never forget its lessons.

As I said in a letter presented to then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice back in 2003 – the Bush administration, the Blair administration, and our own Howard administration rushed in.  They went in on the basis of false claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and before weapons inspectors had time to complete their work.

The result? Nearly a decade of conflict, hundreds of thousands dead, and significant instability in the region.

In the context of this history, it is right that people urge caution now.

While history should inform our actions, it should not cloud a sober assessment of the facts of the current situation.  The situation today is very different from 2003.

In 2003, Australia was one of four countries to take action in Iraq.  Today, we’re one of about forty, including many countries from the Middle East, and countries that did not sign up to the 2003 invasion.

In 2003 we went in against the wishes of the government of Iraq and against the wishes of many Iraqis.  Today we’ve been asked by the democratically elected government of Iraq to help fight off an immediate threat to its citizens – and action has the backing of the UN Secretary-General.

In 2003, the objectives of our intervention in Iraq were flimsy.  Today the clear objective is to help the Iraqi government protect innocent civilians from mass atrocity crimes.

Labor has supported Australia’s involvement so far.  But that support comes with important considerations.

We’ve been clear that we do not support the deployment of Australian ground combat units to directly engage in fighting IS.

We believe Australia’s military involvement in Iraq should continue only as long as is necessary to place the Iraqi government and its forces in a position to take full and effective responsibility for their own security.

We believe if the Iraqi government and its forces adopt policies or engage in actions that are unacceptable to Australia, or if our involvement is ineffective – our support should cease.

And as an important accountability, if Australia’s engagement was to continue beyond a matter of weeks, Labor will ask the Prime Minister to formally update the parliament at least every three months.  Each update should detail what our efforts have achieved and what progress we have made towards the conclusion of our involvement.

The conflict in Syria has fed the rise of IS.

Around 200,000 people have been killed in Syria.  The scale of the humanitarian disaster has seen the impacts spill over into the region.  More than 9 million displaced Syrians have to go somewhere, and that has seen neighbours such as Lebanon and Jordan take in millions of refugees.

But Labor does not support taking action in Syria similar to that being taken in Iraq.  There is no clear evidence that such Australian involvement could successfully provide relief to the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in Syria.  It’s not clear which of the forces on the ground we could support.  And there is no clear international support or authority for that kind of action.

Our immediate efforts in Syria should focus on increased humanitarian assistance, and the international community should continue to work, including through the Security Council, to end the fighting in Syria.

The UN has called for $6.5 billion in aid for the Syria crisis, the largest ever appeal for funds.  Australia, under the Coalition, has pledged just $30 million or so in aid – a sadly inadequate response to an enormous humanitarian need.  And we have agreed to take just 2,200 refugees from Syria and 2,200 from Iraq (as part of our regular intake) when millions are displaced from their homes.

Labor believes Australia should be doing more.  We can give greater financial support.  We can take more refugees from the region.  In Government Labor increased the humanitarian refugee program to 20,000 places.

The Abbott Government took a backward step and cut our humanitarian program to 13,750 places.  This limits Australia’s ability as a good global citizen in times like this to be able to assist people fleeing violence and persecution.
Certainly, Labor believes the intake of 4,400 refugees from Iraq and Syria announced by the Government should be in addition to the existing 13,750 places in its scaled back humanitarian program.

As a party of social justice and compassion, Labor believes there are circumstances where Australia has a responsibility to protect.  The current situation in Iraq is one such circumstance.

Labor will work constructively with the Government, but as an opposition we also have a responsibility to question – to carefully scrutinise the approach put forward by the Government.

We’ll look at the facts and make sensible judgments at every step.  Labor’s Shadow National Security Committee is meeting regularly to carefully work through these complex, difficult issues.

National security is above politics, but such important decisions are never beyond question, interrogation, or criticism.  We have supported debate in the Parliament and will continue to do so.  We have also requested the Government keep the Australian people abreast of the circumstances and the effectiveness of our involvement.

The decision to send Australian men and women into harm’s way should never be taken lightly, and Labor never will.

Our responsibility to the people of Iraq is to ensure any action Australia is involved in leaves the place better, not worse.

On the current facts, Labor sees no option but to act.  To do otherwise could condemn innocent Iraqis to the same fate as the 800,000 Rwandans brutally murdered in just 100 days, two decades ago.

ENDS

 

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STATEMENT - Visit to India

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS & INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

SENATOR LISA SINGH

SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER

LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA

 

STATEMENT

 

VISIT TO INDIA

 

THURSDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Tanya Plibersek, and Senator Lisa Singh will travel to India next week.

Ms Plibersek and Senator Singh will meet with senior ministers, officials, academics, and non-government organisations.

India is one of Australia’s closest international partners and friends.

We cooperate on everything from education and research to defence and counter-terrorism.

And there are around 400,000 people of Indian ancestry living in Australia today who are significant contributors to our vibrant, successful multicultural society.

Australian Labor has a proud history of friendship with India stretching back as far as the Chifley Government’s close engagement with a newly independent India.

More recently, the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments elevated the relationship to an official Strategic Partnership.

Ms Plibersek and Ms Singh will use their visit to strengthen and deepen the relationship between our two great nations.

 

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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National with Waleed Aly, Wednesday 17 September 2014

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC RADIO NATIONAL WITH WALEED ALY

WEDNESDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Iraq; Ebola; The Abbott Government’s Broken Promises.

WALEED ALY, PRESENTER: Joining us now is Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Thank you very much for your time.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Pleasure.

ALY: I’ll get to the Ebola thing in a moment because I think it’s actually very interesting but let’s start with Iraq. I’ve spoken with you before about this concept of mission creep and I think last time we spoke it was a narrow mission that we were contemplating to prevent genocide. Now it seems to have evolved into something much more than that. Are these the limits or will this continue to evolve?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australia needs to be very clear that our objective is the humanitarian objective that includes helping the democratically elected Government of Iraq to fight off the threat that is IS. The Government of Iraq are able to ask for our help. They’ve not just asked for Australian help they’ve got at the Paris Conference around 30 nations signed up it seems as though other nations are also already coming on board including a number of nations in the region in the Middle East to help the Government fight off IS. I think we’ve been very clear that’s Australia’s role. Beyond that I don’t think – well we certainly would have to have a conversation with the Australian people about anything beyond that, I don’t see a role for Australia beyond that immediate support for humanitarian intervention which prevents genocide.

ALY: But there is no genocide happening right now, we don’t need to prevent genocide by supporting the Iraqi military to re-establish control of Iraq do we?

PLIBERSEK: Well there are thousands of people who have lost their lives. There’s 1.8 million people who have been displaced in Iraq from their homes. I’m not really sure that you could down play the seriousness of what’s going on there.

ALY: But can we call it a genocide? As I understand it there was the threat of genocide but then there were Iraqi airstrikes and there was the arming of particularly Kurdish forces and then there was that famous altercation where ISIS lost control of the dam and so on and so the genocidal threat seems to have abated. If that was our aim shouldn’t we have drawn a line under that?

PLIBERSEK: So now we’re only talking about mass atrocity crimes and we shouldn’t worry, is that the proposition you’re making?

ALY: No this is the question I suppose I’m asking about the strictness of the definition. If it’s about preventing genocide from happening that seems to have been achieved is it now about something more than that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure you can fairly say that we have prevented the mass atrocity crimes that IS is determined to commit in Iraq as they have committed them in Syria. You’ve got thousands of people who have lost their lives, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has sent investigative forces to northern Iraq so they can collect information about these mass atrocity crimes in an effort to hold people to account in the future. IS is determined to kill people who are of a different religion or ethnicity to them. If they’ve been limited in their success by the Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga forces we spoke of last time, fighting back successfully in part because of the assistance of Australia and other countries that’s a good thing but I’m not sure that that would lead us to be complacent and to say we are completely free of the threat of genocide now.

ALY: There are briefings that you will be getting that none of us get with your role in Opposition of course the Government would be giving you those briefings as well or at least inviting you in on them. What seems to underlie all of this is that ISIS represents a serious threat to Australia. Can you give us an indication of precisely the scope of that threat and the mechanism, can you describe it precise terms? Because it’s not immediately clear when you consider this is a movement on the other side of the world that seems to be importing people rather than exporting them.

PLIBERSEK: Well obviously I can’t talk in detail about the content of security briefings that we receive but you only need to open the newspapers to know that there are Australians fighting with IS and the risk, aside from the people they’re fighting in Iraq and Syria, is that when they come home they would use some of the particularly nasty skills that they’ve developed overseas against Australians on home soil. That is the risk that we have to protect against and we are of course determined to do everything we can to support our security agencies in keeping Australians safe at home. But there is another issue and we spoke about it last time that the world community looked on at Rwanda and the 800,000 people who lost their lives there and said it’s terrible someone should do something, you know make it stop, but took no effective action and 800,000 people lost their lives. So however cautious we are, rightly cautious we are, about Australian involvement again in Iraq and what a disaster it was in 2003, we do have a responsibility to protect and we can debate the parameters that we put around our involvement there. I think it’s very important that the Prime Minister continues to update the Parliament on exactly what the Australian mission is, what role we play, how we will judge when we’ve been successful, what does that mean for the withdrawal of Australian troops. All of that should be part of our public discussion through the Parliament to the people of Australia. But I don’t think we can turn our backs on what is a serious humanitarian disaster.

ALY: Is it really a choice though between military involvement and turning our backs? Is that really a fair binary?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure whether you’re suggesting that people should have a good hard talking to IS and maybe they won’t kill people. We would always prefer diplomatic means to deal with a situation like this if there was a sensible leadership with a grievance that you could discuss it would be one thing but that’s not what we’re talking about with this organisation. I think that it is at the invitation of the Government of Iraq we have provided humanitarian assistance which includes some military assistance. You’ve got to remember this is not the invasion of 2003, we’re talking about several dozen countries involved not the four that were involved in 2003. This is something that has the backing of the United Nations –

ALY: Oh, we seem to have lost Tanya Plibersek. We might see if we can get her back because the other aspect of this story that I wanted to talk to her about was the Ebola response the Ebola crisis which is a real crisis, I mean not to say that the ISIS one isn’t but this is something that Obama administration has said that they’re sending 3000 troops to deal with this. So we’ll see if we can explore that with Tanya Plibersek who I understand is with us now. Thank you very much for being back with us, sorry if we let you go there it wasn’t anything you said.

PLIBERSEK: I don’t know what happened.

ALY: No don’t take it personally. We should move on to the Ebola thing, although –

PLIBERSEK: I just want to make one final point on the humanitarian mission. Of course our military contribution is not the beginning and end of what Australia should be doing, our humanitarian support including for the UN agencies who are trying to get aid to desperate people in Syria should be much greater than it is. We should, as Bill Shorten said, be taking more refugees from the area. There are other ways of helping that we should engage as well.

ALY: So let’s talk about the Ebola outbreak. The Obama administration has announced today that sending 3000 troops to help stem the outbreak. He says that this is a potential threat to global security. Have we been as a world, particularly the western world of developed nations, have we been a bit slow moving on this?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah I think you could very easily say that we’ve been a bit slow moving on this. You’ve seen about 5000 cases now and about 1 in 2 of the people who contract Ebola are dying from it. One of the reasons of course is that the traditional practices of washing the body after death mean that more people come into contact with blood and bodily fluids and that of course is the main source of infection. So we could very usefully be working more closely with African health authorities on the basic sort of precautions that you take with that type of disease that [inaudible].

ALY: I think we’re starting to struggle with that line. I might chance my arm with one more question. Hopefully we can get there. The Prime Minister has spoken today about Australia making a contribution, $7 million, an extra $7 million. Is that enough, is money what we should be doing or is it other things that we should be doing?

PLIBERSEK: Look of course the money is welcome but it’s in the context that we cut $118 million from aid to Africa in this Government’s first budget, and we also cut $2.8 million from the World Health Organisation, which of course is one of the agencies that is leading the response to Ebola. I think it’s clear from what Médecins Sans Frontières have said of course money is welcome but they’re also asking for expertise and people on the ground and we have some excellent researchers here, clinicians, health professionals that are terrifically good at working on communicable diseases if there is some way that we can support our people as well as sending dollars I think that would be ideal.

ALY: Tony Abbott has spoken today about doing an annual performance review of his ministry. He was asked about that today this is what he said:

[Recording of Tony Abbott]: Some are getting A’s some are getting A+’s but the fact is this is a competent and trustworthy government which promised that we would stop the boats, that we would scrap the carbon tax, that we would build the roads, that we would get the Budget back under control and that’s precisely what we’re doing.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek your counterpart Julie Bishop would she be in the A or the A+ category.

PLIBERSEK: Well she’s done a number of things that I agree with and support and a number of things I don’t agree with and don’t support including cutting $7.6 billion from Australia’s aid budget so that at times like this when we’re trying to help in Iraq and in Syria and in a number of African countries with the outbreak of Ebola we're in very difficult times when it comes to our aid budget. I’d like to ask if he’s marking people on keeping promises what he’d give himself because he promised no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC or SBS, no new taxes and he’s broken every one of those promises. Does he get an F for that?

ALY: Well I think you just give yourself an overall mark and it’s either an A or an A+ and just go with that. Actually one question I do want to ask you and it’s one I had in mind as we were talking and I lost the connection with you. It’s a difficult question for us to think about but I think we have to given how military intervention has gone for us in the past and that is by doing this we are almost certainly going to be killing civilians, is there a point at which the loss of civilian lives that we inflict directly means that the mission is not worth it. So is there a number that you might be able to identify or ball park so that we can say ‘this is when it’s gone wrong’?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think one of the reasons that I’m so dead certain that 2003 was so bad was because of the incredible number of civilians that lost their lives in that conflict. At this stage our involvement is 600 people, we expect that Australian involvement will be mostly in an advisory role. We’re not talking about sending platoons of soldiers off to fight on the ground in Iraq so it is a different scenario again to 2003.

ALY: But we are contributing to airstrikes which will kill people including civilians.

PLIBERSEK: And it is very important that we get the targeting as right as possible and that’s why our soldiers, very specialised soldiers, are involved as they are. But civilians –

ALY: Do you think our history is great though?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that civilian deaths are never acceptable but right now we have thousands of civilians being killed by IS because of their race or their religion or because they're the same religion and they don’t agree with IS tactics. We’ve got women and children being sold into slavery, we’ve got forced conversions, we’ve got particularly brutal ways of killing people including aid workers who of course only ever enter conflict zones to help the people who are affected by these terrible conflicts. So yes civilian deaths have to be in the calculations of any military action and are a terrible burden in the decision making during a military action, I mean a moral and ethical burden to think through as you’ve identified. But we are right now preventing the loss of life.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Waleed.

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: DAN DORAN 0427 464 350

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