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

 

SATURDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2014

Today it's been revealed the United States has asked the Abbott Government to significantly step up its efforts to fight the Ebola crisis.

Reports say the formal request, received through our embassy in Washington, asks the Abbott Government to build three Ebola field hospitals in West Africa and send 100 health workers to staff them.

It's also understood the United States has requested the Abbott Government make a further $30 million contribution to the United Nations Ebola fund.

A request like this, from our close friend the United States, shows the Abbott Government has done nowhere near enough to respond to this serious crisis.

Today, Australia assumes the Presidency of the UN Security Council, so it's time for the Abbott Government to start showing some leadership on this global issue.

Labor has been saying for weeks the Abbott Government needs to do much more, including supporting Australian health workers willing and able to go and fight Ebola at its source in West Africa.

We know going to help fight Ebola in West Africa would not be without risk which is why it’s important safety protocols are in place to support Australian personnel who volunteer to serve.

But the Australian Medical Association says many doctors are willing and able to go.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says more than 350 Australian nurses are willing and able to go.

The United States has reportedly offered training and support for Australian personnel.

The United States has also confirmed its high-quality field hospital in West Africa would be available for health workers, including Australians, if the worst should happen and they became infected with the virus.

Reports also indicate this is the third request the United States has made to Australia for help.  The United Kingdom has made a formal request for more help from Australia too.

Those requests come on top of calls from the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, the UN Security Council, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Crisis Group, the President of Sierra Leone, Oxfam, and the Public Health Association of Australia.

Yet the Abbott Government has failed to take action.

The Abbott Government is running out of excuses not to act.

If the Abbott Government is serious about helping to get this crisis under control, there isn’t a moment to lose – it must immediately step up and do more.

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, Friday 31 October 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

ABC NEWS 24, CAPITAL HILL

FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

 

Subject/s: Ebola; Climate Change.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: The Federal Opposition is continuing to keep the pressure on the Government over its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Labor maintains the Government should send Australian health care workers to West Africa but the Government won't agree while there's no suitable arrangement to treat any workers who become infected. The Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek, has been in the United States this week for meetings with Government officials. She joined me from New York a little earlier.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: In all of the conversations I have had including with UN representatives today, with White House personnel, department personnel and the Ebola Coordinator - it is being made very clear that there is an expectation that countries like Australia that have strong health systems, that have personnel that are trained and willing and able to assist would make a greater contribution. Indeed the US ambassador to the United Nations has said very clearly that it's all very well to sign on to these resolutions but it's a bit rich then not to send medical staff or provide hospital beds once you've made these great pronouncements. I think it's very clear there is an expectation that countries like Australia should do more.

DOYLE: When she said it's a bit rich, what kind of language did she use there?

PLIBERSEK: I think the exact words were something like it's terrific to sign on to resolutions and to compliment countries like the United States and the United Kingdom for the contribution that they're making but then it's a problem if you don't then send docs and beds - I think were the exact words. So there is a clear expectation, the President of the United States has also said on a number of occasions now that what's really needed is a much greater effort from the international community, particularly in terms of sending personnel.

DOYLE: The United States has been looking at opening a field hospital in West Africa to treat any health workers who get infected. Have you received any update on the progress for that?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, I've been told that it's imminent. It should open in a matter of days, that it will be a facility that would take any medical personnel that were affected, that needed medical treatment. So a lot of doctors and medical personnel will tell you that with a virus like Ebola it is a relatively simple treatment. You need to keep up fluids and nutrition, keep the patient clean and comfortable and you can best do that as close to the point of diagnosis and as close to the time of diagnosis as possible so the establishment of these treatment facilities in-country for medical staff is a very important step. It certainly reduces the need for air evacuation, medivac arrangements, but at the same time as building these hospital facilities in-country, further planning is going on to give greater options for medivac as well.

DOYLE: On that field hospital, have you received any guarantees that any Australian health workers who were in West Africa and got infected would have access to treatment there?

PLIBERSEK: It was made very clear to me that Australian health workers would be absolutely able to use this facility, absolutely welcome there, on an equal basis with the staff of the United States. Now, I believe it's a 25-bed hospital. You have understand that there are potential scenarios where that hospital is full and someone would have to be transferred. I don't think in a case like this with a virus that's spreading as quickly with a situation that is as dire, anybody can give definitive guarantees about anything.

DOYLE: What we're talking about, though, is Australian staff being treated on the same basis as the nationals of the United States or other countries that are on the ground in West Africa providing this assistance. Given that, do you think that should be enough to satisfy the Australian Government's concerns about sending healthcare workers?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's up to the Government to answer what further impediments they see. The first furfy that they raised was this 30-hour evacuation time. Nobody has ever said that Australians who get sick should be flown back to Australia. That would be dangerous. It would be a nonsense to suggest that that is the best way to treat someone who gets sick in West Africa but we now have an increasing number of treatment options including the US field hospital, the UK are building a field hospital. The were some reports the UK may be sending a hospital ship as well. There are increasing numbers of evacuation options available. I think it is now getting to a stage, with this increasing number of options available to treat any Australian staff that get sick, that the Government really is running out of excuses.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, just briefly I want to ask you about domestic politics and we've seen the Direct Action policy, the emissions reduction fund, pass through the Senate earlier this morning. From the Opposition's perspective, are you still committed to taking an Emissions Trading Scheme as a policy to the next election?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we introduced an Emissions Trading Scheme, we backed an Emissions Trading Scheme. You've got to understand Direct Action's a dog of a policy. There's not an environmentalist or an economist anywhere that will tell you that this will act to reduce carbon emissions. We have always said that you need to put a limit on the amount of pollution and that it makes a lot more sense for big polluters to pay for the pollution that they're pumping into our environment and for that money to be used as it was under our scheme to compensate people for any change in the cost of living - than for taxpayers to pay big polluters and for there to be no guarantee of an overall environmental benefit. I think this is disappointing to see this dog of a scheme pass through the Senate and we remain committed to real action on climate change not this window dressing.

DOYLE: That means an Emissions Trading Scheme, you'll face another election with that policy?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we're yet to make detailed announcements about our policies but we believe that the most sensible way is to put a cap on carbon pollution, have a market mechanism to provide environmental benefit in the cheapest possible way. What you see today is a scheme that gives away billions of dollars of taxpayers' money during a so-called Budget emergency - as the Government likes to keep pointing out they've got no money - giving away billions of dollars to big polluters for potentially no environmental benefit.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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STATEMENT - Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

THE HON CHRIS BOWEN MP

SHADOW TREASURER

MEMBER FOR MCMAHON

 

MEDIA STATEMENT

 

ASIAN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT BANK

 FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

Labor believes Australia should be actively engaging China on its proposal for an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Of course, governance and transparency arrangements, as well as environmental, social, and labour matters will need to be worked through.

There is an enormous need for increased infrastructure investment in the Asia Pacific, and we welcome additional investment from China.

It’s clear from media reports that the Abbott Government is hopelessly divided on this issue.

These reports of division and dysfunction inside the Abbott Cabinet are extraordinary.

This is not how important economic decisions should be made.

The Prime Minister needs to show some leadership and pull his feuding Treasurer and Foreign Minister into line and immediately clarify the Government’s position.

The Government is continuing to seriously mismanage our economic relationship with China.

The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Foreign Minister must immediately clarify the Government’s position.

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast, Friday 31 October 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 BREAKFAST

FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Ebola Crisis; Iraq.

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Hello Fran.

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, has America offered Australia the use of a new 25 bed field hospital that it is apparently about to open in Liberia?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course I don’t know what formal communications have been made between the United States Government and our Government but I can certainly tell you I’ve had very senior meetings here with the State Department, with the United Nations, with representatives of the White House and it was made clear to me that that facility would be made available for health workers not just Australian health workers but health workers of any nationality who are in West Africa fighting Ebola.

KELLY: Can you tell us any more about this field hospital? The Sydney Morning Herald today quotes the US Embassy spokesperson in Canberra saying that a 25 bed field hospital will be provided and it could be open within days. Have you been told the specifics of this field hospital? Has it been mentioned to you?

PLIBERSEK: Yes it has been confirmed to me that it will be open very shortly, that the treatment available will be of a first world standard, that it has been set aside for health workers to give health workers from countries around the world confidence to go to West Africa to fight Ebola. The treatment for Ebola is, in a way, quite basic treatment - you have to keep hydration and nutrition up for the patient, you have to keep them clean and comfortable. And beginning treatment as close as possible to where the diagnosis is made is actually often considered best practice in treating a virus like this.

KELLY: Do you know when this hospital will be open?

PLIBERSEK: I’ve been told very shortly. I haven’t been given a day, but within days.

KELLY: The Abbott Government has so far resisted calls to send Australian health professionals and other teams to West Africa because the Government can’t guarantee treatment for Australians who might get sick with Ebola. In your meetings with Ambassador Nancy Powel, Ebola Coordinator for the State Department did you determine whether or not the US has offered access to that facility to the Australian Government? The Australian Government is aware of it?

PLIBERSEK: Well she made it very clear to me that that treatment facility would be available to health workers of any nationality who are in West Africa working as volunteers fighting Ebola. I can’t answer for specifically what formal communication has been made to the Australian Government but I think the fact that this hospital was under construction was widely known and I certainly have known about it for a number of weeks. I’d be very surprised if the Australian Government hasn’t had specific conversations with the Government of the United States about it.

KELLY: You’ve been meeting with a range of high level people across a range of agencies, one of those is the Managing Director of the World Bank Dr Indrawati. We know that the IMF have been calling for improved contributions from Western countries. Are they calling on Australia to do more in West Africa? What message did you get in these meetings more broadly?

PLIBERSEK: Every meeting I have had, whether it’s been with the World Bank, with the United Nations, with people in the White House or the State Department - it has been made clear to me that there is a very strong view that the United States, the United Kingdom, to a degree France, are bearing most of the responsibility for fighting this outbreak and that there is a disappointment that countries such as Australia are willing to sign on to UN resolutions calling for people to do more, to send equipment, personnel and so on, then simply there is not the follow through. There is a critical window, this virus is doubling its number of infections every twenty days or so. The Centre for Disease Control estimates are that there could be a million people affected by early next year. Even more than a million people affected by early next year. So there is a very strong sense of urgency here. Countries such as the United States are making very large contributions because they understand that containing Ebola in the three countries where it is most active now is in the interest of the entire world.

KELLY: Of course but given the formal statements that have been made by some of the people at the agencies did you get informally – what kind of commentary did you get about Australia’s reluctance to send in teams. Were people voicing frustration?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly there is an expectation that a country like Australia could do more. We are considered to be a country with a very strong health system. We know that we’ve got health professionals who are willing to go. We have been very prominent on the Security Council this year and we have cosponsored a resolution that calls on countries to do more to send people, send supplies and equipment, to help with logistics. The US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said something along the lines of “you’ve got countries that are signing up to these resolutions and then not sending doctors or providing beds, that’s a bit rich really.” That’s the sense that I’ve had from each of the organisations and people that I’ve spoken to here, that it’s all very well to have kind words in the United Nations and the Security Council and so on, what they are missing is practical support on the ground. And yet the Government has not yet put in place any measures to support and assist these people to do what they want to do.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, our guest is Tanya Plibersek Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, joining us from New York. On other issues, you’ve been also meeting with US National Security Officials talking about the situation in Iraq, did you get any clarity on what the mission is in terms defeating ISIS, or a progress report? What was the atmospherics there?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly I’ve had conversations about Iraq and Syria, of course, the two are so closely linked. And slightly different views from different people but I’d say a strong sense that push back against IS is starting to have effect, that the more inclusive Iraqi government has certainly given people confidence that the Sunni tribes can join the fight against IS, that there is a greater opportunity now of pushing them back or at least halting their progress in Iraq.

KELLY: Can I just interrupt you on that front because we’ve just had an interview earlier with Kym Bergmann from a defence magazine here in Australia, we’ve been talking about on the face of it the more inclusive cabinet but actually realising the interior minister is from a group with links to the Badr Brigade which is a Shiite militia that has been accused of violence against Sunnis in the past. I notice that Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Conroy is now demanding to know is Australian Defence Forces, when they are finally allowed to go into Iraq, could end up working with either Iranian forces or Iranian backed forces, he says this could be a game changer. But it is inevitable isn’t it? Everybody knows that Iranian defence leadership has been in there working with Shia militia and are partly responsible for the success some have had against IS.

PLIBERSEK: Well one of the conditions that Labor put on its support for the involvement of Australian personnel in this mission, in Iraq, was that the Iraqi Government would continue to behave in an inclusive way. We are of course watching very closely, not just the formation of the new government and the fact that it is representative, but there have been concerns expressed in the past about the use of militia, that’s something that we’ll continue to look at very closely. Australia absolutely has a responsibility to protect those civilian communities that were under imminent threat of mass atrocity crime, but this is not a blank cheque. We need to see and Iraqi government –

KELLY: But what does that mean? If Iranian military leadership is in Iraq, is working with the militia who in turn are working with the Iraqi army, is that a red line then for Australian forces in your view?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we need to have more information before we make any assumptions about what type of involvement, or whether there is Iranian involvement, of course there have been reports but those reports vary a great deal about the scale and the type of involvement that Iran has. Iran has a very strong interest in fighting IS. They are concerned themselves about the prospect of a chaotic state on their border, of Iraq falling apart but to make any more assumptions about the likelihood of Australians coming into contact with Iranian forces we’d need a lot more information.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek thank you for joining us on Breakfast.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.

ENDS

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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Newsradio, Friday 31 October 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 NEWSRADIO
FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

 

Subject/s: Ebola crisis; Climate Change.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek the issue of Ebola is under discussion, the United Nations ambassador, the US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power saying it is now the greatest public health crisis the world has faced and the world is not doing enough. Is that the impression you’re getting from your discussions in the United States, the world is not doing enough?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I’ve had a number of discussions here in the United States on Ebola with the United Nations, the World Bank, representatives of the White House and the State Department and the message could not be clearer. It’s important of course for countries to make a financial contribution, but much more is needed. We know in Australia that we have skilled medical personnel who want to help. They’ve trained all their professional lives for situations where they can offer care for people who desperately need it and they don’t have the support of their Government to do so. We also have heard from the last few days in the United States that the field hospital they are building would be available to Australian medical personnel should they become sick in West Africa. It’s really up to the Government to explain what further impediments remain to Australians joining the first against Ebola in West Africa.

BENSON: Is there any awareness in the discussions you’re having in the United States about Australia’s response? Any assessment from officials there of it?

PLIBERSEK: Well people are too polite to be very direct but we’ve heard a lot of comment about countries – you would have heard Samantha Power, ambassador to the United Nations say words to the effect of you have countries that are at the UN signing pledges and signing up to resolutions and complimenting countries that are sending personnel and then not doing it themselves. Not sending docs and beds I thing were her exact words. We are one of those countries. We’re signing up to resolutions saying that the world has to do more. This is a critical time. Getting Ebola under control in the next month is absolutely critical, and yet we’re not doing all we can or all we should.

BENSON: Samantha Power was saying that no country can afford to stand on the sidelines, is Australia seen as standing on the sideline with Ebola?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t want to put words in the mouths of other nations about Australia. What I would say is that as an Australian I know we have a strong health system and excellent, dedicated, highly trained staff.  You've got for example the Nurses and Midwives Association telling us that they’ve got more than 300 nurses who have said that they are willing to go to treat patients in West Africa, to do that vital work and yet they’re not being facilitated by our Government.

BENSON: So exactly what does the Government need to do, do you believe?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is absolutely clear that we have Australian personnel who are trained, who are willing to go, who understand the risks because of course this is a highly risky thing to do, it’s certainly not risk free. Knowing that, they see it as their humanitarian duty to use the skills they have to help treat patients in West Africa. It is up to the Australian Government to facilitate that contribution. We’ve got countries like the United States and the UK sending medical teams, supplies, equipment, transport and other logistic equipment. We’ve got a number of other countries now making contributions, field hospitals being built, they need to be staffed and we’ve got the people who say that they are able and willing to go and I think that’s the very first step.

BENSON: And just returning home briefly, overnight the direct action legislation from the Government on climate change has passed the Senate. It will now become law it will certainly pass the House of Representatives. Will Labor stick with carbon pricing, will you take carbon pricing to the next election as your climate change policy?

PLIBERSEK: The first thing is to say something about Direct Action. This is an absolute dog of a policy. Our carbon pricing policy was to charge big polluters for the pollution that they were pumping into our atmosphere and that money was used for programs that reduce carbon pollution, it was used to compensate households for any increase in prices. What’s the Government doing instead? They are taking billions of dollars of tax payers' money and giving it to big polluters with no guarantee that it will actually reduce pollution across our country or our society, our economy. There is not an environmentalist or an economist anywhere that tells you that direct action is going to be a success. We will continue to work to have meaningful action on climate change and that certainly means keeping a price on carbon.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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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

FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER 2014 

The Abbott Government must immediately explain whether they will continue to refuse to support Australian health workers going to West Africa to fight Ebola, after it was revealed today the United States has offered its field hospital to Australian personnel.

The US Embassy has confirmed its field hospital in Liberia would be available for health workers, including Australians, if they became infected.

 

"The high-quality care provided will be at no cost and on a first-come, first-served basis."

US Embassy spokeswoman - Fairfax Media - 31 October 2014

Representatives of the US Government confirmed this offer to Labor's Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, who has been in Washington and New York this week for talks with senior officials.

This follows last week’s Senate Estimates revelations the UK and US Governments made specific requests about a month ago for Australia to send personnel to help fight the Ebola crisis.

And we have further proof many Australian health workers are ready, willing, and able to assist.

In a survey of its members, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has found more than 350 Australian nurses are willing to travel to West Africa to volunteer in the fight against the Ebola crisis.

 

“We now have proof that more than 350 Australian nurses are ready, willing and able to help in the fight against Ebola. We have been overwhelmed by the response from our members, who continue to be deeply concerned by the Government’s reluctance to join the international effort to fight what is rapidly becoming a devastating humanitarian crisis.”

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas - Media Release - 30 October 2014

The time is now long overdue for the Abbott Government to heed the call of the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, the UN Security Council, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Crisis Group, the President of Sierra Leone, Oxfam, the Australian Medical Association, and the Public Health Association of Australia.

We know going to help fight Ebola in West Africa would not be without risk which is why it’s important safety protocols are in place to support Australian personnel who volunteer to serve.

But today’s revelations make it clear the Abbott Government is running out of excuses not to act.

 

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, Friday 24 October 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

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

SYDNEY

FRIDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2014

 

Subject/s: Ebola, Gough Whitlam

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Reports overnight that the Ebola virus has spread to Mali are of substantial concern. On the 1st of October, the World Health Organisation said that if we didn’t get Ebola under control within 60 days, the consequences of the spread of the virus would be completely unpredictable. There would be a situation that there were no plans for. We know that the virus is spreading quickly, about 4500 people have died so far, about 10,000 are infected. But reports suggest that the number of infections is doubling about every 20 days. That means that if the Ebola virus continues to spread in the way that it’s spreading, it will be very difficult to contain it to West Africa. We’ve had calls from around the world for Australia to send in personnel to help, we’ve had calls from the US President, from the Prime Minister of the UK, from the United Nations, from Medicins Sans Frontieres, from Oxfam, from our own Australian Medical Association and our own public health association all saying that Australia has highly experienced staff willing and able to go and that they should be sent. Today there are also reports that the Chief Medical Officer has joined in saying that Australian medical assistance teams should be sent to West Africa. Of course, any such mission is not without risk. This is a dangerous part of the world now with a virus that is spreading quickly. But what President Obama has said, and what our own health professionals are telling us, is that the best way of keeping Australia safe, of keeping Australians safe, is to stop this virus in West Africa. If this virus continues to spread in the way that it does, if it moves to other continents, if it moves into our own region, the consequences are potentially catastrophic. Indeed the World Health Organisation has pointed to the fact thata densely populated region like Asia could have very severe consequences from an Ebola outbreak. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: What do you [inaudible] Minister’s statement that you’re playing politics with Ebola?

PLIBERSEK: There’s nothing to be said about that. This is one of the most critical issues that he has faced as Health Minister. We heard in Senate Estimates this week that Peter Dutton attended the weekly meeting of chief medical officers for the first time last Friday. This is a group that’s been meeting since August. There has been a lack of clarity about Australia’s preparedness. In Senate Estimates we’ve heard different stories from the health department, from the Chief Medical Officer, from defence, all giving different accounts of the level of Australia’s preparedness. And we hear also that Scott Morrison has been after the job of Ebola coordinator. So I think it’s very important that the Health Minister focus on his responsibilities, which are ensuring that Australians are kept safe, that we are prepared domestically and that Australia does its share to halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

JOURNALIST: We’ve been told that careful consideration is being given to sending our medical personnel over to help. The thing is- it deserves careful consideration doesn’t it? You can’t rush these things.

PLIBERSEK: This is absolutely something that needs the most careful consideration and the most careful planning. What concerns me is that that consideration and that planning is not happening. We heard different accounts just two days ago about whether Australian staff were being trained and readied to go. It is clear that this Government has not put effort into talking to our allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union to make arrangements for Australian staff, should they need medical back up or evacuation in West Africa. I’m pleased to hear that consideration is being given but I think that that’s rather late in the piece. As I said earlier, we heard from the World Health Organisation on the 1st of October that if we don’t get this virus under control within 60 days - and that means 70 per cent of people being treated in hospitals or a treatment centre, and 70 per cent of dead bodies buried quickly and safely - then we risk seeing this virus spiral out of control - this becomes a global problem. The estimate is that on the current trajectory 1.4 million people will be infected by January next year. We have to stop this in West Africa, and Australia must be a part of that international effort. If Ebola gets to Asia it is very difficult to guarantee Australia’s safety.

JOURNALIST: There has been a case of the New York doctor who has contracted Ebola. Doesn’t that underscore the serious danger of sending medical teams there and how would you explain that to Australians if there was a similar case here in Australia after sending medical teams to West Africa?

PLIBERSEK: There is no question that it is dangerous for medical staff to go to West Africa - no one has ever denied that there is a danger, and that we have to do everything we can to make it as safe as possible for our medical staff. But it comes with risks. What I say to people who are worried about this story of the doctor who has come back to New York is - I understand those fears, I understand those concerns. But we can’t protect Australia if this virus gets out of control. Medical staff who volunteer to go to West Africa know the dangers. The Nurses and Midwives Association have told us that within 12 hours they had 135 nurses ring them to volunteer, to say they were prepared to go to West Africa. Nurses know the dangers of going, doctors know the dangers of going. Why then are they going? They also know that the best way they can contribute to keeping Australia and Australians safe is to go to West Africa and fight the disease there. They have trained all of their professional lives to serve humanity and that’s what they are asking to be allowed to do. They’re asking for the support of their Government to do what they are trained and equipped to do, what they know they must do to help keep Australians safe. It is not without risk, that is clear. But we have medical personnel who are prepared to take that risk with their Government’s support - to keep not just Australians, but the globe safe.

JOURNALIST: You can’t knock the Australian Government however for being unwilling to send Australian personnel into dangerous areas - can you?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important to say that if this virus continues to spread in the way that it has, it will become difficult to keep Australians safe.  I’m asking the Government to look ahead to the worst case scenario. The Centres of Disease Control, a very authoritative organisation in the United States is saying on current trajectories we’ll have 1.4 million people infected by the beginning of next year. How does the Government keep Australians safe if that comes to pass?

JOURNALIST: In Senate Estimates, it was revealed that Australian diplomats have been talking to partner countries about treatment plans. Doesn’t that indicate the Government has been preparing a response [inaudible]?

 

PLIBERSEK: What was revealed in Senate Estimates is that in September we had official requests from the United States and from the United Kingdom – two of our closest friends and best allies, for Australia to send personnel.  It shows that despite those requests the Government has progressed very little.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask – there will be a state memorial service held for the former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on the 5th of November. Obviously that will be an extremely special day for the Labor party and millions more Australians.

 

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you saw an outpouring of national grief on Wednesday for a great man who represented a great Labor tradition.  The 5th of November will be a sad day for many Australians, and of course for our Labor family.  But it will also be a day of celebration – celebrating a great legacy – a legacy that changed Australia for the better, and changed Australia forever.

ENDS

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MEDIA RELEASE - Ewen Jones Lets Down Townsville Dental Patients

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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

 

EWEN JONES LETS DOWN TOWNSVILLE DENTAL PATIENTS

 FRIDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2014

In Parliament today the Federal Member for Herbert, Ewen Jones, boasted to supporting cuts to public dental services which will hurt his own constituents.

The Abbott Government’s first budget cut $400 million from public dental services.

Mr Jones interjected during Labor MPs speaking against the cuts and was challenged to own up to his constituents:

Tanya Plibersek: ‘So you support these cuts do you?’

Ewen Jones: ‘Yes I do.’

“Today Mr Jones betrayed all his constituents on a public dental waiting list in Townsville when he spoke up for these cruel cuts,” said Ms Plibersek.

“Like the rest of the Abbott Government’s unfair Budget, the cuts to public dental services hurt the people most who can least afford it.”

“The Abbott Government’s dental cuts means hundreds of thousands of people with poor dental health, many of them in constant pain, will continue to wait for treatment,” Ms King said.

“These cuts will have a particularly damaging impact in regional cities like Townsville, where there are fewer dentists than in the capital cities.”

The $400 million in cuts to public dental are on top of $229 million in cuts to the Dental Flexible grants program, which reduces access barriers for people living in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas.

In stark contrast, Labor in government:

  • Introduced reforms to make going to the dentist as easy as visiting a GP for 3.4 million children – including 28 000 in Herbert;
  • Funded the development of the Tropical Queensland Centre for Oral Health which benefits North Queensland; and
  • Provided $250 million to expand the Townsville Hospital with additional beds and operating theatres.

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 FRIDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2014

The nation’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley, has thrown his support behind sending Australian medical teams to fight Ebola in West Africa, according to ABC reports.

“Professor Baggoley said he would like to see Australian medical teams sent into the hot zone.”

          Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 23.

This report follows news today Ebola has spread to Mali, and that a doctor in New York City has tested positive for Ebola.

For weeks now, Labor has been pressing the Abbott Government to do more to fight the Ebola crisis at its source – in West Africa.

Under questioning at Senate Estimates yesterday, the foreign affairs department revealed that back in September the UK and US Governments made specific requests for Australia to send personnel to help fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Those calls are echoed by the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, the UN Security Council, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Crisis Group, the President of Sierra Leone, Oxfam, the Australian Medical Association, and the Public Health Association of Australia.

We know going to help fight Ebola in West Africa would not be without risk which is why it’s important safety protocols are in place to support Australian personnel who volunteer to serve.

But it is unacceptable that the Abbott Government has failed to make arrangements and act.

We know many Australian health workers are ready, willing, and able to assist.

There is no time to lose.

Earlier this month, the UN said the Ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an unprecedented situation for which there is no plan.

If the international community doesn’t do more, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million by early 2015.

We cannot afford to wait until Ebola reaches out to our region before Australia becomes part of the global effort to control this virus.

This week, we’ve heard wildly different accounts of the Abbott Government’s preparedness to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa from the Chief Medical Officer, the head of the health department, the Defence Force, the foreign affairs department, and the immigration minister.

The Abbott Government’s uninterested, chaotic response to this serious health crisis is just not good enough.

 

 

 

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SPEECH - 2014 ACFID National Council Speech

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SPEECH

** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY **

2014 AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT NATIONAL COUNCIL

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Sam Mostyn, President of ACFID;
  • Marc Purcell, Executive Director of ACFID;
  • Other ACFID council members;
  • Senator Lee Rhiannon.

This week Gough Whitlam passed away at the age of 98.

Many of us have been reflecting on how much Australia changed under Gough’s Prime Ministership, and how much has changed since.

That in 1974, Gough brought Australia’s aid spending to its height of 0.5 per cent of GNI – working towards 0.7 per cent - saying it was ‘in recognition of the responsibilities that lie on all of the richer nations to assist the poor and undeveloped countries.’

That today, the Abbott Government has cut aid by $7.6 billion and walked away from the 0.5 per cent target altogether – meaning Australian aid has peaked at 0.35 per cent and is now declining.

Despite the mounting policy successes of recent years as we near the end of the Millennium Development Goals, in Australia we have to confront the fact that bipartisanship on aid is broken and that unprecedented political ground has been lost under the current government.

It has been a little over a year since the Abbott Government was elected, and in that time we have heard a lot about aid effectiveness, as though it were absent prior to the election.

It is important to defend the record and the reality. Australia has over many years built a highly effective aid program through our NGOs and our specialist aid agency AusAID:

  • We have the headline statistics, like in Timor-Leste where we helped more than 30,000 farmers improve their yield, in some cases by as much as 80 per cent, or helped 67,000 people get access to basic sanitation.
  • We have the anecdotes about individual programs, like the mobile courtrooms in Indonesia helping disadvantaged women get marriage and birth certificates, so they could enrol their children in school.
  • We have the individual stories that we all carry around with us, like the women in Papua New Guinea who were able to use the local markets more freely because the ablution blocks our aid program had built meant they did not have to use the nearby bushes and risk being robbed or raped.

But we don’t just have statistics, anecdotal evidence and individual stories.

Positive findings in our own independent reviews were backed up by the most recent Peer Review from the OECD last year, which highlighted some of the strengths of our aid program:

  • We were increasing funding in line with our target to reach 0.5 per cent of GNI, our areas of good practice were increasing and the overall degree of fragmentation was decreasing.
  • AusAID was singled out for praise for its strategic planning and the coherence it brought to key policy areas.
  • Our focus on gender and support of UN Women was among the best in the world, as was our expertise in disability-inclusive aid.

Aid effectiveness is not a new concept. We had a highly effective aid program.

It’s an important point to make, because aid effectiveness matters not just to development outcomes, but to public trust in foreign aid itself.

  • You would all have seen the research produced by the Narrative Project this year with the support of a number of your organisations. It confirmed what many of us already knew: that the biggest barrier to mobilising public support for global development is the perception that aid is wasted and that progress is impossible.

Of course we should all demand effectiveness of our aid program.

But in addition to being an important goal in itself, the debate around effectiveness can also operate as a dog-whistle to the sceptics in the community, and a smokescreen for the vandals in government.

We must start the conversation by saying that aid works, and that Australian aid in particular is not just effective but transformational and world-leading.

Internationally, we are facing a changing environment for aid:

  • The GFC has seen some donors reducing their efforts, while at the same time we have new entrants like China and India. Public and private donors are shaping the agenda through new partnerships like GAVI which has helped immunize 440 million boys and girls since 2000, saving six million lives.
  • We’re seeing greater need around climate change, natural disasters, and disease – like the global implications of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and the need for a coordinated international response.
  • At the same time, economic development is happening alongside rapid technological change – like in Kenya, where fishermen out at sea use their mobile phones to check the price of fish at different markets before deciding where to land, and 86 per cent of households report using mobile phones to make payments.

In this changing environment, government is increasingly looking to NGOs and the private sector to play a larger role in development:

  • The private sector does have a role to play, but it will never replace effort and expenditure which government withdraws.
  • And government also has a particular role to play in providing coordination and accountability which won’t easily be filled by the private sector or NGOs.
  • NGOs are partners in the design and delivery of aid programs, and advocates for communities in developing countries, not just a way to outsource our country’s responsibility to the international community.

That partnership between government, NGOs and the private sector only works when it is built on respect and transparency. But the evidence is that the government needs to do much better on this front:

  • Since the change of government, our ranking on the Aid Transparency Index has dropped and the adoption of the Open Government Partnership has stalled. Labor joined over 60 other countries in the Open Government Partnership to commit Australia to improving access to information about government activities, through a concrete action plan.
  • The Abbott Government says that they will redirect resources to NGOs which are effective on the ground, but so far there is little to no information about how that effectiveness will be evaluated.
  • In June, Labor asked when the effectiveness benchmarks would be released – the response from the Government was to point to their new performance framework, and yet all that framework said was that benchmarks would be included in country and regional plans over the next 12 months.
  • As you know, it is estimated that the value of aid is reduced by up to 20 per cent when funding is unpredictable and volatile. So the Government’s approach not only means ongoing uncertainty for NGOs who don’t know whether their funding will be cut, but decreased effectiveness for our aid program more broadly.

As we build towards a new international consensus around the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to be clear about what the purpose of our aid program is:

  • I cannot understand a government which removes poverty alleviation as an objective of our aid program, as the Abbott Government did. Surely helping people and countries overcome poverty is the central purpose of foreign aid?
    • While trade is important for developing countries, the Abbott Government seems untroubled by the prospect that the gains flowing from increased “aid for trade” may only trickle down unevenly with no guarantee of helping those most in need
    • As we know, economic growth does not necessarily reduce inequality. Countries like Cambodia and Indonesia have seen growth and income inequality rise together – and the IMF has even found that inequality ultimately threatens long-term growth.
    • So it’s vital that we maintain clarity about the purpose of our aid program – not to drive growth for growth’s sake, but to help people overcome poverty.

The biggest challenge of all, though, is the broken bipartisanship on aid and development.

For the Abbott government, ‘aid effectiveness’ and private sector investment are fig leaves to hide their cuts and failures of political leadership.

To put it bluntly, if the two greatest challenges faced by the aid sector are inequality and climate change, then the Abbott Government has vandalized your agenda for global development:

  • Cutting $7.6 billion from aid and walking away from the bipartisan commitment to the 0.5 per cent target of GNI which John Howard signed up to.
  • Tearing up the carbon price and taking us backward on climate change at home, and undermining momentum for international action abroad.

These cuts aren’t just a headline statistic. $7.6 billion in aid could contribute to:

  • Connecting 600 000 people to basic sanitation or sewerage; and
  • Creating 180 000 new school places; and
  • Training almost 30 000 health professionals, and ensuring over 300 000 births are attended by a skilled health worker.

But what disturbs me most is the lack of consequences:

  • With the 2014 Budget, the Abbott Government bet that even though the cuts to aid were the largest in the Budget by far – one in every five dollars of cuts – the political consequences would be minimal.
  • Although some organisations and individuals have spoken up, the lack of a coordinated response by the sector has proven them right.

In Parliament we call “Dorothy Dixers” the planted questions that government ministers are asked by their own backbenchers – named after an American advice columnist who answered her own questions.

It is the way the government of the day draws attention to their political successes, and the things they are most proud of.

This year, Julie Bishop has been asked seven Dorothy Dix questions during Question Time by her own backbenchers about their cuts to aid.

They aren’t just keeping quiet about these cuts, they actually see them as a political windfall. They are crowing about them.

And why shouldn’t they? They can pander to the aid-sceptics in the community while at the same time being welcomed for their ‘commitment to Australia’s aid’ – as ACFID publicly did earlier this month.

When Labor was in government we nearly doubled the aid budget and maintained our commitment to the 0.5 per cent target. The Liberals have cut aid by $7.6 billion and abandoned the 0.5 per cent target.

In this new partisan paradigm, it’s worth remembering that Australia’s commitment to development isn’t just a story about political leadership – giants like Gough Whitlam, and vandals like Tony Abbott.

It’s also a story about the development sector, mobilising the Australian public and lifting our aspirations.

I remember the extraordinary energy of the Make Poverty History campaign which locked in bipartisan support for the 0.5 per cent target – I remember it not just as a moral argument, but as a political strategy for the sector to exert influence over Australia’s place in the world.

And I remember that it worked.

When we ask ourselves why so much political ground has been lost, two features stand out.

Leadership from government.

And a strong, coordinated campaign from the sector which can mobilise public sentiment.

I've been told today that you'll be launching such a campaign tomorrow. I cannot say how thrilled I am to hear it and how pleased I will be to see and support the work you will be doing in communities. I know that there will be people around Australia who will have been looking for this leadership who will be delighted to sign on.

When the Millennium Development Goals were agreed to, we rose to that challenge together – a political success that matters because of the human lives it changed and saved.

Through the MDGs we have:

  • Halved global poverty;
  • Averted 3.3 million deaths from malaria;
  • Provided primary education to 90 per cent of children in developing regions.

As we near the end of the MDGs and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals, it’s clear that these new targets will require more – not less – from the international community.

More commitment to tackling poverty, inequality and environment degradation.

More resources to translate that commitment into results.

We will be asked to lift our ambition and our efforts, and at this crucial moment we cannot allow Australia to think smaller and do less.

The SDGs will articulate the development challenge for the international community, and the roadmap for responding to it.

Whether Australia rises to that challenge and does its fair share is up to us.

ENDS 

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