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, 3 OCTOBER 2014

The Ebola crisis is no longer just a humanitarian crisis for West Africa – it now poses a direct threat to world economic growth and if not contained, will spread to other countries.

Failure to act now will have serious consequences and this week’s first Ebola case in the US shows that even countries with the most highly developed health and border protection are no longer immune.

As infectious diseases expert Dr Alexander van Tulleken today made clear:

“The only way to prevent this happening again is to roll back this disease in West Africa otherwise it’s not just going to be happening here, it’s going to be happening all over the world.”

Dr Alexander van Tulleken – ABC AM, 3 October 2014

 

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagard has also bluntly warned of the economic and security consequences of failing to tackle the Ebola outbreak now.

“The development of the Ebola virus. if it is not contained, if all the players that talk about it don’t actually do something about it to try to stop it, contain it and help those three countries deal with it, it might develop into something that would be a very serious concern and could cause significant risks.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagard – Washington DC Speech, 2 October 2014

 

That is why Labor has now for over a week been warning that the rapidly escalating situation demands Australia go further and support specialised personnel who wish to help fight the spread of Ebola.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott must act on the letter he has received from Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma which declares his country is counting on Australia.

"While we are doing everything possible to stop the outbreak, further support is urgently needed from your friendly government to scale up our national response with ... education efforts, as well as infection control measures," the letter says.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma – Letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, October 2014

 

Australia must put into action the unanimous UN Security Council resolution we co-sponsored 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

 

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

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 3 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

THE TODAY SHOW

FRIDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Iraq, burqa.

LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: For more we are joined now by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull here in the studio and from Parliament House in Canberra Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, good morning to both of you.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Lisa, hi Malcolm.

WILKINSON: Malcolm, if I can start with you, the Defence Minister David Johnston said overnight that we have to finish the job in Iraq, but isn't this just the start?

TURNBULL: Well what David is talking about is the importance of standing up to this so-called Islamic State, which I really don't think we should refer to as an Islamic State, ISIL is the term that I would rather use. We have got to stand up to them. We’ve got to ensure that their sort of marauding over in that part of the Middle East is stopped and we’re joining with our allies and I might add other countries in the region, Arab countries in the region, Muslim countries in the region. There is a grand coalition that is saying no to this sort of barbarity.

WILKINSON: There’s been a lot of mission creep on this. Surely to finish the job properly it is going to take boots on the ground?

TURNBULL: Well it may well do, but as you can see from President Obama’s lead and from what our Prime Minister has said, the boots on the ground are not going be American or Australian boots.

WILKINSON: That won't change?

TURNBULL: Well I can't really - you can't rule anything out and if anyone was going to make a forecast like that it should be the Prime Minister. Clearly foreign interventions in that part of the world has had, let's say, most generously mixed success, not a lot of success. It is really important that the major countries in that area, the major Arab countries in the region, I am talking about Saudi Arabia and others, take responsibility for securing their own region and for dealing with an insurgent terrorist group like ISIL.

WILKINSON: Tanya, last time we went into Iraq, Labor didn’t support the mission, this time you are, will you go as far as boots on the ground if that is what it takes to finish this off?

PLIBERSEK: No, we don't support Australian troops on the ground in Iraq. What we support is responding to the Iraqi government's plea to the international community to protect civilians from imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. This is an organisation that kills anyone that disagrees with it, different religion, you can be the same religion and if you don't agree with their tactics they will kill you too. They are abducting women and raping, selling women and children in the marketplace. It is a terrible organisation. The government of Iraq has asked the international community for help and we are responding to that plea for help. But we have said we don't support Australian troops on the ground and we don't believe that there is a case for Australia to be involved in Syria either at the moment. The situation in Syria is terrible, it is a humanitarian disaster but we should be helping with extra support for the neighbouring countries that are dealing with a massive refugee burden from Syria.

WILKINSON: Alright, let's turn now to the burqa debate. Malcolm, do you like the Prime Minister, find the burqa confronting?

TURNBULL: What Australians wear is a matter for them and I don't express a view about other people's choice of clothing, it is a free country. In different countries, including in some Muslim countries, there are all sorts of rules about what people can wear and can't wear in public. But in Australia we have always been very easy going about that. So if people want to put a garment over their head so you can't see their face, that's their choice. As long as whatever security arrangements are necessary for a particular place are covered, that is a matter for them.

WILKINSON: The Prime Minister’s words on Wednesday certainly got Australia talking. And yesterday we learnt that burqa-wearing women were going to be confined behind glass in Parliament House. Last night the PM moved to overturn that decision, is that an embarrassing back down by the Prime Minister?

TURNBULL: Well, not at all. There was a decision by the presiding officers, or an interim decision by the presiding officers, which the Prime Minister asked them to reconsider. And I think he has been wise to do that.

WILKINSON: But did the Prime Minister know that that decision was in the planning?

TUNRBULL: I don't know, I can't comment on that. But can I just say this to you, very, very few women, Muslim women, wear the full face covering. There are many Muslim wearing the head scarf, there are many non-Muslim women that wear a head scarf. I mean nuns used to cover their heads up like that. It’s not exactly a- it’s not a Muslim monopoly on that. But the full face covering is very, very rare- it’s not common. I have been in parliament for ten years, I have only ever seen one woman with a full burqa in the public gallery. So it is not - it isn't very common and the thing that I am concerned about, I know that Tanya is because we are on a complete unity ticket on this, we don't want to have debates like this being turned into some sort of coded attack on the Muslim community. Can I just say again as I have said here before, the terrorists want us to demonise and alienate the Muslim community in Australia. The Muslim community is part of Australia, they are Australians. We have to pull together. We have to be at this time more than ever united. Because our enemies, ISIL, the rapists, the beheaders, the torturers that Tanya was talking about so eloquently before, they want us, they want us to attack Muslims. They want us to alienate and frighten and demonise the Muslim community so that they don't feel they are part of Australia and they feel their only home is with an extremist group. There is no point us doing the terrorists work, we have to pull together.

WILKINSON: Tanya, we ran a poll on the show yesterday and after the Prime Minister's words on Wednesday, 85% of viewers said that they wanted the burqa banned. Is the PM just reflecting the community's feelings or did he ignite this debate?

PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think that there’s- I don’t think that poll reflects the general Australian community. I think most Australians think wear what you want, we are a free country. I mean, I said yesterday I don't want to see the Prime Minister in his speedos, but it is a free country. This is a divisive debate, as Malcolm said, we are stronger together. We are a stronger community when we respect and trust one another.

WILKINSON: Okay Tanya, we will have to leave it there. We’ve run out of time, thank you very much for that. Quickly, Doggies or Rabbitohs?

PLIBERSEK: Bunnies, Bunnies!

WILKINSON: Okay, Malcolm?

TURNBULL: Well I am still getting over the Roosters getting knocked out. I am for the Bunnies too.

WILKINSON: Okay, seems to be a lot of support for the Bunnies this morning. Thanks to both of you, have a great weekend.

ENDS

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SPEECH - Matter of Public Importance - Social Cohesion

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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

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – SOCIAL COHESION

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2014

Australians have been troubled recently. They have been troubled by the news they are watching on their TVs at night.

Events at home and events around the world have led many to wonder what kind of world they are living in. And of course at times of trouble the most important question we can ask ourselves: are we stronger together?

And what can we do to make our nation stronger together?

We’ve seen stories of Australians who have, inexplicably to most of us, gone overseas to fight.

But just as inexplicably to me, we have seen stories of Australians graffiting mosques, pulling headscarves off girls, threatening schoolchildren, one man alleged to have gone into a Muslim school and threatened those children with a knife. Jewish kids in Sydney threatened on a bus. Sikh taxi drivers threatened when they have been driving their taxis.

I have to say that these two problems – the problem of radicilisation and the problem of racism – are two sides of the one coin. As Australians we have to reject both of them outright. Neither of these represent the Australia that we are part of.

I remember a few years ago I was at the Royal National Park with my mum, my dad and my kids, and my dad told a guy not to get too close to the ducklings because he would disturb them. And this man told my father ‘You should go back where you came from.’ After 65 years living in Australia, paying his taxes, being a good citizens. And the shock was not the dumb racism, the shock was being told that he didn’t belong after 65 years in this country.

We cannot afford to say to any Australian now, you do not belong.

Our responsibility is to show our strength by embracing diversity, embracing difference, and speaking to all of our communities about what makes our community stronger.

One of the best things about being a Member of Parliament, one of the things I enjoy the very most, is going to citizenship ceremonies. Because at those ceremonies we meet people who have chosen Australia as their home, they have chosen to become part of our national family. And we say at each of those citizenship ceremonies our pledge:  “I pledge loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”

There is no more elegant or eloquent expression of our Australian values.

Our values of democracy, human rights, liberties and the rule of law.

I think Australian schoolkids should learn this pledge because it is such an elegant and eloquent description of what it is to be Australian.

This year, Vietnamese refugee Hieu Van Le became the new Governor of South Australia. He has said when he was a young fellow he remembers experiencing racism, and he really remembers it melting away. Until he Pauline Hanson made that maiden speech in this parliament.

And this is my plea to members here in this parliament.

To remember our particular, our special responsibility as leaders. To say clearly in the Australian community that we value difference, we embrace diversity. What makes us different makes us stronger.

There were 20 nationalities represented at the Eureka Stockade, those people fighting together and standing up for a fair go for other Australians.

I think about that as one of the seminal moments from our nation’s history, but it was the people of many nations coming together to say about their new home: ‘these are the values we live by, this is the way we expect to treat one another, this is what it is to be part of the new Australia.’

Our leadership matters. Our words matter.

It is our responsibility to say again and again in the face of division that we are stronger together.

ENDS

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MEDIA RELEASE - International Conference on the 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

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE EBOLA CRISIS

 

THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2014

As a conference meets in London today to help coordinate international efforts against Ebola, the Abbott Government must say whether it will commit to supporting skilled, experienced Australians willing and able to fight the crisis in West Africa.

Today, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) reiterated that the Abbott Government is not doing enough to assist get the Ebola outbreak under control.

“…in the same way as we work with international partners in Syria at the moment, we can do absolutely the same thing with Americans, the British, and the other countries that are making similar arrangements - this is an international, in fact a global effort, and we need to play our part.  Eight million dollars doesn’t cut it, and I certainly agree…that our call at the Security Council for international assistance here is in contrast to our deeds on this matter.”

 

AMA Vice-President, Dr Stephen Parnis, ABC Radio National, 2 October 2014

 

Labor supported the Government’s initial $8 million financial contribution to help tackle this crisis, and the further $10 million announced today. But the rapidly escalating situation demands Australia go further and support specialised personnel who wish to help fight the spread of Ebola.

The Abbott Government’s refusal to take this step comes 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.

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 – as suggested by the AMA.

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.

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.

 

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TRANSCRIPT - RN Drive, Wednesday 1 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 DRIVE WITH JONATHAN GREEN

WEDNESDAY, 1 OCTOBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S:  Iraq and Syria; Anti-terror laws; Budget Cuts; Ebola

JONATHAN GREEN, PRESENTER: Joining us is Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. Ms Plibersek, welcome.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you.

GREEN: Was the Opposition consulted on the decision, for this latest decision that our RAAF planes to fly in the support role.

PLIBERSEK: Our leader, Bill Shorten, was advised about an hour before Question Time that this was intended. I don’t think there was really a necessity for consultation because we have made clear the arrangements that we think would be appropriate in the circumstances where the Iraqi government has asked for Australian support to fight off IS.

GREEN: Is full involvement now inevitable?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no I think we still have to be very cautious about setting the parameters for any Australian involvement. We’ve said that where there’s an imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes as there is in the northern part of Iraq at the moment that Australia does have, as part of the international community, a responsibility to protect. But our involvement of course depends on the invitation of the Iraqi government and on the Iraqi government continuing to behave as a democratic- in a democratic and non-sectarian way. And that we don’t support ground troops involvement on the ground in Iraq and that of course we don’t at this time support involvement in Syria.

GREEN: At this time, you say, I mean once we’re involved, there’s two fights here. There’s one in Iraq and there’s one in Syria. Once we’re committed, don’t we have to follow that through, even if it does lead us into Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the situation in Syria is tragic, it’s extremely concerning, about 200 000 people have lost their lives. We’ve got pretty much half of the population of Syria displaced from their homes, including millions of people living in countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and neighbouring countries and we absolutely have a humanitarian responsibility to help those people who are being displaced. We are not doing enough by any means in helping neighbouring countries deal with the refugees flowing over the border. But there are a couple of key differences between Syria and Iraq, the first key difference is the Iraqi Government, the democratically elected government of Iraq have asked for Australia’s help and the help of the international community. There isn’t such a legal basis for involvement in Syria. There is also a lot less clarity about what the objective would be, it’s an extremely fractured situation there with many, many groups operating. It’s impossible to see how Australia’s military involvement would improve the situation there. But our humanitarian assistance and I mean money to the UN and its agencies to provide food and shelter and education for children and also our humanitarian response could involve bringing more Syrian refugees to Australia, because the Government made great fanfare of taking an extra 2200 - well I think if you’ve got millions of people in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey we can surely do a bit better than that.

GREEN: You say that Syria is fractured, lacks clarity, is there a clear ambition for involvement in Iraq, militarily?

PLIBERSEK: Yes I think the very clear ambition in Iraq is to make it possible for the Iraqi Government to take responsibility for its own security as quickly as possible so that Australia and all of the other countries that are involved can come back home. There’s a very clear objective which is stopping the march of IS, stopping them taking town after town, village after village, and killing, enslaving, raping as they go. But we should only be involved in a limited way and only for as long as it takes for the Iraqi Government to take responsibility for the security of its own people.

GREEN: Do you have reservations, Tanya Plibersek, about the cost of this? Treasurer Joe Hockey said today that more budget cuts are on the way to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars of new defence and security spending.

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important we examine every element of this and think very deeply and clearly about it because our involvement in Iraq in 2003 was a disaster. It was a disaster for Australia, it was a disaster for Iraq, the ongoing conflict in Iraq that lasted for many years and saw so many civilian deaths is not something that we should dismiss. You’ve raised the question of cost, I think where you see whole populations at threat of genocide or ethnic cleansing we can’t ask ourselves what dollar value we are prepared to put on those lives. I think that a terrible way of considering this problem. We have to consider this problem in a way that puts our international responsibility and ethical decision making at the centre of it.

GREEN: But the Treasurer has signalled that it will be expensive and he is signalling cuts to the budget to pay for that expense. Presumably given the Opposition’s bipartisan support your commitment to this mission, you’ll also support those budget cuts.

PLIBERSEK: Joe Hockey’s budget has been a disaster from beginning to end and I’m very happy to talk about the budget. I don’t really want to link the cost of people’s lives in northern Iraq with budget cuts in Australia. But I will talk about the budget itself.

GREEN: But that link is being made, it’s not a thing we are undertaking without considerable expense and the Treasurer is saying he’ll make cuts to pay for it, will you support them?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think it’s appropriate to say we’re going to make budget cuts in Australia to save lives in northern Iraq but I’ll tell you about Joe Hockey’s budget. Joe Hockey came to Government - he doubled the deficit within a few months. They’ve included spending like almost $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia that the Reserve Bank neither asked for nor needed. They’ve got a $20 billion paid parental leave scheme that gives the biggest benefit to the wealthiest people. At the same time they’re talking about cutting the age pension, cutting support for young unemployed people, cutting school education funding, cutting childcare funding, cutting health funding, cutting university funding.

GREEN: None of this has actually happened.

PLIBERSEK: Well not for want of the Government trying. Tony Abbott came to Government saying no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes, no cuts to the ABC and SBS. He has broken all of those promises and there are a lot of nasty cuts in there besides the ones that made the headlines. Things like the $400 million cut from public dental care and the $44 million cut just this year from new building and homelessness services. This is a dog of a budget.

GREEN: None of which gets us away from the fact that the military involvement which the Opposition wholeheartedly supports is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and the government intends to pay for that through cuts. Which presumably you will in turn support?

PLIBERSEK: I haven’t heard Joe Hockey say that but if Joe Hockey is saying we need to cut the aged pension in Australia in order to save lives in northern Iraq I would be shocked. And this is a Government that has been trying to make these cuts to the budget anyway. They have been firmly rejected by the Australian people as deeply unfair and I don’t know if he has linked it to some other external issue but if he did that that would be in extremely poor taste.

GREEN: Do you have any concerns that the military involvement in Iraq will heighten the security risk at home?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have to be realistic about the fact that we are living in a time when security risks in Australia are higher than they have been in the past. And that is a confronting thing for us to accept as Australians that there are a tiny number of people in Australia who are planning to do ill to other Australians for reasons that most of us find completely incomprehensible. Now I think it’s important that we are careful that we give our excellent security and intelligence agencies the resources they need to keep Australians safe. At the same time I think it’s very important to focus on community cohesion and going about our lives in the most normal way possible.

GREEN: Those counter-terrorism forces, Tanya Plibersek, were given a boost today, laws passing the Parliament. Your colleague Melissa Parke had this to say:

[Recording of Melissa Parke]: I question the Government’s general approach to this area of policy. Which is essentially that freedoms must be constrained in response to terrorism and that the introduction of greater obscurity and impunity in the exercise of Government agency powers that contravene individual freedoms will produce, and are justified in the name of, greater security.

GREEN: Are other Labor MPs also uneasy about these new laws?

PLIBERSEK: Well the reason that Labor argued so hard to have these laws referred to the parliamentary joint committee on security and intelligence was so that we could give them the scrutiny they need. They are not decisions to be taken lightly –

GREEN: And yet there are no amendments to those laws. You are happy with computer hacking powers for intelligence agencies?

PLIBERSEK: Well actually there were a very large number of amendments. There were 18 recommendations made by the Parliamentary joint committee many of which were driven by concerns that the Labor members on the committee raised and those recommendations have been accepted by the Government. So it’s not a question of bringing those amendments into the Parliament and having them voted up or down, in fact the Government has accepted the amendments that we have recommended. So it’s done at the stage before bringing it into the chamber. But it is important that those amendments were made because there were concerns about some areas of the legislation, that’s why we have the committee process. That’s why we insisted on it and that’s why we made those recommendations.

GREEN: You’re not concerned that a single warrant could enable security agencies to access unlimited computers and networks?

PLIBERSEK: No I think that that is a misunderstanding of the legislation.

GREEN: Well it’s an extreme example of what could occur.

PLIBERSEK: No I think it’s a misunderstanding of the legislation. And I understand why people want to be vigilant I think it’s very important that people speak up to protect our freedoms. We don’t want to live in a police state but in this case this legislation has had a great deal of scrutiny and a number of very significant changes were made to reflect that scrutiny and that’s appropriate. It’s very important for security and intelligence agencies to be given updated powers as circumstances change. It’s also very important –

GREEN: Journalists and whistle-blowers should face gaol, is that a fair thing worthy of bi-partisan support?

PLIBERSEK: Well what you’re referring to - the provisions around special intelligence operations - a special intelligence operation is a very limited operation that’s done where ASIO officers risk their lives by, for example infiltrating an organisation that is about to do harm on Australian soil. We asked for a number of changes to the provisions around special intelligence operations including the fact that the Attorney-General should sign off on them rather than the Director-General of ASIO and the provisions around journalists or whistle-blowers talking about special intelligence operations were changed in relation to concerns that I had. So, for example, a journalist will only contravene the provision that you’re not allowed to talk about a special intelligence operation where they know or they recklessly disregard the fact that it’s a special intelligence operation.  And what they are doing if they recklessly disregard the fact that it’s a special intelligence operation is endangering the life of someone who is working undercover.

GREEN: Need that be so? Surely the Attorney-General, who has the capacity to nominate these operations, could not the Attorney-General have nominated the spying on the Timorese Government which led to the international court. Could that not have been determined as a special intelligence operation and could reporting of that not resulted in gaol?

PLIBERSEK: And the other provision that we’ve included is that if the Director of Public Prosecutions determines that the reporting has been done knowingly, but it is in the public interest for us as a community to know that ASIO has made a mistake or done the wrong thing or an officer of ASIO has done the wrong thing then it should be reported in the public interest. So yes concerns were raised about this, that’s why we included these additional safeguards, including the Attorney-General has to sign off on it, including the fact that a special intelligence operation - that someone’s cover has been blown recklessly or the journalist knowing that they’re putting someone into danger and there is still the provision that the director of public prosecutions can make a decision that it’s in the public interest for this information to be disclosed. So of course it’s a very important thing for journalists to be protective of the rights of themselves and their colleagues.  Part of our strong democracy depends on free and frank reporting. That’s why these changes were argued for and that’s why they were accepted.

GREEN: Just a last point Tanya Plibersek you questioned Julie Bishop today on the decision not to send health workers to West Africa’s Ebloa outbreak zones. What’s going on there? How can we contribute? What might we best do?

PLIBERSEK: Ebola is a phenomenally fast spreading disease. We’ve got about 6500 people who are infected at the moment. The estimates suggest there could be around 1.4 million people affected by January if we don’t take stronger action than we are now. Australia cosponsored a Security Council resolution saying that all countries should do more, not just send money, but send doctors, equipment teams, engineering teams - basically look to their own resources and see how they can help. In addition, Medicines Sans Frontier have said very clearly that it is not just more money we need it is more people and more resources. Other organisations, the President of the United States, all sorts of people and organisations have made clear that just sending money is not enough. Australia has sent $8 million, that’s a good start, but we have people in Australia who want to go and who have the skills to go and they’re being told that the Government can’t support their work as volunteers there. There is in fact 12 Australians working with international organisations at the moment and the message to them is ‘hope you don’t get sick’. We can as a country that has absolutely first rate medical teams and indeed engineering and other resources through our defence force personnel - we could be doing much more than we are. And it’s in all of our interests to try to stop this disease spreading at the rate that it’s spreading.

GREEN : Tanya Plibersek thanks for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Parliament House, Thursday 2 October 2014

coats arms

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

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Cuts to Foreign Aid; Asylum Seekers; Ebola; Victoria Police Investigation; Burqas

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Reports in the paper today that the Government are planning further cuts to the aid budget are extremely concerning. Reports suggest in order to pay for the humanitarian assistance being offered to Iraq we would further cut humanitarian assistance to other places. It makes absolutely no sense for Australia to be involved in protecting the people of Iraq from the threat of IS and at the same time say, to those same people, ‘we can’t help you with food and water and shelter and education for your children if you should choose to flee your homes’. Already, the Australian aid budget’s been cut by $7.6 billion, the largest single cut in the Federal Budget. One dollar out of every five - cuts in the Federal Budget are from the aid budget, on the back of the world’s poorest people. The situation in Syria is critical too, with 200,000 people now dead, with almost half the population of Syria having fled their homes. Australia should be doing more in humanitarian assistance for Syria, not less. Syria now has lost millions of refugees to neighbouring countries, countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey. Those countries that are looking after millions of Syrian refugees need more assistance from Australia, not less. In fact, the United Nations has launched a $6.5 billion appeal for Syria, asking countries around the world to help the Syrian population displaced from their homes cope. And what’s Australia given? So far, just $31 million, to that $6.5 billion appeal. If what the Prime Minister and the Government say is true, that IS is a disastrous organisation that must be stopped because of the effect they’re having on the lives of Syrian and Iraqi people, then surely our responsibility goes beyond military assistance to also include humanitarian assistance. If you look at the situation in Iraq, in particular, we are there offering humanitarian assistance to protect the people of Iraq from threat of mass atrocity crimes, at the same time, the Government cut the aid budget to Iraq last year from $7.7 million to zero. So it is important that government rule out, firmly rule out today, any further cuts to the aid budget.

JOURNALIST: I understand that’s already happened, Julie Bishop has just said there’s been no discussion in Cabinet about foreign aid and the Government will still keep its commitments on aid. So does that satisfy you?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’d like to hear it from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. They’ve put it into their newspaper of choice this morning, into The Australian, they’re doing that for a reason. I think that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should make clear today that there will be no further cuts to the Australian aid budget. This is the largest single cut in the May budget. The world’s poorest people cannot afford any further cuts.

JOURNALIST: If- is there any danger of these cuts to go ahead that could have implications for the asylum seeker boats?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can’t comment on whether it will have implications for asylum seeker boats, what I would say is you can’t on the one hand say that there’s a humanitarian crisis in Iraq that we have to send our military to help, and on the other hand say that we’re not going to help in other ways, that we’re not going to help with shelter, with food, water, with health services, with education for people who fled from their homes

JOURNALIST: So what would be a better way to fund this then?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that’s up to the Government. The Government set out in the May budget a whole series of cuts, cuts to health, education, ABC and SBS, cuts to pensions and family payments. It’s not a new thing that the Government’s looking around for cuts, they’ve already cut the aid budget massively. It’s up to them to balance the budget.

JOURNALIST: Yesterday the Finance Minister was talking about speedy passage of bills that Labor and the Government have agreed on, has there been discussion on this amongst the Labor leadership team?

PLIBERSEK: Well for some time Labor has been saying to the Government that there are measures that we will support. Measures such as further means testing of family tax benefits. We’re happy to pass them and were happy months ago to pass those. The Government refused to split the bills, they were absolutely tied to cutting pensions and to cutting other family payments, to cutting benefits to young, unemployed people. If the Government splits the bills, we’re happy to pass the measures that we’d been publicly on the record as saying we agree with.

JOURNALIST: There’s reports today that the woman who accused Bill Shorten of rape is unsatisfied by the police investigation and she feels that they’ve cut corners because of his position in power. What is your response to that?

PLIBERSEK: My response is that this has been thoroughly investigated by the police. Bill Shorten cooperated fully, and that should be an end to the matter.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any sympathy for David Leyonhjelm’s argument that the taxes on smoking are too high and that vulnerable people are being targeted by the increases?

PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely not. One of the things we know is that, when you’re talking about vulnerable people, poorer people are more responsive to price increases in tobacco and more likely to give up when prices go up. I’ve made no apology for being part of the government that made it more expensive to smoke, than to quit smoking. We put a number of smoking cessation aids like nicotine replacement therapy onto the pharmaceutical benefits list so that it was cheaper to give up, you had all the assistance to give up, making it more expensive to smoke has led to decreases in the number of smokers in Australia combined with the other measures that we took so that Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world and we’ve basically halved the rate of smoking in the last twenty years. That’s a good thing. About half of all regular smokers will die from smoking related causes. I don’t think there’s any freedom and liberty in being allowed to smoke yourself to death.

JOURNALIST: There’s reports Medecins Sans Frontieres has rejected $2.5 million from Australia, yesterday Julie Bishop said it was impractical to have health workers evacuated from West Africa because it would take 30 hours to get them home.  What do you see, I guess the Government’s next step?

PLIBERSEK: Well nobody is suggesting that if an Australian health worker became sick that they’d have to be airlifted to Australia. We should be able to make arrangements with the United States, the UK or European countries to evacuate our health workers should they become ill. We know that there are already around 12 Australian volunteers in different African countries where the ebola virus is prevalent and I’d like to think that if one of those got sick that we could look after them properly and make sure that they’re airlifted to an appropriate country in Europe or the United States for treatment. But what’s more important here is that the $8 million contribution to fighting ebola, that’s welcome but it is an absolute drop in the bucket of what’s needed. At the moment, there are about 6500 people who are ill. About 3000 people have died. But this disease is spreading so quickly that the estimate is by January, about 1.4 million people could be affected by ebola. If Australia does not act now, if the world does not act now, this situation will only worsen. Australia is one of around 130 countries of which through the United Nations supported a UN Security Council Resolution that said yes, more money’s necessary but more personnel, more expertise, more supplies are also necessary. Australia has the capacity to help and it’s very important that we do so, not just for the people who are affected in those African nations now but for peace and security in the world. If 1.4 million people have ebola by January, we have lost control of this disease.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it will take having a case in Australia for the Government to take this issue seriously?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think that there’s a risk of a case in Australia but I am very confident that if we should have a case in Australia as we’ve seen in Dallas Fort Worth in the United States that we could contain it because we have an excellent health service here, we have highly professional staff, we have excellent methods for dealing with people who have communicable illnesses. But that is not, that is not the risk here. The risk here is of millions of people becoming infected with this disease and then how does the world cope with containing that. No other questions?

JOURNALIST: If you’re happy to answer a question on the burqa?

PLIBERSEK: Well, now that you’ve asked it…do you want to ask me a question?

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well I’d prefer if Tony Abbott didn’t get about in his Speedos, but it’s a free country.

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

 

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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