TRANSCRIPT - ABC Newsradio, Friday 31 October 2014

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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.


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