TRANSCRIPT - ABC Newsradio, Thursday 16 October 2014

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Subject/s: Ebola, Vladimir Putin and the G20.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, you’ve written to the Government urging more action on ebola, that’s internationally, what should be done do you believe?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well of course I am not the only person urging more action on ebola, the United Nations, the US President, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Medical Association, Médecins Sans Frontières, all of them have said that money is good but what we really need  to send to Africa, in the west African countries that are most affected, are personnel, supplies, equipment, most particularly Australian personnel who are willing and able to go are not being assisted by the Government to do that.

BENSON: Tony Abbott has said in the past that he wants to be satisfied that it is safe to do that before Australian people are sent to those areas before medical staff go there. Do you believe there can be a guarantee of safety before that is done?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think that it is important to understand that no mission like this is risk free. But I think it is absolutely not beyond us as a nation to make arrangements with the United States or our European partners to evacuate any Australian personnel who might get sick.

BENSON: So you think Australians should go now?

PLIBERSEK: I know that we have Australians who are ready and willing to go who are being discouraged by the Government’s position and I think that it is very important that we use the resources that we have. It is also true that the US and the UK are for example sending significant numbers of their defence personnel, the US are sending about 4000 people, the UK about 750 personnel, and they are able to undertake very important roles like for example building temporary hospitals. We could and should and must do better because ebola is not just a risk to the three countries in Africa most affected, the IMF and other international organisations not least is - of which - the UN security council of which we are a member has said very clearly that if we do not tackle this disease now, this virus now, the potential is that it will affect 1.4 million people by 2015. The Centre of Disease Control has estimated that the exponential spread of this means that the disease will become unmanageable. We have got about a 60 day window right now to turn this around and if we do not, we have had warnings from the World Health Organisation, the Centre of Disease Control, very credible sources, that the world community may lose control of the spread of this virus.

BENSON: The World Health Organisation is also warning that Western nations aren’t doing enough to protect themselves at home. Do you believe Australia is doing enough to protect itself against ebola domestically? Because there are these concerns particularly as a second health worker in the United States has been affected.

PLIBERSEK: I think Australia has one of the strongest health systems in the world. Our hospitals, our public health professionals are highly professional. We have got a great deal of experience in dealing with the spread of tropical diseases for example, and we have got a very good protocols to reduce transmission risks of a virus like ebola, so we of course absolutely need to focus on our domestic preparations, but we should also reduce the risk of this virus becoming unmanageable overseas - the more people around the world that are infected, the greater the risk to Australia becomes.

BENSON: May I just quickly go to another issue which is the Kremlin says that Vladimir Putin has yet to confirm he is coming to the G20 in Brisbane next month. Would you rather he came or stayed away?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think Australians will find it very difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia. 38 Australian citizens and residents lost their lives after the shooting down of MH17 and the response of the Russian government in denying any culpability and denying the fact that the Russian backed rebels who are the most likely people to have shot down MH17 and the Russians are saying nothing to do with us, and have not used their influence with those rebels to allow proper access to the crash site. These are all things that are deeply troubling for Australians, most particularly the families and friends of those who lost their lives, but I think all Australians generally.

BENSON: I’ll leave it there. Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



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