TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Thursday 23 October 2014

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Subject/s: Attack on Canada’s Parliament, Ebola, RET.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: This morning all Australians are thinking of our friends in Canada, the extraordinary attack on their Parliament Houses - our thoughts are with the Canadians.  We share much with Canada. Our democracy, our institutions, some of our history - we fought together in wars passed, we have a great deal of friendship and affection for the Canadians and our thoughts are with them today.

I also wanted to say a little bit about Ebola today. We have heard from Senate estimates in the last 24 hours essentially three different stories about Australia's preparedness to fight Ebola. And we have heard one story from the Chief Medical Officer, a completely different story from the head of the health department and a different story again from our defence force personnel. We need a government that is prepared to take charge of protecting Australians from Ebola, and as we have said in the past, the best way to protect Australians from Ebola is to ensure that it is stopped at its source in West Africa. There are reports that President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Abbott about Australia making a greater contribution to the international effort to fight Ebola. So we have now heard pleas from President Obama, from Prime Minister Cameron, from the World Health Organisation from the Secretary General of the United Nations, from the UN Security Council with a motion that Australia signed up to, organisations like Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross, all of them doing their very best to help stop Ebola in West Africa, to get this terrible virus under control and asking the Australian Government - urging more international effort - for Australia to be a part of the international effort to get this virus under control. And the Australian Government still unwilling to act. There is chaos at home it is clear now with Scott Morrison saying that he should be in charge. Well, someone should be in charge of the domestic response. We heard that the Health Minister participated for the first time just last Friday in a weekly crisis meeting that Chief Medical Officers and health officers around the states and territories have been participating in since August to ensure Australian preparedness. It’s taken our Health Minister until October to participate in our weekly meeting. And we hear that a crisis team is ready to fly, isn’t ready to fly, is trained, isn’t trained, is waiting in Darwin, is prepared, isn’t prepared, it’s simply not acceptable.

JOURNALIST: In light of the attack on the Canada’s Parliament, how safe do you feel coming into work today?

PLIBERSEK: I feel perfectly safe.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government doing enough, I mean do you feel perhaps that security has backed off in the last couple of days?

PLIBERSEK: I am sorry, are you talking about Parliament here?

JOURNALIST: Yes, sorry.

PLIBERSEK: I feel perfectly safe here.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that more needs to be done to protect MPs here and workers?

PLIBERSEK: I think our security is excellent here, but I would say this  there were very brave people in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa today and it makes me appreciative again and again for the excellent, dedicated staff at the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Could there be a role here for mandatory quarantine to counter any Ebola threat?

PLIBERSEK: The very best way of getting a handle on this virus is to stop its spread. The number of infected cases is doubling on average every 20 days. If we do not get the virus under control, 1.4 million people are estimated to have it by January next year. It is impossible when you have got those large numbers of people infected to protect Australia effectively. The best and most effective protection for Australia right now is to be part of an international effort to stop the spread of the virus. If this virus gets to Asia, the World Health Organisation has described that as potentially catastrophic. We live in a densely populated region of the world. We live in a region where some countries have excellent health systems, like Australia does, and some countries have very poor health systems. So the best protection for Australia is to fight Ebola in West Africa.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see an investigation into the alleged [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Unfortunately I do not have further details of that so I will not comment.

JOURNALIST: Just from Senate Estimates yesterday, we heard from the Chief Medical Officer who obviously expressed concerns about Australia’s preparedness if an Ebola case were to happen here, but then we heard on Monday from the Health Secretary, Martin Bowles, who said that there were a team of around 20 specialists,  who’s right?

PLIBERSEK: Well this is the point, we have got a Government that is telling Australians that we are prepared and yet government officials have given three different stories about Australia's preparedness. You have to ask the Government who is right. But the problem is the Government should be all over this. The Health Minister, Peter Dutton, should have been attending those weekly meetings of health officials and he should be able to confidently answer this question. There shouldn’t be three stories, there should be one story, and the Health Minister should be confidently able to explain to Australians what measures are in place to fight Ebola in Australia and in our region and more particularly, what effort Australia is making to stop Ebola in West Africa, at the source.

JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with Labor's negotiating position on the RET?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I certainly think that the Government is not negotiating in good faith. They have come to the table with a 40 percent cut, something that represents a 40 percent cut in our renewable energy target. I think that it is important that Labor is open to working with the Government if they have got a fair proposal. But I would like to see a fair dinkum proposal to start with.

JOURNALIST: What does the Government's offer mean for green jobs?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this Government has presided over the greatest uncertainty in the renewable energy sector that we have seen for some time. We have gone from being a preferred destination for a renewable energy investment to falling way down the list. Thank you.


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