TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 17 October 2014

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LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: Joining us now to discuss the week in politics is Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you.



WILKINSON: Tanya, you've been very vocal on this. You don't believe that the Government is doing enough?

PLIBERSEK: On some estimates, we have got the chance that 1.4 million people will be affected by this virus by January. So the Centre for Disease Control are saying that we have got 10,000 people infected now. If the rate keeps growing in the way it has been going, we will see over a million people affected by the beginning of next year. I think it is absolutely critical that we take the advice of the World Health Organisation and use this 60 day window to shut down the spread of this virus. If we don't get a handle on it, we can't begin to predict what the effect will be on the whole world. At the moment, the virus is mostly contained to three countries in West Africa. But you see that we are seeing cases in the United States, in Spain, in France today it looks like there are some indications that there might be someone there who is affected. That’s with 10,000 people having the virus. What happens when there is a million or two million.

WILKINSON: What do you want to see the Government do that they are not currently doing?

PLIBERSEK: At the moment, they are discouraging Australians who want to go to help. We have got people, doctors, nurses, other health professionals, who want to go and offer assistance. We have had - we have heard from the from the Nurses Association, we have heard from the Australian Medical Association, that we have got skilled Australians who have trained for many years to provide exactly the sort of assistance that West Africa is crying out for and our Government is saying that they won't assist them to go there.

WILKINSON: Scott, we understand that there are obviously concerns about deploying Australians to tackle the outbreak. But don't we have a responsibility as a developed nation?

MORRISON: Well, our first responsibility is also surely to do what we need to do here in Australia and make sure that our systems here are up to scratch and they are, and to be constantly monitoring that situation. We also need to be mindful of any potential regional response we might need to make if things escalate to that level. We have already, as you said in your introduction, committed $18 million to the international effort. There is no suggestion that we are restraining people from going to that area if they wish to provide their medical expertise. The question that's being posed to the Government is should we be directing people...

PLIBERSEK: No, that is not true Scott.

MORRISON: Should we be directing people who would be put in harm's way with no credible extraction plan that is the advice from all of our key agencies and I...

PLIBERSEK: That is untrue. This is...

MORRISON: I let you speak Tanya. Tanya...

PLIBERSEK: You are not telling the truth.

MORRISON: Well, Tanya, what I'm saying is that you know that there is no credible extraction plan to get people out of that place if we direct them into that environment.

PLIBERSEK: And I know you're not trying to find one...

MORRISON: If they are seeking to go there… well that is not true either Tanya, if you want to play politics with Ebola, then that is exactly what you are doing. What the Australian Government is doing is governing on the basis of practical reality, not sentiment. I think that is a stark contrast to what we saw from the previous six years when Labor were in office. We are dealing with this matter practically and responsibly. We are part of an international effort. We are part of a regional response if we need to be. And we are ensuring the right measures are in place here in Australia to keep people safe because that is what we do as a Government.

PLIBERSEK: Well, one generous philanthropist has given more money than the Australian Government. One you person has given $25 million.

MORRISON: Are in you suggesting we should put people in harm’s way?


MORRISON: That is what you are suggesting.

PLIBERSEK: No Scott, nobody is suggesting that.

MORRISON: Tanya, explain to me what is - what is the extraction plan?

PLIBERSEK: What we are suggesting, Scott, is that volunteers who are trained and willing and able to go should have the support of the Australian Government to do so. At the moment, the Australian Government is saying "We have got no plans in place to help and support you to go and do what you've been trained to do all your life". We have got doctors...

MORRISON: Tanya, that is a complete misrepresentation. What you are talking about is people who may choose to go voluntarily and there is no restraint on those persons doing that. But they have to be acquainted with the risks. And that is what the Government has simply done. But if you are going to instruct, demand people to go into that region, as part of...

PLIBERSEK: Scott, nobody is suggesting that anyone should be sent there against their will.

WILKINSON: The truth is you also can't stop people from going into the region because there are aid workers...

MORRISON: Of course and we can't.

WILKINSON: Over there at the moment and we do have to face this crisis. Just very quickly to finish on this Scott, if an aid worker does have the virus, would they survive the 30 hour trip home?

MORRISON: Our advice is no.

PLIBERSEK: But, Lisa, you don't need to come back to Australia. You should be able to evacuate to the US, to the UK, to Europe, to one of our partner countries. We partner with these countries all the time in humanitarian crisis.

MORRISON: But you've got to have the commitment available. You have to have that commitment.

PLIBERSEK: Oh my goodness. We are partnering with these countries right now in the Middle East to provide humanitarian relief in northern Iraq. It is absolutely not beyond the capacity of this Government should they wish to put these sorts of arrangements in place.

WILKINSON: All right. We are going to have to leave that one there...

MORRISON: I think it is very disappointing, sorry Lisa, but the Government is trying to protect Australians and if the Opposition wants to put them in harm's way on the basis of sentiment, then I think that is very disappointing.


PLIBERSEK: Scott, what will happen when there are millions of people affected around the world? The World Health Organisation has told us we have 60 days to close the window on this virus.

MORRISON: Our arrangements will be in place here in Australia and in the region. That is what will happen because that is what we are focussed on.

PLIBERSEK: You won't be able to protect people when there are millions around the world. We need to stop this virus now.

WILKINSON: I think everyone is definitely agreed on that. Just to finish, have we got time - we were really hoping to play something from Shaun Micallef earlier this week. We are going to have time. We are going to make time. This is Mad As Hell, Shaun Micallef sticking it to Bill Shorten. Have a term look at this.


WILKINSON: You are not safe really in politics, are you? You are of always going to cop it.

PLIBERSEK: I think one of the things that is great about Bill is that he has just got that really colourful turn of phrase that really cuts through.

WILKINSON: Shaun Micallef, a genius Scott?

MORRISON: Look, I've given him plenty of material over the last year or so and in politics, you know, you have got to be able to cop it whichever way and we all have words that go off into space every now and then. Even in the media too, I suggest, so good on Shaun, he is a good laugh.

WILKINSON: There are days when English is my second language Scott, I have to agree with you. Thank you very much for your time this morning.



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