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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TRANSCRIPT - AM Agenda, Tuesday 21 October 2014

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Subject/s: Gough Whitlam.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: I thank you Tanya Plibersek for honouring your commitment to come in this morning on a sad day for the Labor Party.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you Kieran, it certainly is a sad day for the Labor Party. Gough Whitlam was a giant, a Labor Giant, and we feel for his family and of course it is a great loss to the nation also.

GILBERT: Indeed the Prime Minister this morning issued a statement, I’ll just read a little bit to you. He describes Gough Whitlam as a giant of his time, uniting the Australian Labor Party, winning two elections, establishing diplomatic relations with China, the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China, an enduring legacy the Prime Minister describes that as. Also this which is something Matt Thistlethwaite referred to earlier and that I guess is one of those seminal images of the Whitlam era the Prime Minister said that Gough Whitlam recognised the journey our country needed to take with Indigenous Australians the image of soil passing from Gough Whitlam’s hand to that of Vincent Lingiari’s a reminder that all Australians share the same land and the same hopes.

PLIBERSEK: And I think one of the most phenomenal aspects of Gough Whitlam’s time as Prime Minister is that he did things that were so controversial at the time that have become absolutely embedded in our Australian history and character. That image of passing the soil into Vincent Ligiari’s hand starting a process of giving land rights to Indigenous Australians who had waited so long and worked so hard. Introducing Medibank that’s become Medicare, an absolutely fundamental part of our nation’s character now, accessible healthcare for all Australians. Making university education free so that people like my older brother, first in our family ever to go to university, but the experience of so many Australians, that idea that access to university should be based on your intellect and your ability to work hard and not whether your parents are wealthy. These are things that have become part of our national character. The Prime Minister has very generously talked about the establishing of diplomatic relations with China when Gough Whitlam said that he would do that as Opposition Leader, very controversial thing to do, and yet it has been so critical to Australia’s economic and security success in decades following that. And so I think that the lesson I suppose is that those brave policy decisions that have set Australia on a better course should inspire us to bravery today as well. To make those tough decisions, to stand up and argue for the things we believe in, things that we know can make our nation stronger and stronger.

GILBERT: On the foreign policy front that you referred to there he visited in 1971, China, before Kissinger, before Nixon, so not just leading the country in that sense but leading the world as well.

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely and I think now that seems like an uncontroversial thing to do. Most Australians now would acknowledge that our relationship with China is important for us economically and strategically, certainly that we have nothing to fear from China. At that time you’ve got to understand how controversial it was, to be opening up relations with a communist nation. The other great foreign policy achievement is of course returning our troops from Vietnam, bringing back the last of our troops from Vietnam. Again now looking back it seems like the only obvious thing to do and yet at the time incredibly controversial, a very brave move.

GILBERT: A very modern figure, wasn’t he, in the Lodge along with his wife Margaret they were powerful, national leaders and figures weren’t they?

PLIBERSEK: They were great modernisers, making sure that no fault divorce, social security payments for sole parents, reducing the voting age from 21 to 18. These were all big steps on making Australia a more modern nation. But it was something more than that it was actually the relationship between Gough and Margaret, the influence that Margaret obviously had. The fact that she was prepared to speak her mind and the fact that she said she made a decision when she became the wife of the Prime Minister that she could sit quietly in her gilded cage and say nothing or she could use this position to do some good. And she used it to do some good. She speaks very eloquently in a biography that is written about her about the empathy and connectedness that she felt with those women that lived in the western Sydney seat that Gough represented, the work that she did in establishing libraries and swimming pools and arguing for those services in the suburbs of Sydney. But more than that the type of woman she was, she was so utterly herself. Full of intelligence and integrity and with this beautiful close loving relationship with her husband there was a real model of an equal relationship.

GILBERT: Indeed it was and I guess as we reflect on this contribution from Gough Whitlam dying at 98 a rich life, a long life we have to look at their legacy in terms of their impact on the modern Labor Party. Many Labor, senior Labor figures over the last few decades were inspired to enter politics because of his contribution and not a long prime ministership in you know historical standards I guess but three years made a huge lasting legacy as you said social policy but also on the impact in subsequent generations of your party leadership.

PLIBERSEK: He is the iconic figure for making a brave policy stand on a whole range of different issues so he is an inspirational figure in that way. He is inspirational also because there is a whole lot of us who would never have gone to university but for the university changes that he made and he was incredibly generous with his time as well. I noticed the statement from his family talked about him as a loving and generous father. But he was a loving and generous figure in the Labor Party as well. I know many of my colleagues as I did would occasionally visit him in the office or have a cup of coffee in Double Bay and he was so generous with his time and his advice. I mean it always felt like a real thrill as a young person moving into a position of responsibility in the Labor Party actually to be able to go and see Gough Whitlam and say what do you think about these issues, can you tell us a bit more about the history of what were you thinking when you made this decision, how did you come to that position. And he was just phenomenally generous, intellectually and with his time.

GILBERT: A great orator as well wasn’t he?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, terrific.

GILBERT: And Parliamentary performer.

PLIBERSEK: Although- he was a terrific orator, he had a wonderful turn of phrase. Sometimes he tended to you know make speeches that were a little on the long side and I always I thought it was hilarious Margaret would sit up the front sometimes with a walking stick as they got older and she’d beat, you know bang her stick on the ground and say ‘come on, Gough they have heard enough now’. But again just such a beautiful sign of their relationship.

GILBERT: Jim Middleton my colleague earlier described Gough Whitlam as a flawed genius. I guess it was a tumultuous period the most tumultuous in Australian political time, I suppose arguably with the last few years, but I mean 75, such a tumultuous end to his Prime Ministership. The social policy of course it was against the economic policy, was the vision caught up with the focus so much so that the other things sort of fell away in terms of priority?

PLIBERSEK: I think it is completely unreasonable to expect perfection from our leaders. All you can hope for is that a person honestly does their very best for their country and there is no question that Gough Whitlam was a patriot, that he did exactly what he thought was right for his country. Will people find flaws with some of the decisions he made? Of course they will. In the same way that any Prime Minister will have a review of their time in office that includes the successes, great achievements for our nation and things that might have been done differently but I think you know in the relatively short time that Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister our nation changed for the better. He left a lasting legacy in so many areas and I mean I have always been proud to be part of the party that he had such an impact on.

GILBERT: Well thank you I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. What a difficult day for you and for the Labor Party.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Insiders, Sunday 19 October 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Ebola, Iraq, Indonesia, Vladimir Putin, Ban on facial coverings in Parliament.

BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: Now we’ll go straight to our program guest, and this morning it’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning, welcome.


CASSIDY: Very good. Apparently Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton have written to your party calling for a return to bipartisanship on the Ebola issue. How will you be responding to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is a bit rough to call for bipartisanship when the Government's plainly doing the wrong thing. We were briefed at the beginning of October about all of the impediments to Australia sending volunteers to West Africa to assist to get this virus under control and, in the weeks subsequent, it appears that the Government has made little to no effort to overcome those impediments. I think it's obvious that if we don't contain Ebola in West Africa, this becomes a greater risk not just to the African continent but to the world more generally. The best way that we can protect Australia and protect Australians is to help stop Ebola in West Africa.

CASSIDY: But the letter, though, accuses your party of having a reckless disregard for the safety of health workers and points out that you are ignoring advice that there is no current capacity to evacuate Australians if anybody catches the virus. Now that's a key point, surely?

PLIBERSEK: A number of health workers have been evacuated to different European countries. We know that the UK and the US are building hospitals specifically for health workers in West Africa. The UK is apparently sending a hospital ship. It is beyond me why other countries are able to make arrangements for their health workers, including now Japan - are able to make arrangements for their health workers and the Australian government is not able to do that. I've got absolute faith in our health officials, our foreign affairs officials and our defence force personnel. I believe if the Government tasked them with finding a solution to this, that they would be able to do it.

CASSIDY: Yeah but the Government points out that the responses they get at the moment is "we'll help out if they can", but that's not good enough. They want ironclad guarantees and until they get the guarantees, nothing will change.

PLIBERSEK: Well, we are getting advice from organisations like the AMA, like the Nurses and Midwives Association, that they have got people who want to go who would go with a bit of extra support from the Government. A bit of- less discouragement and a bit of facilitation. We have international organisations like Medecins Sans Frontieres saying that arrangements have been made for the nationals of other countries, they have been evacuated to European countries for treatment when it's become necessary. I think it is plain that the Government are putting up all sorts of furphies. They are saying "we can't air lift people for 30 hours back to Australia". Nobody is suggesting that. What I'm suggesting is that if the Government made this a priority and asked their public servants to find these solutions, they could be found. I would be interested to know whether the Prime Minister, for example, has spoken to Prime Minister Cameron or to President Obama directly and said "What support can you give our Australian medical personnel who wish to go to West Africa to help?". You’ve got to remember that President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations have all said - and Australia has signed on to a Security Council resolution with 130 other countries - saying that money is fine but what's really needed are expert medical personnel, supplies and equipment and Australia is not prepared to send those.

CASSIDY: When you raise the issue of volunteers, that's where it becomes a bit of a phoney issue, doesn't it? Because you say they are being discouraged but they are not stopping volunteers from going. They say that they won't direct those who they can direct, that is the military personnel.

PLIBERSEK: But Barrie, the thing is Medecins Sans Frontieres are at capacity. They can't support other volunteers, but we have arrangements that Australia can make. We have got, for example, Australian medical assistance teams which are groups of volunteers that are on standby in case of natural disasters, for example, that could be sent in. So you've got self-contained teams of doctors, nurses, depending on the situation, other types of professionals including logisticians that could be deployed. Peter Dutton is saying "We’re going to hang on to them in Darwin in case Ebola comes to Asia, then we'll deploy". The point is, if Ebola gets to Asia, if Ebola gets to the borders of Australia, we have lost control of this. On some estimates, the Centre for Disease Control think that there will be up to 1.4 million Ebola cases by January next year if the disease continues to spread in the way that it has. The World Health Organisation said on 1 October we've got 60 days to get this under control or we don't know what will happen after that, we don't have the capacity to handle what will happen after that. So we have a very small window of opportunity. Australia should be involved in stopping Ebola in West Africa, getting it under control in the three countries most affected. If we are waiting for it to come to our borders, then we are in big trouble.

CASSIDY: Let me quote something that Phil Coorey wrote in the Financial Review, "If an Australian dies a horrible death in a far off land due to lack of medical care, it is the Government that gets it in the neck". Now that's the reality, isn't it?

PLIBERSEK: You know, no humanitarian mission like this is without risk. It is absolutely right for the Government to be upfront about the risks involved. In the same way that when we send Australian Defence Force personnel to northern Iraq on a humanitarian mission, we are upfront about the fact that there are risks involved. But in the same way that our defence personnel are highly trained and highly experienced and in many instances are wanting to go into situations like this that they know are dangerous because they choose this work because of their commitment to helping on a global scale, so, too, our health personnel that are highly trained, highly skilled, have chosen this work because they feel they can make a difference to humanity. So, too, they should be supported by their Government to give the help they know they can give.

CASSIDY: Can I then go to an issue where there is bipartisan support, certainly to this point, and that is on the approach to terrorism and Iraq. Do you find it, though, at least curious that the SAS, the Special Forces, are still waiting to be deployed, the legal work still hasn't been done?

PLIBERSEK: I'm a bit perplexed about why it's taken so long, but I think it's an interesting comparison to make. We pre-deployed Australian Federal Police to Europe to be ready to go to Ukraine to help in the search for MH17 and the recovery of Australians from that crash site. We have pre-deployed SAS to United Arab Emirates to be ready to go into northern Iraq. The Opposition supported both of these important missions. It's a bit mystifying why you wouldn't, in the same way, say to medical teams "We are trying to put in place the arrangements that you will need to keep you safe, be ready to go". On the issue of the SAS, it is absolutely vital to have those legal arrangements in place for our personnel if they are assisting the Iraqi Army. We need to know very clearly the arrangements that that assistance is provided on. I don't blame the Government at all for insisting on having those arrangements properly in place but it is a bit perplexing it is taking so long.

CASSIDY: Okay now on Indonesia, what do you make of the words from the incoming Indonesian President who is warning Australia not to stray into Indonesian waters? This seems to be an old issue. They've already conceded that they inadvertently strayed and they have sorted it out and it won't happen again.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's quite telling that this has been in the first interview that Jokowi has had with an Australian media outlet. It is obviously, as we said all along, a very big deal for Indonesia that the Government is making announcements about what happens on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without ever talking to the Indonesian Government. And we think that the Navy have inadvertently entered Indonesian waters around six times perhaps. I think the Navy has been put in an extremely difficult position by the Government and the cost of that is to our very important strategic and economic relationship with one of our closest neighbours. Indonesia of course is important to us strategically but it is also a fast-growing economy with a very fast-growing middle class and will become increasingly important as a trading partner for us as well. It is not a very good start.

CASSIDY: Okay just a couple of other quick issues. Julie Bishop did manage to button hole Vladimir Putin in Milan and she won an agreement from him. He says he will use his influence with the Russian rebels in Ukraine to open up access to the site of the plane crash. Does that seem like a good outcome to you?

PLIBERSEK: Look I certainly hope that there is an improvement for Australian and other personnel who are wanting to get or needing to get access to the crash site to undertake their very important work. Unfortunately, I mean we heard that at the Security Council, we heard that the outcome of the Security Council resolution that Australia sponsored was that investigators would have unimpeded access to the crash site, that proved not to be the case. So I mean, I think all we can hope for is that there is an improvement now.

CASSIDY: A good enough outcome to negate the need for Tony Abbott to shirtfront Vladimir Putin in Brisbane?

PLIBERSEK: Well look, I think the problem here is - we have said all along that many Australians will find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia but we also understand, as an Opposition, that this is not Australia's meeting alone. Australia is hosting the G20. We are not in charge of invitations and uninviting people. If Tony Abbott - Tony Abbott can't uninvite Vladimir Putin, if he is embarrassed by the fact he doesn't have the capacity to stop him coming to Australia, he should just explain that to the Australian people, that this is an international meeting, he was unable to stop Vladimir Putin coming. He shouldn't overcompensate with this sort of sandpit language.

CASSIDY: And just finally, Parliament sits tomorrow and still the presiding officers' segregation decision stands. Does that bother you and is the Opposition doing anything to try and overturn it?

PLIBERSEK: We wrote to the presiding officers on the day that the announcement was made. It is an absurd suggestion. Anybody who is in the galleries in Question Time has been through two security checking points. It is a ridiculous - just a ridiculous position that anyone should be segregated. Our Parliament is one of the few in the world that actually has these open galleries. Many other Parliaments have galleries behind glass. It is one of the signs of our strong and healthy democracy that Australian citizens are invited in to watch their parliamentarians at work. Whether they are doing a good job or a bad job, they are invited in to see it first-hand. And it is, I think, profoundly,  deeply insulting and stupid to say that women wearing coverings should be further segregated.

CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Saturday 18 October 2014

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Subject/s: Ebola, President Putin, Mathias Cormann’s comments, Indonesia.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: [audio cuts in] It’s an enormous concern that $10 million that the Government has promised to the United Nations has actually not reached the United Nations in order to be distributed to where it’s needed. I can’t stress highly enough how critical time is in managing this Ebola outbreak. We hear from the Centre of Disease Control in the United States by early next year, we might have as many 1.4 million people affected by Ebola. We hear that by the end of this year, it could be 10,000 new infections every week. At the moment there are about 10,000 people affected by Ebola and about 4,000 have died. But this number is growing exponentially. And if we don’t contain and control Ebola in West Africa, the risk to Africa and the globe and of course to Australia, continues to grow. We’ve also heard in recent days, health specialists warning that should there be an Ebola outbreak in Asia, there would be some health systems very ill-prepared to deal with it. Of course our Australian health system is a very strong health system. We have many experts who are ideally placed to help control a virus like Ebola. And we’ve got excellent hospitals with very professional staff here in Australia. But we cannot wait, we cannot afford to wait until Ebola reaches out to Australia before Australia becomes part of the global effort to control this virus. It’s very important that we support our doctors, our nurses, our health professionals who are willing and able to go to West Africa to do that work, that work that they are trained to do, that work that they are committed to doing. We see that world leaders like President Obama, like David Cameron, are saying that all countries have to be a part of this global effort to contain Ebola in West Africa. That it’s easy for all of us to keep our nations safe if we all contribute to the international effort to get this virus under control while it’s still concentrated in three main countries in West Africa. We’ve seen that countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cuba, China, Japan, South Africa, are all putting personnel on the ground, sending supplies and equipment. They’re all making provision for their personnel to be able to go safely to volunteer, to treat affected patients in West Africa. It cannot be beyond the capability of our Australian government to make arrangements for Australian volunteers who wish to go, to have the confidence that they can safely go to do the work that they’ve been trained to do and that the Government’s got their back. Okay, any questions?

JOURNALIST: The Government has said that the UN has confirmed that that funding has been received and that the website just hasn’t been updated. Are you assured by that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I hope that that’s the case. I know that the West Australian is a fine newspaper and I’m sure that they’ve got the most recent, publicly available information and I hope that is the case, that the Government has in fact transferred the money and that the website is yet to be updated.

JOURNALIST: What more should Australia be doing?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Australia should be sending skilled, willing Australian personnel with the support of the Australian Government to help fight Ebola in West Africa. We have, for example, Australian Medical Assistance Teams that are groups of volunteers - doctors, nurses, sometimes firefighters for example, who have the logistic capability and others - self-contained teams that are especially set up to go to disaster areas to provide medical assistance. That’s one example of what we could be doing to help. We also know from the Australian Medical Association, from the Nurses and Midwives, that they have people, nurses and doctors, contacting their professional associations saying ‘I am willing to go, I am willing to volunteer, how can my government help me get there?’. That’s one example - and Australian volunteers, who just need government assistance, and government backing to get there, rather than the discouragement and road blocks they’ve received to date.

JOURNALIST:  Just in regards to the MH17 crash, are you happy that Julie Bishop received assurances from President Putin that Russia’s influence will be used to allow investigators near the crash site or to the crash site?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it’s very disappointing that the investigations have been thwarted to date, that of course fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine, and it would be a very good thing if President Putin used his influence with Russian backed separatists to allow access to the crash site. It is important that Australian, Dutch and other investigators can have their safety guaranteed in an area where conflict continues.

JOURNALIST: What’s your response to the Finance Minister calling Bill Shorten an ‘economic girly man’?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it’s extraordinary that we’ve got a Prime Minister who talks about shirt-fronting leaders of other nations and we’ve now got a  Finance Minister who thinks he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. What Mathias Cormann is missing is that this Budget hurts vulnerable Australians. It’s Australians who have rejected this Budget, they’ve rejected the cuts to health, rejected the cuts to education, rejected the cuts to pensions. Mathias Cormann is acting all tough. What he should be doing instead is going back to the drawing board and finding a budget that is economically responsible and socially fair.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that the comments are sexist and that an apology is required?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we’d be in a different environment if we had a few more women sitting around the Cabinet table.

JOURNALIST: Just back on Russian President Putin, are you- is Labor happy that his staff have indicated that he will indeed be attending G20?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that as Bill Shorten has said on more than one occasion, Australians will find it very difficult to welcome President Putin to Australia. Australians have been devastated by the shooting down of MH17 and the 38 lives lost, Australian citizens and residents. And of course also the citizens and residents of other nations that were also affected in that terrible tragedy. So we will find it very difficult as a nation to welcome President Putin here because it’s pretty clear that he hasn’t to date used his influence with rebels to allow access to the crash site and so on.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe his assurances then that he will try to facilitate that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I hope we see a change in behaviour.

JOURNALIST: On the $2 million [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the beginning of your question.

JOURNALIST: The $2 million [inaudible]. Is it somewhat disappointing [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I’m sorry, I don’t enough about the details of that story to comment fairly on it.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] relations with Indonesia [inaudible] for the Australian Navy to enter Indonesian waters. What’s your response to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the first interview of the new President of Indonesia, with media- Australian media – is very telling indeed. I think it’s very clear that President Joko Widodo is very concerned about the way the Australian Government has been making announcements about what’s going to happen on Indonesian soil and  Indonesian waters without ever having discussed it with the Indonesian Government and is of course very concerned about the six or so incursions into Indonesian waters by Australian naval vessels in the last year or so. It’s not surprising that the new President of Indonesia is sending a very strong message to Tony Abbott, that the President of Indonesia sees the sovereignty of Indonesia as a very important issue for him. This certainly shows that despite the claims that Tony Abbott has made, the relationship with Indonesia has not been repaired, it’s not in the healthy state that it was before Tony Abbott came into government, and there is still a work of repair job to be done. Thanks, everyone.


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TRANSCRIPT - 702 Breakfast, Friday 17 October 2014

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Subject/s: Ebola.

ROBBIE BUCK, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Federal Member for Sydney, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development and joins me this morning. Good morning.


BUCK: Okay. Well we have heard the Health Minister, Peter Dutton speaking just there. Isn’t that a fair enough point that if you have Australian personnel, and I guess our situation is unique in where we are, trying to get people back from West Africa, if they have contracted Ebola, poses a very difficult situation?

PLIBERSEK: It certainly would be difficult to bring people back to Australia but that is not what anyone is suggesting.  What we’re suggesting is that arrangements should be made and could be made with the UK, with the European countries, with the United States to, in the first instance, take any Australians that might be affected to one of those countries. We also know of course that the UK government is building a hospital, temporary hospitals for health workers in West Africa. We know that the UK is likely to send a hospital ship. There are other arrangements that could be put in place. Australia has AUSMAT teams, so they’re Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are made up of volunteers who have doctors, nurses, other health professionals, who have said they are willing to be deployed into crisis situations, that is one alternative. We have also got individual Australian doctors, nurses and other professionals who have told the AMA, who have told the Nurses Association that they would go if support arrangements could be put in place. The problem here, Robbie, is not that there are no arrangements that could be put in place, the problem is a lack of willingness from the Australian Government to put those arrangements in place.

BUCK: Well, why is that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, you would have to ask the Government why they have not tried harder to do this-

BUCK: Do we know if they have made any overtures to- for some of these outcomes that you've been suggesting?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, I believe that they have spoken with other countries but I do not think it is beyond the capacity of a country like Australia to put in place arrangements. The thing you have got to remember is, there’s already Australians there on the ground who have gone with voluntary organisations so we need to be confident that we can look after them. We know that we have teams like AUSMAT teams, Australian Medical Assistance Teams, that could be deployed in similar situations, that they have been set up specifically to do this. We know that there are Australians who are willing to go with organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, but those organisations are stretched to the capacity- their maximum capacity at the moment. What we are saying is that when we have Australians who are trained and able and willing to go, it is a shocking thing that their government will not put in arrangements to support them to do that.

BUCK: Is it risky though to have Australians on the ground there, particularly if the crisis worsens deeply, does it mean that other nations, whether we have got an agreement with them not, if they are overwhelmed, they’ll be taking their own citizens first other than Australians, wouldn’t they?

PLIBERSEK: Robbie, of course it is risky for individuals to go there, people would be doing something that is incredibly brave and beyond most of us, but we know that some Australians have already done that and more wish to. And I really- I admire that dedication. But the reason they want to go is that they know that we have a 60 day window to stop the spread of this virus. The World Health Organisation has said this virus is spreading exponentially. There’s 10,000 people infected at the moment, if we do not get a handle on it in the next 60 days by, some estimates, January next year, we will have almost a million and a half people infected. And then to say, you know, we do not want to send people now because we want to protect Australia from this virus. When you have got millions of people affected around the world it becomes very, very difficult to protect Australia, so we have an opportunity to act now. Yes, people are going into danger, there is no doubt about that. But they are people who have trained for this, they are dedicated people who wish- who really wish to assist to get this virus under control. How can it be that we are not big enough to support them to do that?

BUCK: Do you agree though that we shouldn’t be sending in any personnel until any of those arrangements are made first up?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have to make arrangements for what happens when people get sick. We have already got Australians there. We need to have those arrangements in place for those Australians, but countries around the world are putting those arrangements in place. There was a report yesterday that the Japanese have not sent a team yet and in fact we read overnight that they are preparing to deploy, that they are putting those arrangements in place now. I certainly do not say that we need to airlift Australians home over a 30 hour flight, I do not think that is a reasonable solution. I simply do not believe that we cannot make an arrangement with one of our partners. We are, right now, in Northern Iraq with the United States and a range of other countries providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Northern Iraq. Are we saying that none of those partners are willing to partner with us in West Africa to put Australian personnel who are trained and willing and able to go onto the ground there with some back up?

BUCK: Up until now, there has been bipartisan support for Australia's response to Ebola, what has changed this week for you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we have been happy that the Government sent some money. They sent initially $8 million and another $10 million, total $18 million. That is not bad, I mean it’s not much given that one individual has put in $25 million, we’ve put in less than one generous individual. But there’s nothing wrong with sending money, it’s just that the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control in the United States, our own Australian Medical Association, our own Public Health Association, our own Nurses Association, all of these organisations are saying that this virus is getting out of control, we’ve got a window to shut it down now, if we do not, the consequences for West Africa and the world are dire.  We have got people who are ready and willing to go and we are not assisting them. Of course we wanted to give the Government some time to put those arrangements in place. We simply have not seen willingness for them to do that and what’s changed, Robbie, what changed is, we’re getting warnings every day, like the World Health Organisation in the last 48 hours has said we have got a 60 day window. That is new information saying if we do not close it down in the next 60 days, it is unpredictable, the consequences are unpredictable on a global scale. The more information we have about the spread of the virus the more critical it becomes that we support Australians who are able to go.

BUCK: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Robbie.


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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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TRANSCRIPT: Capital Hill, Thursday 16 October 2014

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Subject/s: Ebola.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining me today. Now, you've written to the Health Minister and the Foreign Minister asking for Australia to step up its efforts to fight the Ebola crisis. What do you think the Federal Government should be doing here?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I think it's a good thing that Australia's given $18 million so far but we need to keep that in perspective. One generous philanthropist has given $25 million, one person's given more than the Australian Government. But beyond money we need to provide personnel and equipment to help with this crisis. We've heard from the World Health Organization, from the President of the United States, from the President of Sierra Leone, the United Nations, 130 nations, more than 130 nations have signed up to a pledge saying that we all, all nations must provide personnel and equipment, technical expertise and assistance on the ground to help stop the spread of this virus.

DOYLE: Precisely what kind of personnel and equipment?

PLIBERSEK: Australia has AUSMAT teams, Australian Medical Assistance teams that are actually created for this specific purpose. In 2005, when Tony Abbott was the Health Minister, he formed up these teams that were specifically created to be deployed at times of humanitarian crisis like this. They have been sent, for example, to the Philippines after the typhoon. They would be ideally placed, they're interdisciplinary teams of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. That would be one example. Other nations have sent defence personnel. The US has got about 4,000 people deployed and the UK has about 750 deployed. They're able to provide logistic support, build temporary hospitals, make sure that medical equipment and basics like bleach are able to be ferried around the country. There are both medical professionals willing and able to go from Australia, people who would have already said that they would go if they had the support and assistance of the Australian Government rather than being discouraged by the Government from going and then there's also the potential to provide people that can help with the logistic support.

DOYLE: On the Defence Force personnel then, again what kind of numbers, what kind of defence assets do you think should be sent?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that it's important to have advice from Defence about whether they are able to provide assistance at this time as a first step. What I can say is that partner nations, nations that we often work with at times of crisis, are deploying their Defence personnel. But I haven't had specific advice from Defence Forces. So you’d have to, as a first step, ask Defence whether they are able to contribute to this effort. It's certainly the case, however, that we have medical personnel who have expressed a desire to go. We've got our own Australia Medical Association, the Public Health Association of Australia saying that Australian medical personnel would go if they had the support and assistance of the Australian Government and that, of course, is something that is simply inexplicable that we've got Australians who want to assist, that are being prevented from doing so by the Government.

DOYLE: What about the concerns that the Government has expressed about not being able to evacuate health workers or other Australians if they did get infected, where would they be treated?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I just simply cannot believe that it is beyond our capacity to make an arrangement with one of our European partners or with the United States to provide a back up for Australian personnel who might become sick. We have partnership relations with these countries, we've served together at times of humanitarian crisis around the globe at various times and we've helped look after each other's personnel in the past. It's simply not credible that we can't form an arrangement now. We know that there are Australians already serving on the ground there. They have gone without the support of the Australian Government and of course I hope that the Australian Government are preparing in case any of those Australians should need to be evacuated already by talking with partner countries.

DOYLE: Looking at some of those partner countries, looking at somewhere like the United States, there's already public concerns and fears about this virus. Could you imagine then that the reaction, if they were told that they were going to have to deal with Australian workers as well?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the question here is what's the scenario if we do nothing? We've already heard from the Centre of Disease Control that the current 10,000 cases of Ebola could grow to 1.4 million by the beginning of next year. We've been told by the World Health Organization that we've got a 60-day window of opportunity to close down the spread of this virus. If we don't use this next 60 days to close down the spread of this virus, the risk to Australia and the risk to the developed world generally grows exponentially.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, where are you getting your advice that what you're proposing would be manageable? Have you had briefings from Defence or the Health Department, for example?

PLIBERSEK: We have had briefings from Government departments who have told us that the Government has not got these arrangements in place. What I have not –

DOYLE: And have they said that it could be done, that it's manageable?

PLIBERSEK: Well, they've told us what Government policy is and that is not to send Australians-

DOYLE: But you’re saying that it should be done. Do you have advice that it can be done?

PLIBERSEK: From the Australian Medical Association, from the Australian Public Health Association, from medical professionals. We've also got requests from the President of the United States, the President of Sierra Leone, health organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières that say that Australia should be involved with personnel on the ground. We have expert advice across the spectrum of health organisations and we have formal requests including, I should say, a UN Security Council resolution that Australia signed up to saying that all countries should do more, should provide personnel, medical equipment and supplies. We signed up to that agreement voluntarily and yet we're not doing it. We're not doing our share.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference, Melbourne, Thursday 16 October 2014

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Subject/s: Ebola; Biometric Data.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Catherine King and I have written to Peter Dutton, the Health Minister and Julie Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to say that Australia can and must do much more to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. We have now around 4000 people who have died and around 10,000 people who are infected with this virus. And the World Health Organisation has told us that we have a 60 day window to get this virus under control. If we do not get the virus under control, some estimates would say that there will be 1.4 million infections by next year. Of course, the more people who are infected with Ebola in West African countries, the more danger there is to the rest of the world that this infection will spread beyond West Africa to other countries around the world. Australia has given $18 million and while $18 million is welcome, it is not nearly enough. One generous philanthropist has given $25 million; one person has given more than the nation of Australia. But it is not just about money. Organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières have said that money is welcome but not sufficient, that what is really needed on the ground are experienced medical teams that can care for and provide assistance to local health professionals, medical supplies and equipment and of course other personnel. I know that countries like the United States and the UK have sent defence force personnel who can do engineering tasks, can build temporary hospitals for example, and help with supply logistic issues. We have had many direct calls to Australia to do more. The United Nations has called for countries like Australia to provide more assistance, the President of Sierra Leone, the President of the United States and organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Health Organisation and our own Public Health Association and the Australian Medical Association have all said that Australia should support skilled Australians who are willing and able to go to West Africa to provide assistance on the ground. I am going to ask Catherine King to say a few words now and then we will both answer questions.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Tanya, and look, Labor has been calling for some weeks now for the Australian Government to do more to resolve the crisis in West Africa. We know the best defence for Australia is to stop this in West Africa. No amount of screening is going to assist in stopping this in West Africa. We need medical teams on the ground, whether they be AUSMAT teams or other Australians who are prepared to volunteer. We know that this has gone beyond the capacity of any one international aid organisation to deal with and the window is fast closing to actually try and contain this crisis. By January, the Centre for Disease Control in America is saying we’re estimating 1.4 million people will be infected. It will take decades to get Ebola out of West Africa and other countries if we do not act now and the Australian Government- the Australian Government needs to hear the pleas of Médecins Sans Frontières, the AMA, Public Health Association and the international community. It is in the best interest of Australia to do so, and the Government should act now.

PLIBERSEK: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, Tanya, why should Australia send medical teams to West Africa when the logistics of evacuating people who may become infected are so difficult and expensive?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it is certainly not beyond the ability of the Australian Government to organise evacuation protocols for Australians who may become infected with Ebola if Australians should go to the assistance of the West African nations who are most affected. It is beyond belief that the Australian Government is not able to negotiate, with the United States or with European countries, protocols that would provide assurance for Australian medical staff should they need to be evacuated.

JOURNALIST: If Australia sends more Ebola workers to West Africa, isn't the likelihood increasing that the virus could be brought back to Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well the worst-case scenario for Australia is an unchecked Ebola virus that spreads beyond the West African countries that are affected now, to become a global problem. As Catherine said, the Centre for Disease Control is estimating that if we leave the spread of this virus unchecked, up to 1.4 million people will be affected by the beginning of next year, it becomes much harder to protect Australia if there are 1.4 million people or beyond that, millions of people affected around the globe. The danger to Australia increases if this virus is left unchecked. We have also had people like Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, saying that this is a crisis not just for the health of the African nations most affected by it, but for their economies and also for the global economy. The best thing Australia can do is contribute to international efforts to stop the spread of this virus. The World Health Organisation has said that we have a 60 day window to get this under control. We have to be part of the effort during the next two months to bring this under control or risk to Australia increases exponentially.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept then that the probability of the virus being brought back to Australia could be increased if health workers are sent over there?

PLIBERSEK: I think the probability of Australia becoming affected by the Ebola virus increases exponentially if we are not part of a global effort to bring it under control. We’ve got 10,000 people affected now and, by the Centre of Disease Control’s estimate, over 1 million by the beginning of next year. We have to use this 60 day window to get this virus under control or the risk to Australia increases.

JOURNALIST: The Government says they cannot help- guarantee the health and safety of workers that go over there. Which hospital do you propose to send to or how do you propose to guarantee their health and safety?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is absurd for the Australian Government to say that they cannot make an arrangement with the United States, with European countries that have got health workers there at the moment. There are two things to say about this. There are already Australians who have gone without the support of the Government to provide assistance to Ebola victims and those Australians should have the support of their government willing to say that they will work with our partner countries to evacuate those health workers should they need evacuation. More importantly, you look at the United States - has now sent 4000 defence personnel the United Kingdom has sent 750. We are partnering with these countries in the humanitarian mission in the Middle East, so around Iraq, we partnered with them in many instances when there’s been humanitarian crises in the past. To say that we cannot come to an arrangement with the US or European partners for the protection of Australians who are willing and able to assist just isn't credible.

JOURNALIST: I understand you’ve had briefings from the Government advising against sending missions to West Africa. Who is giving you advice that such a mission could be achieved safely?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve had briefings from employees of government departments who have told us that it is not Government policy to do this. They have told us all of the problems with going in and they’ve told us – frankly from the briefing I got a very strong sense that the Government is not interested in finding solutions to those problems. We’ve got advice from organsations like the Australian Public Health Association and the Australian Medical Association that Australians are ready and willing to assist and that they should be sent with the support of the Australian Government. But more to the point Australia is one of the nations that signed up to a UN Security Council Resolution that 130 nations signed up to saying that we should provide assistance, personnel, supplies, medical equipment. We’ve had direct requests from the President of Sierra Leone to the Prime Minister of Australia. We’ve had President Obama saying the countries like Australia should do more. We’ve had organisations like the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control, Médecins Sans Frontières, credible international organisations begging Australia for help. It is completely unacceptable that we are sitting on our hands.  Catherine do you want to add to that please.

KING: Look certainly in terms of the Australian response in the briefings I’ve had from the Health Department and other officials, it was very clear from those briefings that this is a matter for Government policy - that they are in negotiations with countries about how we might evacuate Australian citizens but this is a decision that the Government has made only to send money.

JOURNALIST: You mention that other countries could help Australia evacuate infected people. Any indications of what countries might take them or evacuate them?

PLIBERSEK: Well there are countries that have significant numbers of their own personnel going into affected areas. I’ve mentioned for example the United States has 4000 defence personnel that have been deployed to assist. I do not believe it is beyond the ability of the Australian Government to negotiate with our partners, countries that we have partnered with on many occasions, where we’ve worked together to assist in these times of great humanitarian need. I do not believe it is beyond our ability to negotiate with these countries.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop has said she’s been unable to get guarantees from European countries that they’d be willing to transport or treat victims. Are you suggesting that we should send people on this mission when we don’t have those guarantees?

PLIBERSEK: I’m not suggesting for a moment that we send Australian personnel into danger with no provision to look after them should they fall into danger. But right now we have Australian defence personnel deployed to the Middle East. We have been able to work with partner countries to ensure we have the best possible arrangements to protect our personnel to the best of our ability. Of course it is dangerous to send people into an area where this virus is spreading so quickly, but it is more dangerous to stand by and do nothing. We have medical personnel who say that they are willing and able to assist and it strains credulity to say that the Australian Government is not able to partner with other countries to provide some assurance that if the worst should happen and one of them should need evacuation that would be impossible.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that the Government is not interested in sending teams to West Africa?

PLIBERSEK: I’m saying that they are not trying hard enough to provide an Australian contribution to getting this virus under control.

JOURNALIST: Just on the terrorism laws would you be comfortable with customs and border protection storing the biometric data of potentially 8 million Australians?

PLIBERSEK: Well I have to be a little bit careful because I’m on the Parliamentary Committee that has been examining this legislation and I can’t comment on the contents of a report of that Parliamentary Committee that will be coming out in coming days. What I would say is that the scrutiny of the legislation has been very short in its timeframe, very short in duration, the committee and indeed the Parliament would benefit from a much longer timeframe to examine this legislation. I’ll make a general comment about the question that you’re asking rather than a specific comment. If our security agencies ask for greater powers in times of trouble we need to consider those requests very carefully and when we grant them, if we grant them, we need to ensure there is a great deal of scrutiny and safeguard attached. I am always cautious about the idea of storing people’s private information including information regarding biometric data. I think you’d have to make a very strong case indeed to do so.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you one more question, what role would the Australian military play in West Africa?

PLIBERSEK: Well you would have to talk to the Australian military about the best assistance they could give but when we look at the assistance the US and UK defence personnel are giving it’s very largely building the logistics, such things as building temporary hospitals and making sure that members of staff and equipment are distributed appropriately. Catherine do you want to add to that?

KING: Yeah and certainly in terms of making sure, obviously there is a great need for not just equipment but things like bleach, access to hazard suits, that sort of thing. The defence force does have that capability and certainly they are playing that role from other countries.


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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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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast, Thursday 16 October 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Ebola Crisis; Iraq; Vladimir Putin.


ALISON CARABINE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Breakfast.


CARABINE: You are writing to Julie Bishop today, what exactly are you asking her to do?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’ve written to both the Foreign Minister and the Health Minister to ask them to increase Australia’s efforts in fighting the Ebola crisis. I must say the AMA, the Australian Public Health Association, a number of other organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières have said that money is good but what we really need is skilled staff, supplies and equipment. Australia does have the capacity to help. We’ve got Australian Medical Assistances Teams for example that could be deployed. Other countries have deployed defence personnel. For example the United States is sending around 4000 personnel, the UK is sending around 750 personnel and they are able to do things like build temporary hospitals, transport, and logistics are taken care of and supplies are appropriately distributed. We have some very talented Australians, very dedicated Australians who have said that they would be willing to go to help fight Ebola in West Africa. What’s disappointing about this is that the Australian Government is actually discouraging those people from going.

CARABINE: So you want the Medical Assistance Teams to be deployed to West Africa and you mention the fact that Britain and the US have sent in troops. Do you see a role for Australian forces on the ground in Africa in support of our health workers?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australia has to be a partner in fighting Ebola in West Africa because if it continues to spread, we’ve now seen two cases in the US, we’ve seen a case in Spain, you see the risk of this becoming a global disease burden that we will lose control of. The World Health Organisation is already warning that we are losing control of the spread of this virus. It is in Australia’s interest that we help fight this virus while it still may be containable.

CARABINE: The Prime Minister has said that he won’t put Australian health workers in harm’s way, he wants to be absolutely confident the risks are being properly managed. He is right to be concerned, what would happen if an Australian health worker was infected?

PLIBERSEK: Well he is absolutely right to be concerned for the welfare any Australian personnel who go to fight Ebola in West Africa in the same way that he’s right to be concerned about the health and wellbeing of Australian Defence personnel when they’re deployed to the Middle East. We have arrangements to help our defence personnel if they get in harm’s way. It is not beyond us to put in place arrangements for our health workers should they become ill or have an accident while they’re deployed in West Africa. We should be able to make arrangements with the United States or our European partners to evacuate Australian health workers.

CARABINE: And you mention the deployment to Iraq are we picking and choosing which humanitarian crisis we intervene in?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there is obviously a comparison to be drawn. It is very important for Australia to respond to the request of the Iraqi people to protect themselves from IS but they are having request after request from the countries that are most affected by the Ebola virus for help to protect them from the spread of this virus. I think it’s quite right we help in both situations.

CARABINE: And just on Iraq. The Government is still waiting on the status of forces agreement before it can deploy Australian special forces. In the meantime we’ve seen the security situation deteriorating in Iraq. Islamic State fighters are getting closer to Bagdad for example. By the time the green light is given by the National Security Committee could it be too late for Australian personnel to go in to help train up Iraqi units?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m very disappointed these arrangements have not been put into place so far. It is obviously important to get the legal status of forces agreement to protect Australians who are in Iraq. It’s been at least three weeks now and it is of grave concern that the Australian Government have not managed to negotiate these arrangements in this time.

CARABINE: And with ISIS getting closer to the capital if it makes it to Bagdad, and there’s a real risk of that, could it become simply too dangerous for Australian personnel to be sent into Iraq? Is that something that’s starting to concern you?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think in circumstances where there are large changes on the ground we need to take advice from our defence personnel in the first instance about the role they could play.

CARABINE: So you’d want that assurance before forces were deployed to Iraq?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve said all along that we don’t want to see boots on the ground in Iraq. Our role has been a humanitarian and an advisory role, air cover to fight off IS. If the situation changes radically I think it would be important for the Prime Minister to take the advice of defence forces and of course advise the Australian Parliament about his intentions.

CARABINE: And Tanya Plibersek on Vladimir Putin, Dimitri Medvedev has told Tony Abbott to choose his words more carefully. That’s a reference to his shirtfront threat. Do you agree with the Kremlin on this one?

PLIBERSEK: Well it’s a stretch to say I agree with the Kremlin on anything, but what I would say is that this is a gravely serious matter, not just for the families and friends of the 38 Australian residents who lost their lives when MH17 was shot down but for all Australians, we all feel their loss and it’s important to choose language that is sober and carefully chosen.

CARABINE: There is a suggestion that President Putin might now stay away from the G20, would that be for the best?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think many Australians will find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia, but it’s important that we behave in a way that shows how seriously we take this matter and how soberly we expect the Russian Government to deal with issues like continuing access to the crash site.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek thanks so much for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Alison.


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