Labor is gravely concerned the Abbott Government is refusing to do more to fight the rapidly escalating Ebola crisis, despite pleas for help from around the world.
From the United Nations to the Australian Medical Association, there are urgent calls to send medical staff and support teams to assist manage the outbreak in West Africa. We back those calls.
Today, Labor will write to the Abbott Government requesting immediate arrangements be made to:
• deploy Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) or similar to West Africa; and
• support other specialist Australian personnel (such as doctors and nurses) who are willing and able to assist prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
Labor has supported the Abbott Government’s $18 million contribution to relief efforts, but money alone is not enough. Experts are saying very clearly that experienced personnel are needed on the ground too. Such support would be broadly consistent with what is already being provided by the United States, the United Kingdom, and others.
If required, the Australian Government should negotiate with our international partner countries to ensure appropriate standby and evacuation management arrangements for any Australian personnel.
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people and infected around 10,000 people in West Africa.
If we don’t do more, some predictions suggest the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million by 2015.
The Ebola crisis is no longer just a humanitarian crisis for West Africa – it now poses a direct threat to world economic growth and if not contained, will spread to other countries.
As Labor has been saying for weeks now – the Abbott Government cannot afford to keep standing by.
Failure to act now will have serious consequences. As recent Ebola cases in the US and Spain show, even countries with the most highly developed health and border protection systems are no longer immune.
If the international community pulls together, the Ebola outbreak may be possible to contain. But the window of opportunity is closing fast. That’s why Australia must significantly increase its efforts, immediately.
CALLS FOR HELP
The United Nations
Australia co-sponsored a unanimous UN Security Council resolution (with a record 130 other countries) calling on all nations to:
” …facilitate the delivery of assistance, including qualified, specialized and trained personnel and supplies, in response to the Ebola outbreak…”.
UN Security Council resolution 2177, 18 September 2014
The International Monetary Fund
“The development of the Ebola virus. if it is not contained, if all the players that talk about it don’t actually do something about it to try to stop it, contain it and help those three countries deal with it, it might develop into something that would be a very serious concern and could cause significant risks.”
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde – Washington DC Speech, 2 October 2014
President of the United States
“We are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough. Right now, everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic.
“More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities — whether it is air transport, or medical evacuation, or health care workers, or equipment, or treatment.”
US President Barack Obama, UN High-Level meeting on Ebola, 18 September 2014
President of Sierra Leone
“While we are doing everything possible to stop the outbreak, further support is urgently needed from your friendly government to scale up our national response with … education efforts, as well as infection control measures.”
Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma – Letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, October 2014
The Public Health Association of Australia
"There are serious risks to Australia and other high-income countries from this outbreak, particularly if it were to spread into other populous countries in the region…we are all stakeholders in this epidemic and it is in our urgent national interest to contribute to the response with deployment of skilled personnel."
Letter signed by 60 Australian health professors, PHAA, October 2014
The Australian Medical Association
“We are witnessing a humanitarian and public health crisis of the highest order.
“The Australian Government can and must do more – much more.
“The AMA is calling on the Government to urgently coordinate the recruitment and deployment of volunteer doctors and other health professionals to West Africa, and provide ongoing practical support such as protective and medical equipment and supplies, transport and accommodation.”
AMA President Brian Owler, 18 September 2014
“…in the same way as we work with international partners in Syria at the moment, we can do absolutely the same thing with Americans, the British, and the other countries that are making similar arrangements – this is an international, in fact a global effort, and we need to play our part. Eight million dollars doesn’t cut it, and I certainly agree…that our call at the Security Council for international assistance here is in contrast to our deeds on this matter.”
AMA Vice-President, Dr Stephen Parnis, ABC Radio National, 2 October 2014
Mdecins Sans Frontires
“We have been very clear with the government that we are not asking for financial support. We are asking the government to evaluate Australia’s emergency medical capacity and mobilise it on the ground in West Africa.”
MSF Australian executive director Paul McPhun, 18 September 2014
Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper, Greg Sheridan
“…I do really think the Government has not done enough here. This is really unsatisfactory… everybody in this debate understands you must respond to disasters and natural calamities with human urgency. Now, it ought not to be beyond the wit of Australian diplomacy to organise an arrangement with the Americans, we deploy into deadly battle with the Americans, surely the Americans who are deploying their troops into West Africa to fight Ebola could be joined by Australians and also, I think the amount of money has been parsimonious and I do think this is a very unsatisfactory response.”
Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, The Australian newspaper, ABC’s Q&A, 13 October 2014