Labor welcomes the Abbott Government’s announcement of additional support to fight the Ebola crisis.
But by Mr Abbott’s own admission, it is possible no Australians will be involved in providing that additional support.
“Most of them [running the Ebola treatment facility in West Africa] will be locally engaged. Some will be international, and it’s quite possibly even likely that some will be Australian.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, press conference, 5 November 2014
Labor has been saying for weeks that the Abbott Government needs to do more, including supporting Australian health workers who are willing and able to fight Ebola at its source in West Africa.
Today’s announcement does almost nothing to facilitate that.
That’s despite calls from around the world for personnel to be supported to go to West Africa, including the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, Mdecins Sans Frontires, the American President and UK Prime Minister, the President of Sierra Leone, Oxfam, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, and the Public Health Association of Australia.
A UN Security Council resolution, which the Abbott Government both co-sponsored and voted for, calls on nations to:
” …facilitate the delivery of assistance, including qualified, specialized and trained personnel and supplies, in response to the Ebola outbreak…”.
Australia has some of the best trained, most dedicated health workers in the world. We have been inspired by the many doctors and nurses who have selflessly offered to assist.
The Australian Medical Association says many Australian doctors are willing and able to go.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says more than 350 Australian nurses are willing and able to go.
Of course, going to help fight Ebola in West Africa would not be without risk. That’s why we continue to stress how important it is that safety protocols are in place to support Australian personnel who volunteer.
But if, as an international community, we are to have a chance of getting this crisis under control, there isn’t a moment to lose.
The Abbott Government must do more to support Australians who volunteer to serve. Today’s announcement does very little to address that