The health minister says Labor should be condemned for playing politics with Ebola, but Tanya Plibersek says the government is ‘doing the wrong thing’.
Federal health minister Peter Dutton says Labor is playing politics with Ebola as the government provides “tangible support” for groups already in west Africa.
The federal government has provided $18 million of support to help address the humanitarian crisis, which US health authorities say could see 1.4 million people infected with Ebola by next year.
But the opposition and medical groups are keeping up the pressure for the government to send personnel, as other countries have done.
The government has called for a bipartisan approach, but the opposition says the best way to protect Australians is to help contain the outbreak in west Africa.
“It’s a bit rough to call for bipartisanship when the government’s plainly doing the wrong thing,” deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
Mr Dutton says the government would not put health workers “into harm’s way,” given there is no guaranteed evacuation plan should an Australian worker contract Ebola.
“It is beyond me why other countries are able to make arrangements for their health workers … and the Australian government is not able to do that,” Ms Plibersek said.
Mr Dutton said the government would continue to speak to the US and Britain about an evacuation plan.
“At the moment, it’s plain to me that they (Labor) are playing politics with a very important issue,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane.
“I think they should be condemned for it.”
Mr Dutton said Ms Plibersek had been briefed by health, foreign affairs and defence experts, who had all provided consistent advice.
“That is, we don’t have west African on-the-ground support for Australian health workers to be guaranteed medical support if they were to contract the Ebola virus providing work in the country,” he said.
Ms Plibersek said she had been briefed about the impediments at the beginning of October.
“In the weeks subsequent, it appears the government’s made little to no effort to overcome those impediments,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said health workers from agencies such as the Australian Medical Association were willing to travel with “less discouragement and a bit of facilitation”.