Ebola is not a priority for pugnacious Prime Minister Tony Abbott

According to the latest report from the World Health Organisation, the outbreaks of Ebola in Senegal and Nigeria have been “pretty much contained.” WHO reports 5,833 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 2,833 deaths. WHO is recommending a return to travel and trade, and an end to travel restrictions to affected countries.
Clearly WHO is pointing to a more optimistic outlook for the Ebola affected countries, The disease has the potential to wreck the economies and societies of West African countries in the way that the Great Plague wrecked Europe in the 14th Century.

Tribute for turning the situation around can be paid partly to government action such as Sierra Leone’s 3 day shutdown, and to the heroism of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ doctors and nurse. A critical factor must also be the collective action of the World Health Organisation, and foreign governments that responded to the WHO’s call for help. USA, Cuba and France are sending not only money, but troops and health workers to set up the medical campaign across West Africa.

Where was Australia? Oh well, Tony Abbott offered $2.5 million to Medecins Sans Frontieres, but ruled out sending what is really wanted – people on the ground. MSF’s response: – “We have been very clear with the government for two weeks now 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.”
Even the generally conservative Australian Medical Association was appalled at the way that Abbott is dismissing the WHO’s call for help. “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,” said AMA president Professor Brian Owler

One area where Australia was making a contribution to the battle against Ebola was in research. The Australian Animal Health Laboratory was working on a vaccine for the Ebola virus. However, the Abbott government cut their funding by more than $110 million, with eight researchers losing their jobs

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been riding on a bit of a wave of international and domestic acclaim, for his, and his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s outspoken and forceful stands against Russia, in the Ukraine crisis, and the ISIL threat in Iraq.

This time of global crises – Iraq, Ukraine, world financial meetings, climate change, Ebola – provides grand opportunities for Tony Abbott to strut the world stage. And he did seem to be doing that successfully. However the latest poll shows that Australians might be noticing now not only the government’s budget failings, but also the flaws in Abbott’s international policies. The Murdoch press tries to put a positive slant on this -“Abbott ends his first year on the rise rather than the reverse” and “Abbott…. could be about to prosper” But the Roy Morgan poll of 22 September found that “Abbott’s decision to ‘send in the troops’ fails to secure poll bounce: Young Australians comprehensively reject the Abbot Government.” The only group that preferred the government was those aged over 65.

Clearly, Tony Abbott is most comfortable when extending his pugnacious personal style to the international scene. He is least comfortable when it comes to complex negotiations about matters that cannot have a military solution.

On Iraq – Tony Abbott has declared that Australia would not need a United Nations resolution for Australian forces to fight in Iraq.
Repeatedly using the phrase “ISIL death cult” in a radio interview on Channel 9’s Today show, Abbott pretty much indicated that Australia is at war – “we are well and truly prepared for combat operations inside Iraq.”
So – Australia is sending 10 aircraft – including eight Super Hornet fighter jets – along with 400 support staff and 200 special forces troops to the United Arab Emirates ready for any action against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

On Ukraine – On September Tony Abbott told Parliament on Wednesday that Australia was considering sending “civil and military capacity-building assistance” to Ukraine. David Wroe in the Sydney Morning Herald described this as “- a clear signal that Mr Abbott is pushing to position Australia firmly as an active “middle power” in international affairs.” Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said “What you’re seeing here is the physical expression of something that Tony Abbott wants to do, which is to lift Australia’s profile globally on security issues.” Almost a pity that on that same day , Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared he had reached a ceasefire deal with Moscow. That sort of took the wind out of Abbott’s grand plan for Australian military action on that particular stage.

On global security. In New York Tony Abbott will address a specialmeeting of the UN Security Council, September 24 on a USA resolution for a global crackdown on foreign fighters. He will be discussing with world leaders other global matters – conflict in Ukraine, the November G20 summit in Brisbane – but not, I think, climate change.

On climate change This was the subject of the New York world leaders’ meeting on September 23 – but Tony Abbott did not attend: he was too busy with important matters in Australia “My first duty in a sense is to the Australian parliament and that’s where I’ll be early in the week,” he explained. Or was it that Tony is too scared of what kind of reception he might get, at that meeting?
Never mind. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was there, to do his dirty work for him. She had been given her lines. Ms Bishop would explain that Australia will not be taking any new action on climate change, – it is “too early” to present plans for deeper emissions cuts beyond Australia’s existing policies. “We’re looking at what other countries are doing, we’re in consultation with other countries … [but] this is too early to do it”.

Ebola – last but not least -is the crisis on which Tony Abbott most clearly shows where his priorities lie. Is it possible that, despite the mainstream media’s harping on terrorism, and security, and military action – that Australians are waking up to Abbott’s complete lack of humanitarian concern, both at home and abroad?

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