Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defended the federal government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia will not put its health workers at risk of contracting the Ebola virus in West Africa when there is no safe evacuation plan.
The government is being urged to commit medical and technical experts to West Africa to help combat the virus outbreak, which has already killed nearly 3100 people this year.
Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia has dismissed financial aid as “inadequate” at this stage.
But Ms Bishop said there was no way Australia could safely evacuate its health workers if they were to contract the virus on the ground.
“I have made it quite clear that the Australian government will not put at risk Australian health workers without a safe and credible evacuation plan,” she told AAP on Wednesday.
She said the flying time between West Africa and Australia was approximately 30 hours – far too long for a patient who may contract the deadly disease.
Australia also didn’t possess a military aeroplane capable of evacuating Ebola sufferers.
“We cannot physically, logistically do it, so we’re talking to other governments to see if there is a way to evacuate elsewhere,” she said.
Ms Bishop was heckled in question time in parliament as Labor demanded to know why the government wouldn’t send willing and able Australian experts into the field.
Australia has so far contributed $40 million to the World Health Organisation, and an additional $8 million upon request.
By comparison the United States – which has confirmed its first domestic case of Ebola – will bolster its nearly 200 military personnel on the ground in West Africa with a further 1400 by late October.
But the foreign minister remained adamant Australia was doing all it could.
“Those who say that the government isn’t serious about evacuation plans they couldn’t be more mistaken,” she said.