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Ebola and G20: work as a team, and do it my way

Next week, all attention will be on Brisbane as the leaders of some of the biggest economies in the world will arrive to attend the G20 summit.

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Not only will Tony Abbott hope that the event will reinforce the notion that he should be our Prime Minister, it will also be used by the government to suggest the week should be 鈥渁bove politics鈥?

International summits don鈥檛 always work to plan, however. The 2007 APEC summit in Sydney if anything served to reinforce the notion in voters鈥?minds that John Howard was yesterday鈥檚 man. The reflected glory of being seen next to George W. Bush did not produce much lustre. Far from being a time that was above politics, the summit became the week that members of his cabinet got together to discuss whether he should stand down for Peter Costello.

That fate won鈥檛 befall Tony Abbott next week, but he will certainly be hoping it is a week where there will be calls for a display of 鈥渂i-partisanship鈥?while international events take precedence.

Governments love this because it essentially requires the opposition to agree with them.

You only call for bi-partisanship when you want your way for things to be done to be uncontested.

Occasionally 鈥?such as during natural disasters 鈥?everyone agrees playing politics must be put aside, but mostly this is for very political reasons. Political parties know voters hate to see politicians use such events for political purposes and thus it is not in their interest to do so.

Politics infects even the non-political.

One of the best 鈥渓et鈥檚 not play politics鈥?calls of late has been with Australia鈥檚 response to the Ebola crisis in west Africa.

The call came loudest from the Health Minster Peter Dutton, who could barely begin a press conference without blaming the opposition鈥檚 Health spokesperson Tanya Plibersek for playing politics.

He even was able to begin a media release titled, 鈥?a href=”深圳桑拿网网,深圳桑拿网,health.gov深圳桑拿网,/internet/ministers/publishing.nsf/Content/health-mediarel-yr2014-dutton090.htm?OpenDocument&yr=2014&mth=10″>Ebola: The Facts鈥?with the statement, 鈥淭he Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and Labor鈥檚 Shadow Health spokesperson Catherine King should cease playing politics with the serious health issue of Ebola鈥?

Such calls from Dutton and others like Scott Morrison provide lazy journalists with headline fodder such as 鈥淟abor playing politics with Ebola crisis, Peter Dutton says鈥?on 19 October and on 24 October 鈥淟abor accused of playing politics over Ebola.鈥?/p>

Just remember, the rules of the game are that apparently it is not being political to accuse your opponent of being political.

It got to such a point that one journalist, who should be very embarrassed, actually asked Peter Dutton 鈥淎re you disappointed that Labor appears to still be playing politics with the Ebola issue?鈥?/p>

At the time the ALP was accusing the government of not working fast enough to get an arrangement with another country 鈥?most likely in Europe 鈥?to treat any infected Australian health workers.

The government suggested it couldn鈥檛 in good conscience encourage health workers to go without such an arrangement in place.

On 24 October on the Today Show, Scott Morrison responded to Tanya Plibersek鈥檚 claim that the government was 鈥渘ot trying to find鈥?an arrangement with other countries that she was advocating 鈥減utting people in harm鈥檚 way鈥?and that 鈥測ou’ve got to have the commitment that that is available鈥?and that Australia didn鈥檛 have one.

Yet it turns out that on October 20, the European Union foreign affairs committee had decreed: 鈥淭o encourage additional health personnel to work on the ground, the EU is providing a guarantee that international health workers who volunteer will be provided with appropriate care, locally or through medical evacuation, within available resources, should they become infected鈥?

On Thursday, when announcing that an arrangement had been reached with the UK to treat any infected Australian health workers, Mr Dutton responded to the question about why Australia had not acted on the EU鈥檚 guarantee by dodging the question. He told ABC鈥檚 Chris Uhlmann:

鈥淲ell, we鈥檝e taken a guarantee from the British and we鈥檝e obviously been very pleased with the response from some European countries. We have arrangements in place now, guarantees if you like, that weren鈥檛 there before that mean that we can provide security for our health workers.鈥?/p>

So, here鈥檚 a tip for anyone wondering how to judge these thing 鈥?when politicians are dodging questions, they are playing politics.

Greg Jericho is an economics and politics blogger and writes for The Guardian and The Drum.

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