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Everything is politics

In this piece on The Drum today titled “Labor misreads the politics of Ebola,” Paula Matthewson argues that the Opposition has misjudged its stance on the Abbott Government’s response to the current Ebola health crisis. There was a momentary lament on Twitter about the term “the politics of Ebola” to which Matthewson responded “Everything is politics.” To which I responded “And that is the biggest problem we will ever have to face.”

Everything has a “politics” to be sure, but not everything is solely politics. Good governance, of the kind we have yet to see from the Abbott government, doesn’t reduce every situation to its politics, unless that governance is entirely dedicated to self-interest in which case it isn’t good, or even adequate. Yes, there is a political dimension to the Ebola crisis, and there is a humanitarian dimension, and an economic dimension as well. Privileging the political is of benefit to politicians and their extended entourage, but rarely does it benefit the broader community to have any issue reduced to only one of its dimensions.

This isn’t to criticise Matthewson’s piece, she’s clear about the dimension she’s focusing on. However, some of us nursed a secret hope that the Opposition’s critique of Abbott’s hardline position in refusing to supply boots on the ground in West Africa indicated its humanitarian leanings, rather than being merely the assumption of conveniently contrary political position, but so bereft are we of trust in politicians we can’t be sure of any of their motives. Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten delivers his set lines with all the conviction of a wombat brought down by a tranquilliser dart, and while the Prime Minister performed superbly in opposition as the world’s best bovver boy, his affectless promises to shirtfront Putin at the G20 are a bad fit with his current manifestation as our country’s leading statesman. As my grandmother liked to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, more’s the pity as the political landscape is currently littered with pigs’ ears, with barely a silk purse in sight.

It’s probably sadly true that every issue has become distilled to its politics, to the exclusion of any other consideration. So we treat asylum seekers abominably, break our necks in our urgency to become involved in distant wars, refuse to send medical personnel to assist with globally threatening diseases, and the rest, all because of political expediency. It has got to the point where to even raise humanitarian concerns will likely lead to a tsunami of mockery. Matthewson may well be right: everything is politics, and if that’s the case, that is indeed the biggest problem we’ll ever have to face.

This article was first published as Everything is politics. Discuss. on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep.

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  1. Terry2

    I have to say that I was surprised by the fierce response from Dutton and Morrison against Plibersek’s quite reasonable call for a greater response from our government to the international efforts to stem the spread of Ebola in West Africa. When I heard Dutton saying that she was playing politics and that Shorten should pull her into line I thought to myself, who exactly is playing politics here sunshine.

    The silly and oft repeated government line about not being able to repatriate infected healthworkers because we are too far away is just avoiding the issue and as Plibersek tried to ask – but was shouted down – who exactly are we speaking to in order to set up cooperative repatriation or medivac arrangements e.g. USA/UK/Euro countries ? I suspect that we have just dug our toes in and don’t intend to do anything practical unless Australia is directly threatened.

    I saw Dutton doing a photo op in a Brisbane hospital demonstrating how prepared we are – only trouble was the healthcare professionals were kitted out in hazmat safety suits with an unprotected area around the throat and neck : not a good look !

    If nothing else, a well funded effort supported by our government would give our personnel experience at the coal face.

  2. stephentardrew

    By 2 Terry2.

  3. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    thanks for your observations. I wouldn’t have noticed those details myself.

    As for, every issue having to have the political dimension, I acknowledge AIMN’s consternation. Why indeed?

    Just get on with the international effort, get over to Africa, try to contain Ebola and most importantly, try to save people’s lives.

    When I was impressionable, I never wanted to be a nurse, but in hindsight, I honestly believe nurses, doctors and other health workers have great gifts of making the differences between life, death or life worth living. It’s for those very fundamental reasons that Australia should do whatever we can to help the suffering caused by Ebola.

  4. Anne Byam

    Spot on Terry 2. ….. a great post.

    There are MANY medical professionals in our country who would be willing to help. As for the ‘problematic’ situation of ‘getting them out of there and back here safely ‘ ………… ??

    IF the Government ( allegedly ) have in place resources ( according to many reports ) in the event that Ebola reaches ‘our region’ ( whatever the hell THAT might mean … politically speaking that is ) ……. then we have the capabilities of repatriation and safe return of our willing medical workers. Wouldn’t matter where this was happening……….. we DO have the resources, so proudly announced by Peter Dutton ( see below ).

    It is a load of hogwash to reject any intervention from our country toward manually helping in West Africa ; it is politcal cynicism … from this unutterably inhumane, inhuman, and diabolical Government.

    As I have posted before – elsewhere on AIM .. on an interview on ABC with Peter Dutton : [ interviewer – Michael Brissenden ]

    …………… ” MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, what if it comes to our region? I mean that, you would have to consider that a threat to national security, wouldn’t you?

    PETER DUTTON: Well, we’ve already planned for that and we would have the capacity to rapidly respond if a country within our region sought our assistance. And we believe very strongly that it would be the responsibility of Australia to respond in our region and we do have the assets and the personnel to be able to do that and those plans have been in place for some time.

    And obviously there wouldn’t be health workers coming from Europe to our part of the world to provide that response. It would be Australia’s response and we are well prepared for it. ” …………….


    Well …… is that the truth, or is it not ????? ………… And who is HE to say where assistance would come from – or not, for ” our region ” – for any form of virulent virus ???? Bloody hell.

    IF …….. as Dutton claims, we have ‘planned’ for the ebola crisis ‘in our region’ ….. how the HELL does it make sense, that we do not have those contingencies in place, for anyone returning from anywhere — with this Ebola virus ( God forbid) – or for that matter, any other rampant virus, that might eventuate.

    It simply does NOT make sense ………….unless, that is, you are a politician, seeking more kudos in the form of voting power, and more credibilty – which at this time is batting zero for this ultra-vile Government. .

    Grrrrrrrr …………….

  5. Kaye Lee

    Ummmmm….we already have an agreement with the US about using their medical facility in Germany for soldiers. The US obviously have planes equipped to transfer these people as would the UK. I really don’t think they are trying to find a solution. As if they would refuse the same service to health personnel when they are crying out for help.

    “While most wounded or injured ADF members can be directly returned to Australia, members who become critically ill or injured while in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) may be evacuated by the US AME system to the US Role 4 Military Hospital in Germany. The AME Operations Officer situated in Afghanistan and the Aeromedical Evacuation Control Centre (AECC) would assist in this transfer decision. This AME is usually by the US AME system on a dedicated tactical C–130 AME flight to Bagram, then by strategic C–17 AME flight to Germany. If a delay in Bagram jeopardises the clinical situation, a C–17 could be used from any Role 3 health facility for direct transport to Germany.”

  6. Kaye Lee

    We also have our own planes and medical teams who would no doubt be given permission to transfer patients to Europe or the US.

    “Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Michael Reade, Defence’s Professor of Military Medicine and Surgery told the Committee:
    The provision of that care has also become excellent. Again, it was not initially. We would not have the facility, for example, at the outbreak of all of this to return a critically ill mechanically ventilated patient to Australia but we have now the airframes, we have got the medical equipment that is compatible with those airframes and we have got the trained and now experienced clinicians to do that. So it is really an outstanding medical system up until the point of return to Australia.”

    There are also private companies….

    “Aspen Medical has extensive experience in the provision of Aero-Medical Evacuation (AME) solutions for clients in a range of industries across the globe. We work with companies in the Oil & Gas industries both in Australia and the Middle East, and with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and other Commonwealth personnel at home and internationally.”

  7. CMMC

    Vale, E.G.Whitlam. ‘Tumultuous days of the Whitlam era’ they keep saying.

    I remember the times, and the tumult only existed in the usual places, Newspapers, Talk-Back Radio and Network TV News were screeching on a daily basis about how this disastrous Government would send everyone broke.

  8. Wayne Turner

    I’d ignore that Paula piece – She use to work for John Howard ie: She is a Liberal party stooge.

    Also,the Libs use the slogan of “playing politics” against Labor as a way to try to shut down debate,and it’s a petty shutting down debate insult – A clear case the Libs have no argument when they use it.Labor are in politics,it’s their job to “play politics” – Better than “play basketball/football/…..” from Labor.Also,it’s ANOTHER case of these Libs PROJECTING.

  9. townsvilleblog

    As my wise old grandfather told me back in 1980, everything is politics. Politics affects the price of a loaf of bread and how much (if anything) you will have in your pocket to pay for said loaf of bread. Politics is as basic as that, and those who say things like “I’m not into politics” actually mean they don’t care for how long and with what intensity they allow them selves to be shafted.

  10. townsvilleblog

    We lost a great warrior for egalitarianism today, Vale The Honorable E.G.Whitlam AC QC.

  11. bensab3

    So Paula Matthewson is a Liberal supporter. Doesn’t surprise me. These days anything on The Drum that is so skewed right doesn’t surprise me either, as it is constant. Somehow, the ABC is being heavily influenced by this Government, IPA and Murdoch to represent their ideology with a smattering only of a balancing view from the more left of politics.

    What hope do we have of a balanced view of politics with the main stream media so dominated by right ideology and now the ABC too.

  12. Wayne Turner

    Sadly Main Stream Media wise is all to the right.The truth is the public need to learn “critical thinking” and to stop being so gullible when they hear and see things from the BIASED MSM – Easier said than done.After all we got Idiot LYING Abbott promoted by the MSM.

  13. silkworm

    The fact is that the Australian people are more scared of ebola than they are of ISIS, and this is a worry to the Liberals, because Labor is winning the politics on this. I understand that Mathewson is a former Howard advisor, and her advice, gratis to the Libs, would be to attack Labor, as a way of taking the focus off the inadequacy of Abbott’s response to the ebola crisis.

  14. Billy muddle moir

    whitlam’s era was three at the top and 10 as leader and it was tumultuous and terrific for the 3 years at the top. As was gillard’s era, 3 years of great positive stuff stuffed by the media’s headline hunger for negativity.
    A hunger still constantly fed by the rabbott and ignored by labor.
    Remember Jo? He made the rabbott look like a Rhodes scholar with his command of the English language but he was equal at controlling the voters through the media. He set the agenda of labor as economic losers that has no real basis in fact but the perception is unchallenged by labor who hope osmosis will eventually put the facts into the reach of the gullible in such an effective way as to overcome the constant top up lies of Murdoch and the rabbott.

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