Australians in Africa… via Aspen

Nic Crowther
Thu 21 May

Plenty of eyebrows were raised this morning as news broke that the man beneficiary of the Federal Government’s rather belated moves into the Ebola crisis would be sub-contracted to Canberra-based Aspen Medical.

With everyone from the Australian Medical Association, Médecins Sans Frontières, and, of course, the Opposition baying for a better effort from Australia against what is truly an international threat, the news of a $20 million injection via a commercial entity was received somewhat hesitantly.

It has taken weeks for the Government to move on this, and the length of time taken for the negotiations to ensure the safety of Australian volunteers that was central to the business case did nothing to further its cause. Australia’s trickle of funding looks underwhelming considering our previous foreign relations strategies. It also appears rather meek in comparison to other players in the humanitarian field.

China and the United States are making big moves on Ebola with commitments that make Australia’s efforts look like loose change. On Wednesday, Reuters reported China had committed over 1,000 medical workers and experts to the cause on top of US$123 million donated to affected countries and relevant organisations.

Meanwhile, in the midst of a mid-term congressional routing, President Obama has requested US$6 billion in emergency funding be allocated to the cause. Over three-quarters is targeted for immediate use, while the remaining $1.5billion is to remain in reserve should there be further need for immediate action (read: the disease is transmitted within the United States).

These two countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, a body for which Australia spent years lobbying in order to gain a temporary seat. Many promises were made to Africa during that time <link to AIIB article?) in order to secure the necessary votes for our place at the table with the other big players.

Not without reason, Africa is now screaming for Australia to make good on its commitments to Africa that were made during that time. With the Government mantra, of ‘More Jakarta than Geneva’, when it comes to foreign aid, there is still a lot that can be done to shore-up Australia’s international reputation.

Still, the Co-founder and CEO of Aspen Medical, Glenn Keys did an excellent job this morning as he toured the morning breakfast TV and radio shows to explain the skills and expertise of his company and their existing presence within the crisis zone. It’s a great win for the local company, however there is still plenty of opportunity for Australia to do more.