Australia still quiet after UK and USA plea for Ebola help

THE Abbott government is yet to respond to international pleas to send Australian medical staff to West Africa to help deal with the Ebola crisis.

In Senate Estimates on Thursday, public servants revealed the UK sent a formal request for medical staff last month.

The hearings also heard United States President Barack Obama asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott for similar help in a phone call on Wednesday.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said in a statement the latest revelations followed "24 hours of wildly different accounts" of the government's readiness to respond.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's office referred questions about the response to the US and UK calls for help to a statement Mr Abbott gave in the House.

Despite the conflicting accounts in estimates in recent days, the prime minister said Australia was ready to respond with 20 health workers, four doctors and a team of nurses in Darwin.

But that response would only be to a potential outbreak in our region.

Mr Abbott said that "our allies would like us to do more" but the government was still considering their requests.

He said there was a world of difference between volunteers going to help in West Africa and the government sending people.

"The safety of Australian people is paramount," Mr Abbott said.

US and UK forces are already on the ground in West Africa.

But Mr Abbott said there were no facilities up to the standard for Australia to send staff.


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