Australia will call for an independent international review of how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) handled the outbreak of the CCP virus.
Speaking to ABC Insiders, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said it’s essential that an independent investigation probe the initial outbreak, which has since infected more than 2 million people and caused economic crises in many countries.
“An independent review would identify for us about the genesis of the virus, about the approaches to dealing with it and addressing it, about the openness with which information was shared” by the WHO, said Payne.
Responding to a question about who should conduct the review, Payne said there was precedence in past reviews of “egregious human rights issues.”
She then ruled out the WHO. “That strikes me as a bit poacher and gamekeeper,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the foreign affairs minister has his “very, very strong support” on the issue, adding that transparency is important for global public health.
“It’s important that the WHO … and all parties part of the WHO, act with great transparency. … It’s important for public health globally that there is a transparency in the way that you can get access to this important information early,” he told reporters in Canberra on April 21.
It is known that by at least mid-December, the CCP was aware of human-to-human transmission in the virus epicenter of Wuhan. Yet the CCP didn’t admit this until Jan. 20, after 5 million people had left Wuhan.
Another three days passed before Chinese authorities implemented the first containment measures for the surrounding Hubei Province—by which time the disease had already spread around the country and overseas.
Yet at the time, the WHO advised countries such as Australia against implementing bans on travel from China. Against the WHO’s advice, Australia announced a China travel ban on Feb. 1.
Payne stated that Australia shares the same concerns that the United States has identified in relation to the WHO.
An independent review of #COVID19 will need countries to come to the table with a willingness to be transparent, says Foreign Minister @MarisePayne pic.twitter.com/FuFbs5g6iT
— DFAT🇦🇺 (@dfat) April 19, 2020
Despite these concerns, the prime minister recently said that Australia wasn’t cutting funding to the WHO. Australia has a joint project with the WHO in the Pacific region.
This came after U.S. President Donald Trump cut $400 million (AU$635 million) in annual funding to the WHO.
Former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer agreed with Payne. He said the world’s policy toward China needs to change and China needs to be held accountable for the crisis it unleashed.
China must be held to account for unleashing a global catastrophe https://t.co/V9zczQY9u6
— Alexander Downer (@AlexanderDowner) April 19, 2020
CCP Response and Cooling Relations
On April 20, CCP Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang denied that the Chinese regime had done anything wrong in relation to the pandemic.
Geng asserted that Payne’s remarks were “not based on facts” and that China’s ruling party had acted in a “transparent and responsible manner.”
Australia and China are currently experiencing a cooling of diplomatic relations, with Payne saying that Australia is currently reviewing its strategic partnership with the communist regime.
“All of these things will need to be reviewed, [and] will need to be considered in the light of changes in the world economy,” she said.
Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, chairman of the Australian Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, has called for just such a review.
Hastie began a petition to push back against the CCP’s attempts to influence and reshape Australia to its advantage. He described it as a “generational challenge” for Australians.
Over the past month, the Chinese Embassy in Australia has denounced the Australian media and vocal politicians such as George Christensen and Liberal Sen. Alex Antic for what it sees as disrespectful or slanderous commentary about its handling of the pandemic.
Australia, alongside hundreds of countries, is suffering from the severe public health and economic impacts of the CCP virus pandemic.
Epoch Times reporter Caden Pearson contributed to this article.