Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has launched a blistering attack against the World Health Organisation for its apparent support of reopening wet markets in China.
But Australia will not be following the United States in pulling funding from the WHO over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s extraordinary, that the World Health Organisation sees it fit for these wet markets to continue in China,” Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on April 15.
“They shouldn’t … they’ve been the source of outbreaks that have killed people around the world.”
Frydenberg said Australia did not agree with the WHO on everything but believed the international body played an important role in the Asia Pacific.
“Some of the work they do in developing countries is important and we play our role in supporting global organisations through the U.N.,” he said.
“But that is not to say we don’t disagree with them from time to time.”
There is some confusion about the WHO’s position on wet markets because different envoys have given contradictory positions to various news organisations.
Liberal backbencher Dave Sharma believes Australian funding for the WHO should be tied to “necessary reforms.”
“This reckoning has been coming for some time,” Sharma told Sky News.
“I think a lot of countries, Australia included, have been less than impressed with the WHO’s performance.”
Australia declared a COVID-19 pandemic two weeks before the WHO.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday night he was thankful Australia hadn’t relied on the organisation’s calls.
He has also admonished the WHO for supporting China’s decision to reopen live animal markets, which were the likely cause of the killer disease.
Sharma expects countries including Japan, South Korea, and Australia to demand changes at the WHO.
“I think we should make sure we condition our future funding on necessary reforms,” the former senior diplomat said.
“We will need to settle on those reforms with a group of other countries, like-minded countries, but this is generally how we drive change in the international system.
“We make our continued contributions, continued support for the international organisations, contingent upon reforms that must be done.”
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles agrees there is a legitimate conversation to be had about the United Nations body.
“But this is not a time to be abandoning it—the world needs a strong World Health Organisation,” he said.
“We can have a conversation about issues inside it, but this is not a time to abandon it.”
By Daniel McCulloch