Former Australian Officials Call for China COVID-19 Transparency

By AAP
April 17, 2020 Updated: April 18, 2020

Two former Australian foreign ministers have weighed in about China’s knowledge of the origin of the COVID-19 before it became a global pandemic.

Alexander Downer, who was foreign minister under the Howard government says China must come clean on COVID-19 or it will “arouse the wrath” of the world.

Downer says there’s still speculation on whether the virus jumped from bats to humans directly, in wet markets or escaped from scientific labs.

He told the Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce that the world will demand answers from China after the pandemic.

“For China this is a slow burn. So far China sending masks and testing kits, some of which apparently don’t work to well, to other countries and saying, ‘Oh look we’re here to help you’,” Downer told a webinar on April 17.

“Come on guys, you started it in the first place, let’s find out how that happened and let’s do our best to make sure that can never happen again.”

Downer says if China isn’t transparent, some countries will try to counter its global influence “which will be confrontational and prima facie not to be encouraged”.

He said Chinese exporters could suffer as countries reviewed their supply chains for raw materials and essential products.

He also believes Australia and the UK in particular will mull their dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals and rare earth metals like lithium.

China is Australia’s number one trading partner.

Julie Bishop. who was foreign minister under the Coalition Abbott and Turnbull governments, said Australia’s relationship with China is “under constant review”.

“I think we will see a different world when we pass through this pandemic,” she told Sky News.

“I’m sure many nations will be looking to diversify and perhaps bring a greater domestic focus on supply chains.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has also demanded China be more transparent about the origins of COVID-19.

Dutton said the families of more than 60 Australians who have died from the disease deserve answers about how the outbreak originated.

Downer called for China and World Health Organisation to lead a probe, but it must involve scientists from the international community, including the West.

“There has to be a proper investigation into how this happened, where it came from, and China will be, I think in time, be put under huge pressure to agree to that investigation,” he said.

By Colin Brinsden and Marty Silk