Australia

Labor backs government's calls for global review of the coronavirus pandemic

Security guards wearing protective face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus lock the gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing Source: AAP

Labor has backed the government's calls for an independent review of the coronavirus pandemic but says it must gather the support of the international community.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne won't go as far as saying she doesn't trust China, but says her concern is at a "high point" regarding transparency over the outbreak of the coronavirus.

She wants an independent, international review of the pandemic over its handling and its origin.

"I think the key to going forward in the context of these issues is transparency," she told ABC television's Insiders program on Sunday.

"Transparency from China most certainly. Transparency from all of the key countries across the world who will be part of any review that takes place."

Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong has backed the government's calls.

"The world wants to understand the origin of COVID-19, and the world is entitled to understand that," she said.

"We welcome this idea from Senator Payne, but what we would say is we need to move from idea and words to action, and we hope Senator Payne, as Australia's chief diplomat to get out into the international community to gain support for this idea."

Senator Payne said an independent review should identify the genesis of the virus, the approaches to dealing with it, and address the openness with which information was shared.

It should also look into the interaction with the World Health Organisation and the actions taken with international leaders.

Asked if the WHO itself should conduct the review, the minister said: "No ... that strikes me as a bit poacher and gamekeeper."

People wearing protective face masks walk at a shopping area in Wuhan, China.
People wearing protective face masks walking at a shopping area in Wuhan, China.
AAP

Senator Wong also said the review should be independent.

"While the WHO can be involved, I think in order to ensure that there is transparency and trust in the outcome of this, we do agree with the government's view about an independent review."

Minister pressed on China trust

Senator Payne was pressed several times whether she trusts China.

"I trust China in terms of the work that we need to do together," she said.

"The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that. In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that."

She believes relationships all around the world will change once the pandemic has passed, including that between Australia and its number one trading partner China, although she said she doesn't have a "crystal ball" to say to what extent.

"This is very much an unfolding situation," she said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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