By Joel Fitzgibbon
20 May 2020
On April 18 Foreign Minister Marise Payne claimed the World Health Organisation (WHO) was the wrong body to undertake an inquiry into the origins and spread of COVID 19. She said the idea of the WHO conducting the inquiry was “a bit poacher and gamekeeper”. “I’m not sure you can have the health organisation which has been responsible for disseminating much of the international communications material, and doing much of the early engagement and investigative work, also as the review mechanism”, Marise Payne said.
Then on April 23, Scott Morrison backed his Foreign Minister and went a step further. Our Prime Minister said we need a “weapons inspector”-type arrangement. Imagine that: United Nations uniforms marching into China demanding access to Wuhan laboratories and demanding test tubes, computers and files be handed over. It was never going to happen, in part because the big international players – including Security Council Members China and Russia – would never support it. Each have a veto vote.
Now, the Morrison Government is celebrating the decision to hold an inquiry to be led by who? The WHO, of course. Indeed, Government members from the Prime Minister down are attempting to claim the credit. Say, what?
There was always going to be an inquiry. It was always going to be led by the WHO, the only international organisation with the right expertise. Further, and in the absence of the nutty “weapons inspectors” proposal, the inquiry can only be successful if China is a willing participant.
The debate around China, COVID 19, and an inquiry has been the most immature, opportunist and reckless I’ve seen in the thirty-five years I’ve been closely watching politics and public policy. The global community was always going to hold an inquiry. To suggest otherwise is just plain silly.
The losers have been all those who run a business enterprise dependent on a good trading relationship with our biggest export market. It didn’t need to be this way.
The Government has already begun to use COVID 19 as an excuse to wind-back the rights and protections of employees. In the Parliament last week, it was successful in securing passage for a Bill to make it lawful for employers to amend existing Enterprise Agreements with only 24 hours’ notice. This is unfair.
As is often the case, the Bill passed the Senate with the support of One Nation Senators. No one was surprised by their vote – they support the Morrison Government on almost every occasion.