Australia on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the World Health Organization’s handling of the crisis.
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.
Australia on Sunday added to growing pressure on China over its handling of the novel coronavirus, questioning its transparency and demanding an international investigation into the origins of the virus and how it spread.
Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, said her concern about China’s transparency was at a “a very high point”.
“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne told ABC television.
“In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.” Payne’s call for an enquiry into the outbreak comes at time of tense ties between her country and its most important trading partner.
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.”
The relations have deteriorated amid Australian accusations of Chinese meddling in domestic affairs and concern about what Australia sees as China’s growing, and undue, influence in the Pacific region.
“My trust in China is predicated in the long-term,” Payne said. “My concern is around transparency and ensuring that we are able to engage openly.”
Australia’s call for an investigation comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has been stepping up his criticism of China.
Trump and his senior aides have also accused China of a lack of transparency after the coronavirus broke out. On Saturday, Trump said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.
China dismisses such criticism saying it has been open about the outbreak and in warning the world about it.