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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14842


Mr JENKINS (1:16 PM) —I wholeheartedly support this motion moved by the honourable member for Fairfax. The motion sets out four things that the House calls on the government to do. First of all, the House calls on the government to congratulate Taiwan on its achievements in the field of health and world health care. The Taiwanese people are an innovative and industrious people. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the field of health. They have much to offer, and any impediment in their way should be removed. The second part of the motion acknowledges Taiwan's contribution to world health care and indicates that that could be much more effective if Taiwan was able to participate in the World Health Organisation. I think that is a pretty clear point that has already been made in the debate.

The third part of the motion acknowledges the need for a fully integrated global health care system and highlights that the current Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome crisis, the SARS crisis, is an absolute example of the requirement for that. These sorts of public health issues in the global sense know no borders. They are not interested in the politics of the situation. For a country of 23 million people to be somehow isolated from a world effort for a disease that, as has been illustrated by this debate, concerns us all is a nonsense. It is important not only for the Taiwanese people but also for the people within our region that there is a requirement to get over the impediments that affect the way in which Taiwan can actively take part in global public health issues.

The fourth part of the motion recognises that Taiwan's participation as an observer in the World Health Organisation not only benefits the people of Taiwan but also leaves no loophole in the world health care network—the point that I have just illustrated. The fifth and final point asks this House to call on our government to help Taiwan find appropriate and feasible ways to participate meaningfully in the World Health Organisation. The House is asking the government to be proactive on this issue, not reactive. This is not an issue where we should wait for a consensus to develop; we need to be actively involved in trying to find ways in which we can get through this impasse.

In my time in this place, I have been lobbied on many issues that are of a foreign affairs nature. But this issue has always struck me as a fairly modest request by a government that should be able to be resolved. The Taiwanese people have only asked that they be given an observer status that would enable them to participate in the WHO and the World Health Assembly. The present political problems between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan are no impediment for Taiwan to be involved in other organisations. For example, they are involved in the World Trade Organisation as a customs territory, in the International Olympic Committee as a sports organisation and in APEC as an economy. That is why they, in this debate, have coined the phrase `public health entity'. They see this not as a question of sovereignty, not about membership of the World Health Organisation, but about participation.

As I said, I believe this is something that the wider world community should be able to work towards. It is interesting that motions by the European parliament and the United States administration, after motions in the Senate and the House of Representatives, have indicated support. One has to ask, after the events of last week at the World Health Organisation when, for the seventh time, Taiwan was denied observer status, what is the problem? Whilst we have tried to be divorced from the political aspect of this and tried to make it just a question of the public health aspect, perhaps we need to engage with the People's Republic of China and ask them to consider that there would be an advantage in the political debate if they were to indicate their support for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organisation, with observer status, as a way of commencing meaningful dialogue, the type of dialogue that will be required to eventually see a resolution to the political problems that exist. It is a nonsense and a public administration fiction for the World Health Organisation to send observers on the basis that they gain permission of mainland China on the basis that Taiwan is a province of China. This is something that we should all support. (Time expired)