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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14839

Mr QUICK (1:06 PM) —I am proud to stand up in the House today and be associated with the honourable member for Fairfax's motion. I thank him for raising the issue. I, like many in the House, have visited Taiwan—I have been there twice—and have experienced the wonderful hospitality of the Taiwanese people. I have seen first-hand the excellent standard of living enjoyed by all Taiwanese. As a key member of the global community, Taiwan is keen to play an important role in the various international forums—and so it should. Unfortunately, due to the crazy international political set-up with regard to China—and, unlike other members, I am going to raise the issue, because I think it should be dealt with sooner rather than later—and the so-called one China policy, most nations refuse to tackle this issue but pussyfoot around it, hoping it will all go away. It is a bit like the situation with regard to Palestine and Israel: it is all too hard. Depending on who is trading with whom, you bow and genuflect and then you turn your back and do something else.

Many in this House have reservations about the effectiveness of the United Nations and the many agencies that are part of the United Nations, and I am one of them. Their inability to respond quickly and effectively to various crises around the world has been highlighted recently in the war against Iraq. We now have a ludicrous situation where a nation, Taiwan, with a population of 23 million—and half the size of my little home state of Tasmania—is totally excluded from participation in any of the World Health Organisation fora. This is a ridiculous situation when you think of some of the mickey mouse countries that are part and parcel of the UN and its various agencies.

I cannot believe that China refuses to allow the World Health Organisation to include Taiwan in the World Health Organisation's fora even as an observer. We had the stupid situation where China had to give permission for the World Health Organisation to send representatives to visit Taiwan to deal with the outbreak of SARS. As honourable members have mentioned, we now have a situation where the number of people with SARS in Taiwan is up to 82. Goodness knows how many hundreds of Taiwanese people are hospitalised, and there are probably thousands locked away in quarantine in order that the SARS epidemic will not spread. For goodness sake, we are talking about a health risk to tens of millions of people that needs to be addressed sensibly. As the US Health and Human Services secretary said:

One lesson of SARS is that public health knows no border—and no politics.

Of course it does not, but it is ludicrous for China to be in a position to say to the World Health Organisation, `We'll let you go and visit a country of 23 million people that is contributing to this worldwide, almost pandemic, outbreak.'

We have seen the devastating effect of SARS—even though we have not had any cases here in Australia—on our tourism. It is costing tens of millions of dollars, especially to Queensland and the Sydney area. Qantas has laid off 1,500 people, because of the economic impact of SARS on Australia. At least the Americans have had the gumption to stand up and say, `We support Taiwan.' What have we done? We have pussyfooted behind the one China policy and said, `It's all too hard.' For goodness sake, let's get realistic. I probably never will get an invitation to China but I do not care. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with. It is a global issue. We should get together. The World Health Organisation should say, `Come in Taiwan. Be an observer; you're part and parcel to this problem. You're trying to solve it.' It is almost like the case of leprosy, years ago—isolate them, forget about them and hope it will all go away. I am proud to be associated with the Taiwanese people and their endeavours, and I will work tirelessly to convince as many people as possible in this House to say to the foreign minister, `Support Taiwan's admission to the World Health Organisation, at least with observer status and hopefully as a full member.' I thank the House for the opportunity to put my views today.