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Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Page: 2536

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (12:02): It's terrific to be able to resume this debate, particularly at this important time when we face a global health pandemic. We are, indeed, reminded about how important multilateral organisations are in addressing global crises like these. Since we last debated this issue, it has concerned me that the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization has become more serious. I really want to reiterate in my remarks today how important global cooperation is for global health. I know this is something my good friend Senator Dean Smith well understands. In the past we've discussed support for organisations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Global Vaccine Safety Initiative. I know they're organisations that he has long supported. I ask this government to continue to step up and show leadership in supporting multilateral organisations, including the World Health Organization. That continued multilateral support is incredibly important for us as a nation and for the health of the whole world.

I note with some relief that, although our aid budget as a nation has continued to decline, the government has nevertheless, very importantly, made a strong contribution to Gavi, the vaccine alliance. Gavi's pledging conference took place last week, and the Australian government has pledged some $300 million to that organisation, which is an increase on our previous contribution. I'm sure many of you have received email messages full of antivax messages, asking us to repeal No Jab, No Pay, but at a time like this COVID really reminds us what a world without immunisation and vaccination would be like: a world with smallpox, measles, polio. We would be far more restricted in our economy and our movement as people without the vaccines on which we rely. So I really want to express my pleasure that this $300 million will be forthcoming to Gavi. They've supported 318 million children in our region to get immunised. They've now got a big job to do in catching up on immunisations that have been delayed because of COVID, and they are also looking to make sure that any future vaccine is equitably and fairly accessible by all countries, irrespective of their wealth.

In closing my remarks, I want to give a shout-out to the groups that really support and call for government support for these multilateral organisations—groups like Global Citizen, RESULTS and the Pacific Friends of Global Health. Australia needs to and must maintain a strong commitment to multilateralism. (Time expired)