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Downer must attend international bird flu conference.



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KEVIN RUDD, MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, TRADE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

***MEDIA RELEASE*** 9 January 2006

DOWNER MUST ATTEND INTERNATIONAL BIRD FLU CONFERENCE

Foreign Minister Downer must attend the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza in Beijing later this month and put Australia front and centre in regional initiatives to combat the disease.

Turkey’s struggle to contain the most recent outbreak of Bird Flu underlines the importance of Australia’s role in promoting regional initiatives to combat future outbreaks of the disease in our own backyard of South East Asia.

At present the World Bank is leading our own region’s response. Australia by contrast is still not doing enough.

Labor supports the work being conducted by the World Bank to combat the threat of Bird Flu in our region.

• Labor has previously called on the Australian Government to host a Ministerial level conference on Bird Flu. Later this month the World Bank in cooperation with China and the European will hold an International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza in Beijing.

• Labor has called on the Government to conduct an audit of regional needs and capabilities and identify and fill any gaps. In advance of the conference the World Bank has undertaken preliminary analysis of the costs of meeting the financing needs and gaps developing countries face in responding to a potential outbreak of Bird Flu.

• Labor has called for the establishment of a regional compensation fund to compensate chicken farmers who are forced to cull their flocks and remove any disincentive for reporting outbreaks of the virus. World Bank Senior Economist Milan Brahmbhatt has supported the use of compensation funds describing them as “a useful tool” in combating Bird Flu.

Sadly we have seen little action by the Howard Government on these proposals.

The threat of a Bird Flu pandemic is a matter of national security.

Mr Downer must attend the Beijing conference and start stepping up to the plate when it comes to fighting this disease. Ends. 8 January 2006

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823