PM delivers harsh vaccine warning


The Australian Prime Minister will warn the world of a "global responsibility" to share a COVID-19 vaccine as he addresses the United Nations at a virtual summit on Saturday.

The speech follows Scott Morrison's blunt warning earlier this year that any nation that sought to exploit or hoard a vaccine or antiviral cure will be condemned by history.

In a statement to mark the United Nations General Assembly 75th Anniversary General Debate, Mr Morrison will urge the United Nations' member states "to deny the virus the destruction it seeks to visit upon us, upon our lives, our livelihoods."

"Whoever finds the vaccine must share it,'' he says.

"This is a global responsibility, and it's a moral responsibility, for a vaccine to be shared far and wide.

"Some might see short term advantage, or even profit. But I assure you to anyone who may think along those lines, humanity will have a very long memory and be a very, very severe judge. Australia's pledge is clear: if we find the vaccine we will share it. That's the pledge we all must make."

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Scott Morrison will urge countries to share vaccine info, saying history will judge those who don’t harshly. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Scott Morrison will urge countries to share vaccine info, saying history will judge those who don’t harshly. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

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The theme of the summit is 'The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism - confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateralism".

The Prime Minister's speech focuses on the year the UN was founded in 1945.

"The year the Second World War ended. It was a year when humanity found hope amid despair,'' he will say in the speech.

"This year is one of the hardest since then. So let our resolve now also be undiminished as it was at the beginning of the United Nations as we commit again, together, to realising the common hope that binds us all together."

In July, Australia warned countries developing a vaccine that the world was watching and there was an "absolute responsibility" to share a cure.

"Any country that would hoard a vaccine discovery, I think, would not be met with welcome arms by the rest of the world," Mr Morrison said.

But it's the Prime Minister's comments on an inquiry into the origins of the virus that could reignite tensions with China.

Despite previously sparking a backlash from China, Mr Morrison will strongly back the need to identify the zoonotic source of the COVID-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans.

Australia's support for the inquiry has sparked fury in China where it was viewed as an attempt to "single out" and blame Wuhan for the virus escaping.

Australia was one of 145 countries who supported an inquiry into the zoonotic source of the virus at the 73rd World Health Assembly earlier this year.


China's deputy ambassador recently compared Australia's advocacy for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 with the murder of Julius Caesar.

Wang Xining said the push for an inquiry was 'approximately identical to Julius Caesar in his final day when he saw Brutus approaching him. "Et tu, Brute?"'

"More importantly, it hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,'' he said.

While most scientists studying have concluded that the COVID-19 virus most likely evolved naturally and infected humans via accidental contact with animals, some have continued to raise questions over whether it escaped a biohazard laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Speculation has centred around an accidental infection of a lab worker or animal waste before the virus made its way into the Wuhan wet markets.

This speculation is largely based on the circumstantial evidence. Wuhan is also home to two of China's most advanced centres for the study or coronaviruses

The so-called Batwoman of Wuhan, Dr Shi Zhengli, has repeatedly denied that SARS-CoV-2 was ever present in a lab, let alone escaped, before she was asked to test samples from sick patients early in 2020.

Critics of the theory the virus escaped also note that researchers in Wuhan regularly upload sequences and had no reason to hide SARS-CoV-2 if they knew it existed.

Mr Morrison will also reiterate in today's speech Australia's support for multilateral institutions to navigate trade tensions.

"We know that sovereignty doesn't mean turning inwards though. We value rules that protect sovereignty, peace and security, and curb the excessive use of power,'' he says.

"As Australians we also prize respect for international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue.

"We won't retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism in Australia. So we're leading efforts to reform the World Trade Organisation.

"We're advocating for trade rules that are predictable, transparent and non‑discriminatory. We're helping to design the first-ever set of global digital trade rules so we keep pace with modern realities. And we're working hard to preserve crucial elements of the WTO's dispute settlement system so trade rules can continue to be enforced."


A lab at Sinovac Biotech in Beijin. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
A lab at Sinovac Biotech in Beijin. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images




Originally published as PM delivers harsh vaccine warning