House debates

Monday, 2 March 2020

Questions without Notice


2:51 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison-McCormack government has been at the forefront of infectious diseases research to ensure that Australia is well prepared to deal with the impacts of coronavirus? Will the minister also outline how the government is assisting in the development of a new vaccine against the coronavirus?

Dr Aly interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Cowan is warned!

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question and acknowledge his background in the medical sciences as a doctor and his dedication to the health and welfare of his constituents.

The coalition government has been taking very decisive and pre-emptive steps to keep Australians safe, and that includes activating our emergency response plan just last week. This is about practical actions that will ensure that we are best prepared to deal with the serious challenges of this outbreak. Finding a vaccine is central to prevent the further spread of this very infectious disease, as is understanding how it is spread and the most effective ways of preventing infection.

Australia is a world leader when it comes to dealing with infectious diseases. That's why the international body that was tasked with developing vaccines engaged with our very own science and research agency, the CSIRO, back in January to undertake critical new research as part of the rapid global response to the coronavirus. We are, here in Australia, a crucial part of the rapid response pipeline for developing and testing new vaccines, aiming to reduce the development time from years to just weeks.

Our scientists and our researchers continue to be in daily contact with networks of researchers around the world, working on understanding how the virus spreads, how we can effectively manage the outbreak and how we can best treat and ultimately prevent this very serious illness. Our contribution has already been very significant—from being the first to grow the virus outside China to developing a promising vaccine. As I reported to the House just last week, the potential vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland researchers is now undergoing testing at CSIRO's state-of-the-art facility in Victoria.

I take this opportunity to thank the scientists and the researchers who have been involved in this process and acknowledge how difficult the environment is for them to work in and to conduct their research at the moment. They are fully kitted out every day that they go to work, so that they are best protected as they deal with this highly infectious virus. So, to all of Australia's scientists and researchers: I could not be prouder of you and, on behalf of the Australian people, we say thank you for your work.