House debates

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Questions without Notice


2:58 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal 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 government is responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus by assisting in infectious disease research and the development of a vaccine?

2:59 pm

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

I thank the member for her question. Australians can be reassured that our government has been on the front foot in responding to this disease and the challenges that come with it. We haven't waited to respond; we've taken practical steps to ensure that we are in the best possible position to respond to the very serious challenges of this outbreak of coronavirus. There has been a very coordinated response from this government that includes responses from Health, responses from Border Security, responses from Trade, responses from Foreign Affairs and, of course, responses from Industry. This is a situation that requires daily assessment, and it requires ongoing action. Australians should be assured and reassured that we are in the strongest possible position that we can be to deal with this very serious challenge. That's because, over the years, we have done the hard yards that have been needed, including investing in our science and research agencies, which are world leaders in infectious disease study and control. What this has meant is that we are in a position to lead when it comes to finding a suitable vaccine.

On Monday I indicated to the House that we had been in close consultation with the international body that has been tasked to develop the vaccine. Our contribution has already been significant. We were the first to grow the virus outside China and we've shared this with other world researchers. We have developed a promising vaccine, and that vaccine candidate is currently undergoing testing at CSIRO's state of the art facilities in Victoria. CSIRO has been on the frontline of biosecurity and infectious disease research for 100 years. Infectious diseases previously unknown in humans have been increasing steadily over the last three decades, and more than 70 per cent of these emerging diseases are being passed from animals to people. Reducing the threat of infectious diseases and improving our biosecurity protects both our community—all Australians; everyone who's here—as well as our farming industries. We've been investing in this for many years over successive governments, and it's an investment that we can be proud of. It means that we are now in the strongest possible position to deal with this very serious issue.

We are working in a very coordinated way. We are facilitating rapid responses on many fronts. What I can say is that just as our scientists and researchers are serious about what they are doing, this government is serious about what we are doing to protect them. (Time expired)