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Pandemic Inquiry Wars: Australia, the United States and the Coronavirus Investigation

The Australian press and a chorus of the country’s politicians painted a misguided, blotched picture: the Scott Morrison government had achieved its goal of convincing members of the World Health Assembly that an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 was a move worth taking. “More than 100 countries, including Australia,” observed the ABC, “had already co-signed the motion for the probe into the global outbreak.” The same network also noted that Australia “was the first nation after the US to call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote at the World Health Assembly, government MPs were cheerful. Australia had been noticed. The European Union had also joined the party with its resolution seeking an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the “international health response to COVID-19.” Senator Matt Canavan was in a celebratory mood, despite the cautious wording of the EU draft. “I don’t think it’s a bad day at the office when we have tens of other countries, major countries, joining us in the cause.” The Morrison government had been “massively vindicated” by an “outpouring from other countries in the world.”

Australian minister for agriculture David Littleproud forgot the diminutive qualification in his family name, and had his own outpouring session. “We should be damn proud as a nation that we have led the world, not only in understanding what the WHO has done, but understanding that wildlife wet markets’ role is in these pandemics.”

Even prior to the vote, it was clear that celebration in Australia was not only misplaced but premature and provincial. The draft motion had avoided reference to China, or to Wuhan, where the outbreak is said to have originated. It also left the World Health Organization as the primary agent behind the investigation, provided it link arms with the World Organization for Animal Health. The effort, according to the draft resolution, would involve “scientific and collaborative field missions” to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts.”

Roughing up the WHO has been a pastime of late for those in Canberra. In April, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne was curt about the organisation and what role it should perform in the investigative process. “We need to know the sorts of details that an independent review would identify for us about the genesis of the virus, about the approaches in dealing with it, and addressing the openness with which information was shared.” To charge the WHO with what it would otherwise be doing – inquiring into the origins of COVID-19 – was unwise. “I’m not sure that you can have the health organisation which has been responsible for disseminating much of the international communications material, and doing much of the early engagement and investigative work, also as the review mechanism.” Should an organisation that had so bungled, and so compromised its remit, be “a bit poacher and gamekeeper”?

Payne’s colleague, Australian health minister Greg Hunt was similarly bolshie in his comments, making a point of WHO laxity in the whole business. “We do know there was very considerable criticism when we imposed on February 1 the China ban from some officials and the WHO in Geneva.” Australia had done well to cope with the virus despite WHO efforts. The stage was set.

On Tuesday, the draft motion passed. No Australian draft measure had surfaced to challenge it. Fingers pointing in China’s direction had been withdrawn. Even the PRC had added their agreement, and scoffed at Australia’s peacocked confidence. “The claim that the WHA’s resolution (is) a vindication of Australia’s call,” an emailed statement from the Chinese embassy in Australia noted, “is nothing but a joke.”

The news was also digested with varying degrees of thoroughness in Australia. “The Morrison government has won unanimous support for its bid to set up an independent probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Hans van Leeuwen of the Australian Financial Review, “but the victory was marred by equivocation from key players including the US and China.” That Australia should have also been blushing was put aside, though Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong was quizzical about the volte-face. “The government needs to explain why it changed its mind and now thinks the WHO is best placed to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.”

More broadly speaking, Australia’s misrepresented victory failed in achieving the inroads for its unquestioned, and most bullying of allies. The Trump administration had wished for an “immediate investigation” into the coronavirus and to restore Taiwan’s observer status at the WHO. It failed on both counts. President Donald Trump’s threats, made in a petulant letter to the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday, had failed to have its desired impact. “It is clear that the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world.” The body had 30 days to “commit to major substantive improvements”; otherwise, the president would make the “temporary freeze in United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership.”


Trump’s critique of WHO tardiness, a position that had been initially accepted by Morrison without demur, is recapitulated in the letter. According to the President, the health organisation “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal.” Reports that directly conflicted with the official Chinese narrative were not investigated, “even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself.”

The swift response from The Lancet was dismissively cool, throwing ice at Trump’s fire. “This statement is factually incorrect.” No report was published in December 2019 referring to the outbreak in Wuhan. The first reports were published on January 24, 2020, describing the first 41 patients from Wuhan suffering from COVID-19 and the first instanced case of confirmed “person-to-person transmission of the new virus” was also published that day. Trump’s allegations outlined in the letter were “serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic.”

What matters now is the form the investigation will take. It risks being mangled. The WHO has been a victim of manipulation before, not least by the United States, and risks doing so again. On the other side will be China. The public relations crews will be busy; rivalries will again be replayed.

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  1. Win Jeavons

    Is it a pandemic if it is still in 1 nation, not worldwide?, It seems to me that a lot of nations could not imagine how it would spread, but there is no good reason why they should not. Whatever we think of China’s politics it is stupid to dump our mistakes on them , and it is extremely wrong to blame an advisory council(WHO) for our own inactions. This is childish ! Also destructive where we should be constructive.
    As we export our fossil fuels for short term gain, I expect when Bangladesh floods , or Greece and Spain burn , they will want an investigation into our internal operations?

  2. New England Cocky

    Why should the COALition misgovernment, and other right wing politicians for that matter, let the truth get in the way of a deliberate fake news story in the tame MSM owned by a foreign national person?

    With Scummo Sacked from Marketing peacocking his role as Deputy Dawg to Trumpery, why should Communist PRC think that their position as Australia’s numero uno trade partner is relevant? Naughty people!!

    It is common knowledge that the USA (United States of Apartheid) will be one of the likely beneficiaries of the 80% trade tariff against Australian barley, just as US pressure on the AWB dealings with Iraq resulted in the American wheat industry benefiting from the withdrawal of Australia from their multi-million dollar infrastructure investments in wheat handling in Iraq ports.

    How often do these COALition politicians have to be conned to change their 19th century mindset that some foreign power will save Australia from “the Yellow Peril” of Asia? The US suckered Australia in the mid 70s post the Vietnam War debacle into believing that the US would save Australia from the Asian plague when in reality it was the American multinational corporations impeding other nations and Australians from developing our own resources and manufacturing industries.

    Time for Australia as a nation to stand on their own two feet and stop kow-towing to foreign bankers when our nation can print our own currency and develop our own natural resources for the benefit of Australian voters and their families.

  3. Jon Chesterson

    ‘The Morrison government had been “massively vindicated” by an “outpouring from other countries in the world.”’ – You know I just don’t see how anyone can conclude this. Really it’s nonsense, it’s LNP spin and indoctrinated rubbish, cow pats in the meadow. Matt Canavan I presume, the great cow pretender feverishly milking his own tits or might that be Morrison’s? Who knows what these idiots get up to in their own festy incestuous political, social and economic bubble, but I really don’t want to know.

    “We should be damn proud as a nation that we have led the world, not only in understanding what the WHO has done, but understanding that wildlife wet markets’ role is in these pandemics.” Damn Little Proud barely out of nappies trying to impress upon us how to suck Chinese eggs or might that be, no okay I won’t go there for the sake decorum.

    Please please someone, anyone send these idiots to a reform camp or funny farm where they can play with Trump and cows all day, jump over the moon and eat daisies as long as they like, just as long as they don’t bother us or spread any nasty viral or political diseases. And someone needs to remind them to close and lock the gate after them.

  4. Terence Mills

    They tell me that the medication Trump is taking, hydroxychloroquine, has side effects which include irrational, erratic and unstable behaviour.

    So what’s new !

  5. Dwayne Dibley

    Terence Mills

    If Trump starts behaving in a rational, stable way, it will mean he is not his normal self.

  6. Jack Cade

    Mark Delmege

    Two notable absentees from the list – Israel and The United States of America.
    ‘Benny, it’s you and me against the world!’
    The USA objects to sharing vaccine information (with countries that can’t afford to buy it).
    Uncle Sam had two other mates – Australia and Japan. One (Japan) is listed there from choice, the other from shooting its mouth off (and both feet) on behalf of the USA, which was presumably off trying to organise barley shipments.

  7. whatever

    You can get into a lot of trouble if you publicly spread wild rumours that concern export commodities like coal. Asic would prosecute you for trying to influence the trading price, and with a staple commodity like coal you could be seen to be trying to influence foreign exchange if you say things like “China is going to stop buying Australian coal.”

    A similar pointless rumour was given far too much attention last year –

  8. andy56

    Whatever, its not a wild rumour to repeat what was in a major newspaper . “Chinese officials have instructed power stations to stop buying australian coal and buy local”. China has come up with a new importing regime where iron ore is tested at port for purity.

    You would have to be blind deaf and dumb not to see whats coming.

    As for trying to influence prices, thats all to do with china paying. If china pays, price is stable, china doesnt pay, whose fault is that? Mine? Surely the mouth from marketing has had a bigger say than me. Shouldnt he be the one being investigated for incompetence?

    Any company that deals with china has to have contingencies, there is always, always has been too, the risk they would pull stuff like this because they have form. If you cant debate the level of contigencies our country as a whole requires, we are no better than china.

    As for ASIC, my experience dealing with them suggests i say to them FCK YOU . I’ll send it to them in FAX if you want.

  9. andy56

    Whatever, what i am inferring is that in this time of an impending american election, equations that we hold onto dearly will need to be rethought. Everything will be seen through the prism that is america/ china/ trump coloured. When ever we open our mouths, we will be seen through this prism. china and trump will be on the lookout for dissent and hit back hard. Better to shut up and look for trade elsewhere long term. Better to look elsewhere for security than america long term.
    Anything we say will be used against us, so help me god. Its not spreading rumours to state the fooking obvious. Its not spreading rumours to say ” I told you so…”

    Was it a coincidence that motor mouth spoke out straight after a conversation with trump? Questions need to be put to him are 1/ was that something he came up with 2/ was that something his cabinet came up with 3/ was that something run past the diplomats 4/ was there any quid pro quo with trump, ie defence, refugees, oil reserves

  10. andy56

    whatever, somehow , i dont think ASIC will want Sotty appearing as a material witness in a court case.

  11. johno

    I heard a rumour (from the taxi driver) that scomo is doing a great job with covid.

  12. Phil Pryor

    If you ever heard the noise from an arsehole (and you must have done) it is not truth, gospel, literature, sense. So, our P M, the Piltdown Man, a fraudulent failure at lying well in advertising (how low a standard is that) cannot be ever trusted and will not seek and relate the truth. He knows Nothing of truth, as a devotee of stupid, superstitious dogmatic fantasy. They, the saved, blessed, anointed, superior souls, will create inner rules to defy honesty, science, fact, truth, decency. No superstitious fool should serve and give executive orders, as they risk being executive thieves and murderers by their actions, beliefs, orders,policies. They do not CARE. Inside every religious superstitious supremacist is a little fascist type of stunted development. Romanists are among the very worst, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, the Ustasha, Peron, Pinochet, Horthy, Pilsudski, hordes of them in Sth. and Central America. Add the shitskulls here, the Abbott, Joyce, Abetz, Pyne, Canavan, Turnbull, Sheridan, Devine types, nagging, nasty, righteous shitskulls. Then add the pentecostalist types, raging with fervour, full of energy, no brains, decency, accuracy, honesty, but SAVED, Winners…

  13. John Hermann

    Australia is not an “ally” — it is a vassal state. The Morrison government has always seemed willing to uncritically support the attacks on other countries pedaled by Trump and his neocon cabinet, which attacks generally do not have the benefit of any evidence whatsoever. In regard to the origins of the Covid-19 virus, it should be mentioned that French epidemiologists have firm evidence that the virus existed in France in November 2019, long before its presence in Asia was recognised. It is also possible that it existed in the UK at around the same time. Furthermore, much research remains to be done on the distribution of this virus in various animal species (other than humans) around the world, including domestic pets, animals bred for food, and wild animals including bats. Needless to say that national borders are not recognised by wild animals.

  14. Matters Not

    Re the statement:

    that French epidemiologists have firm evidence that the virus existed

    Firm evidence? Really? In ‘a’ link via Google one can find less surety:

    may have made … may have been … If confirmed, … scans appear to show …

    Doesn’t sound like firm evidence to me. Further –

    Schmitt, who cautions against making conclusions from his early ..

    Yep – cautions against.

    Nevertheless, the researcher (Schmitt) has made his mark – ensuring that his name will appear using search engines – while being able to point to many and varied ‘escape clauses’ if it comes to naught. He ought to be congratulated.

  15. paul walter

    Tired of Morrison’s, Trump’s and Murdoch’s stunts.

    No more that’s it.

  16. A Commentator

    Didn’t the WHO call the restriction on travel from China “xenophobic”?
    They were well behind in calling a pandemic.

    Criticism of the WHO is entirely understandable, given that we now have a worldwide economic catastrophe.

    Personally, I think it’s time Australia broke free of economic dependence on China, and military/foreign policy dependence on the US.

    And the time for all that recalibration is during a recession.

  17. paul walter

    I am not really sure that blaming the WHO on a contestable claim of “lateness” really is an apt response to the mind numbing stupidity of what passes for US politics in this era. Nothing the Chinese did, no matter how stupid also, can explain the responses of the US and some other Western nations.

    The US, particularly the US Establishment, has to “get off itself” and finally realise it is only a part of the world, not the final reason for the existence of all else.

  18. Jack Cade

    I have just read that the Danish government has refused to give Covid-19 relief payments to companies that use tax havens.
    What a novel idea – from a government. The bleedin’ obvious to an ordinary taxpayer.

  19. Matters Not

    Jack – the list is growing

    These European countries are refusing to offer bailouts to companies linked to offshore tax havens …
    To date, France, Poland, Belgium and Denmark have all announced similar measures designed to exclude some companies from taxpayer-funded relief programs. …
    Late last month, the Tax Justice Network published a five-step “bail or bailout” test to determine whether governments should help businesses requesting pandemic relief.

    Here in Australia we have a different view with the CEO of Energy Australia (one of the biggest tax avoiders in Australia) invited to be on an advisory group to Morrison.

    Pandemic Inquiry Wars: Australia, the United States and the Coronavirus Investigation

    Wrote about these Nations a few weeks ago. But what happens when one of their own (read Ireland) is one of the worst offenders.

    Again – where is Labor? Job Keeper for a company that is clearly engaged in tax avoidance? Surely there’s an outrage or two in that knowledge when made public?

  20. Brice

    Finding the cause of the outbreak is one thing but another more important question is ‘How wise was any one country’s response?’
    For example, for the USA, how is it possible Dr Fauci, a multi-term adviser to Presidents now for decades, is not aware there was already a study of hydroxychloroquine done by CDC back in 2005? Let me guess, at 10 euros a bottle the treatment and possible cure for some is too cheap and a blow to Big Pharma’s ambition to rake in massive profits at the expense of the public.
    When the truth comes out there is not going to be enough mud to go around to paste on the faces of the know-all media noddies.
    ‘Chloroquine Is a Potent Inhibitor of SARS Coronavirus Infection and Spread’
    But don’t believe the above study, believe the msm, just like the good little mushrooms they treat you as.
    (Interesting twitter comment at end of the article)

  21. andy56

    Brice your argument falls apart at the first hurdle. Covid 19 wasnt around in 2005. Unless you do a scientific study, you may as well be comparing a measles vaccine with a flue shot. hydroxychloroquine may very well stop the covid 19 whose to say
    , but until tests are done, so does cyanide.

  22. mark delmege

    Andy Corvid 19 is the disease associated with virus SARS CoV 2, but the virus SARS CoV has been around for some time and studied since at least 2006 – see below (and as Brice said above). As I have said elsewhere it has been studied in bio labs in the USofA and China with funds from the USofA and elsewhere for years. Fauci has his name all over the documents as head of the agency funding US research – which is why he sits next to the President and is seen as an authority. If I recall correctly at a presser he contradicted the Pres when he (Donny) suggested hydroxychloroquine was good stuff. Just maybe its useful in the early stages of infection but not so much in advanced cases – but I’m no health professional or virologist – and obviously there are some differences between SARS CoV and SARS CoV 2 – so I’ll leave that to the experts.

  23. Dwayne Dibley

    Has anybody checked to see if any of the businesses with one employee but claiming 1500 are owned by Angus or his wife?

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