Liberal Senator Alex Antic has raised concerns about China’s handling of COVID-19, arguing Australia should seek compensation for the damage the pandemic has had on the economy.
The South Australian Senator has told The Advertiser China should take responsibility for the coronavirus that “began in a wet market in Wuhan China” in conditions he described as “filthy disgusting havens of disease with animals stacked upon each other in cages.”
Senator Antic’s comments will be regarded as the strongest yet to come from a Federal elected representative.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner.
The Prime Minister and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham have been contacted for a response.
Premier Steven Marshall would not buy into the issue.
“My focus is on the people of South Australia and getting us through this health and economic crisis,” he said.
When asked about the comments Trade Minister and SA Senator Simon Birmingham said “All of my attention is on keeping people safe and saving jobs, including the millions of Australian jobs that rely on our many export markets.”
Senator Antic said there is evidence the virus was discovered in China in November 2019, but was not made public by China until almost two months later.
“China’s failure to expediently report the virus, created a giant petri dish in the region and did not allow the west extra time to react,” Senator Antic said.
“Those lost weeks equate to lost dollars and more importantly lost lives.”
“It is still way too early to quantify the damages which will flow from the event but the impost upon the Australian economy will be in the billions if not trillions of dollars.”
Senator Antic said the true fallout from the catastrophe may take years to crystallise, however seeking compensation from China is something which governments must explore.
“China’s inaction represents more than a breach of morality, it may well be a breach of international law and the legally binding 2005 International Health Regulations and if so, China will have an obligation to pay,” he said.
Senator Antic said prosecuting such a claim would be a difficult task for Australia.
But with the backing of traditional allies including the United States and the United Kingdom, pressure should be placed on China to pay for the catastrophe.
“The Chinese are hard working and decent people, but they are let down by the authoritarian regime under which they live,” Senator Antic said.
“Right now, the most important consideration is the health of the Australian people and our economy, however in the longer term, Australians will be right to ask, why China shouldn’t pay for their actions?”
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