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Speech: Morrison, support the TRIPS waiver

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 24 Aug 2021

The Morrison government have not only botched vaccinations for people living in this country; they are also actively jeopardising the health and lives of millions of people in the Global South. The Liberal-National government have ignored the pleas of more than 100 countries for our support to temporarily lift intellectual property restrictions so poorer countries can manufacture vital vaccines, medicines, masks and ventilators. This waiver is currently being considered at the World Trade Organization, with the TRIPS council meeting again on 14 September. But, as Senator Siewert said, I don't think Minister Colbeck even knows what a TRIPS waiver is, and that is pathetic and shameful.

Till now, Australia has sided with the big pharmaceutical corporations to keep their profits intact, rather than increasing access to a life-saving treatment for people who have already been screwed over by the Global North's colonialism and neocolonialism. Now is the time to pay off some of the debt that we owe these countries and their people by making sure that they can produce vaccines at the scale and urgency that is needed. Yet this government not only has stonewalled pleas to support the TRIPS waiver but, as the Saturday Paper recently reported, is using pharmaceutical industry talking points to help other holdouts such as Germany prolong negotiations at the World Trade Organization. This government is so shamelessly supporting corporate profit ahead of the lives of people.

While refusing to support the TRIPS waiver on the one hand, on the other hand Scott Morrison has dipped into the COVAX supply, taking out 500,000 Pfizer doses, because he failed to do his job. COVAX, a donation based model for poorer countries to have access to vaccines, is already struggling to meet its funding goal, and it's not enough to meet the required demand.

So today I'm calling on the Australian government again: if you have a skerrick of decency or any sense of morality and responsibility left in you, value people's lives and provide your full-throated support to the TRIPS waiver now. There is not a second to waste. It is unconscionable to deny any country vaccine access to protect the billions of dollars of profits of pharmaceutical giants.

Question agreed to.

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