STATEMENT FROM DR ANDREW FORREST AO
1 May 2020 - As foreshadowed by the Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy today, delivering a multiple uplift in COVID-19 testing capacity, combined with the Government’s COVIDSafe App, is critical to help all Australians return to their normal lives in the shortest possible time. I welcome the National Cabinet’s decisions today and the progress being made. I am proud of Minderoo Foundation’s efforts towards this achievement.
When on 5 April the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt became aware the critical COVID-19 testing equipment and vital reagents could be sourced by Minderoo Foundation, he emphasised the extreme national urgency and importance that this be achieved immediately, warning strongly that we would be in aggressive competition with the rest of the world.
The Minister advised we had weeks, not months, to prepare Australia’s technical and medical defences to biologic threats like COVID-19, in a national programme that would normally take years. Minderoo undertook this under extremely challenging conditions of sovereign competition in three weeks.
As we go into the weekend, I would like to set the record straight on recent media. On Wednesday, 29 April, I invited the Consul-General for Victoria, to a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Melbourne.
I have a long and collaborative relationship with many ministers, including Minister Hunt who knew that I wanted a representative of China to be at the event. When given the choice on the day, the Minister agreed the Consul General could speak. Minister Hunt is a decisive leader, and this was not a pressured environment. The idea of the event being hijacked or ambushed is false. It was a gracious gesture of appreciation and friendship between our two nations, and to recognise and thank Beijing Genomics Institute for assisting Australia’s battle to combat the greatest threat to our country in decades.
A transcript of Minister Hunt’s comments at the press conference reflect that he welcomed the remarks of the Consul General after they were given.
We have every reason to be fiercely independent and proudly Australian. I am.
I have businesses that employ tens of thousands of Australians, directly and indirectly, and continue to help our economy in doing what’s right for our country. I will not be cowed by those who choose to misrepresent me, from acting to the best of my ability for the good of Australia and Australians, leveraging relationships forged in America, China and all around the world.
I believe in free press. I don’t mind opinionated press. I do, however, reject inaccurate or deliberately misleading press. I worry that Australia will be split down the middle in a similar manner to what’s transpired in other countries around the world and know that this incites racism and violence.
Let’s keep our hearts and minds open to all countries, including America and China. We all want to leave the world a kinder, more empathetic, peaceful and sustainable place for future generations. I have found in both business and philanthropy that strong relationships are important all over the world. I will crack on with helping my country, unapologetic to those who think racism or isolationism is a viable path for Australia.
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