Ms Bishop said she was “surprised” with China’s reaction to Australia’s push for virus probe, but the government needed to convince Beijing that the inquiry would also scrutinise other countries’ response to the virus.
“China is a permanent member of the [United Nations] Security Council, China has a unique responsibility as a permanent member to maintain international peace and security, and without a doubt this pandemic is a threat to international security,” she said.
“China should in fact be leading an inquiry into how this pandemic began.
“It is regrettable that [the call for an inquiry] has now descended into name calling and tensions and inflammatory rhetoric.”
Ms Bishop, who was foreign minister between 2013 and 2018 and is now chancellor of the Australian National University, raised concern about trying to force an independent review through the UN Security Council because China had a veto power as a permanent member.
She said the best way forwards was to work with other countries to convince China to agree to a review.
“We need China’s cooperation and support in order for there to be an international investigation,” she said.
She also said Mr Morrison’s “analogy” of giving the World Health Organisation the powers of weapons inspectors was “not relevant” because weapons inspectors needed to be invited into countries by the UN Security Council.
Responding to criticism about the WHO’s handling of the global pandemic, Ms Bishop said the UN body needed a “clearer mandate” and the international community needed to decide whether it was a coordinating agency or frontline service deliverer.
“Despite decades of planning, discussions and preparations for a pandemic, they were found wanting in terms of a global response,” she said.
Mr Evans said there was obviously a need for a global review or study into the global pandemic, but Australia’s calls for an inquiry were a “thought bubble” and an “own goal” because it was seen as playing the “US-generated blame game”.
Australia’s reliance on international students has come under the spotlight during the pandemic, with at least 10 per cent of international students enrolled at Australian institutions stuck overseas.
Mr Evans, Bishop’s predecessor as chancellor of ANU, said there had probably been an over-dependence on international students and the global pandemic was a “wake-up call for the government”.
“If that market does dry up, a lot of universities are going to be in real trouble,” he said.
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.