Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz has added his voice to a chorus of backbenchers calling for the federal government to suspend Australia's funding contribution to the World Health Organisation.
Senator Abetz's comments come after his fellow Liberal MPs Dave Sharma and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells urged a rethink of Australia's relationship with the WHO, following US President Donald Trump's announcement that he would be freezing the country's financial contributions to the organisation.
The United Nations-affiliated body has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its perceived close ties to China.
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Australia began treating COVID-19 as a pandemic before the WHO declared it as such. The WHO also urged Australia and other nations against introducing Chinese travel bans in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
"Threatening to or suspending funding is always a measure of last resort," Senator Abetz said. "But you have to ask yourself the question, 'What else will work in relation to ensuring that the World Health Organisation reforms itself, and becomes the body that it is supposed to be and live up to its charter?'"
"The view that I would express is let's suspend [the funding] and force the issue here.
"That suspension, hopefully, will be only for a very short period of time, until we flush out the unacceptable personnel that have crawled their way to the top, courtesy of the support of the communist dictatorship in China."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the WHO had had "a few poor outings lately", but he acknowledged the body did "some very important work".
The view that I would express is let's suspend [the funding] and force the issue here.Eric Abetz, Tasmanian Liberal senator
"I know they have had their criticism and, frankly, I think it has been quite deserved and of course we are frustrated but they do important work ... here in the Pacific and we will keep working with them but it won't be uncritical," he said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, meanwhile, has appeared to dismiss any suggestion that Australia may be considering following Mr Trump's lead.
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said on ABC Radio that whatever problems the WHO may have, they wouldn't be fixed by "simply walking away".
"If there ever was a time we need a strong and effective international organisation focused on the health of the world, it's now," she said.
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