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PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS: World Health Assembly: Taiwan

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.34 p.m.) —I am delighted that we are debating this motion, and I want to thank the member for Dunkley for deciding to confront this issue.

From the time that it first came to my attention that Taiwan had been denied even observer status in a World Health Organisation effort to control and manage the dreaded spread of SARS, I was incensed. I felt that it was an absolute denial of participation in a basic human right. It is morally indefensible that observer status in WHO should be by consensus and that the people of Taiwan should be denied access to basic medical information and participation. Taiwan is a highly developed, highly scientific community and its involvement would be welcomed by the rest of the world.

In global terms, there has been much increased contact between people, and the capacity for chemical and biological terrorism has increased. We need every freedom-loving democracy to be involved in managing these human rights issues and broader security issues. Taiwan, with 23 million people, is a hub for transportation in the whole of Asia and South-East Asia. The traffic, transport and movement of people through Taiwan mean that it is critical that they be involved with the international community on issues such as these—particularly health-related issues. I understand that Taiwan is only willing to become a member of WHO if all political issues are set aside. They do not seek full membership but observer status only, joining the Holy See, Palestine, the Order of Malta, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

I understand that there was a vote taken in 1974 about whether the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was to become a member of WHO. It was passed on a show of hands, but that was claimed to be a process of consensus. So the PLO, a proclaimed terrorist organisation, is a member of WHO and Taiwan is denied membership. To put it in terms of Australia, comparing the population sizes of mainland China and Taiwan is like comparing the population of Australia with half the population of Fiji. I do not know why mainland China is worried about Taiwan receiving something as simple as an observer status to a very important world medical humanitarian body. It would be like Australia objecting to half the population of Fiji entering into a conference on the control and management of transmittable diseases in the South Pacific. It is about as ridiculous as that.

The WHO is a professional organisation and should never become a political organisation—and neither would Taiwan want it to be. The World Medical Association, the International Paediatric Association, the British Medical Association, the Lancet, and the Standing Committee of European Doctors have all proclaimed the necessity for Taiwan to become an observer at the WHA. There have been many parliaments and congresses that have endorsed a resolution calling for Taiwan's meaningful and constructive participation in the WHO. They include the United States Congress, the European parliament, the Central American parliament and the Belgium Chamber of Commerce.

We have discussed this many times here in this chamber, and I am delighted today that we are re-endorsing that process. I want to call on the people of the mainland who manage things there to understand that 87 per cent of the people who voted in these referendums recently passed in Taiwan did not want to use force; they want a peaceful relationship with mainland China. In two motions, with a great turnout of people, there was a high percentage of approval. In response to the question:

Would you agree that our Government should engage in negotiations with Mainland China on the establishment of a “peace and stability” framework for cross-strait interactions in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples on both sides?

Of the participating voters 84.9 per cent agreed that that motion was the heart and soul of the people of Taiwan. The United Nations and the WHO should endorse that process. (Time expired)

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 29th March 2004
Release Date: 30 Mar 2004


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