no to WHO

Australian Parliamentarians Push Prime Minister to Reject WHO Reforms

16 May 2024

8.2 MINS

Britain has already announced its intention to reject the WHO Pandemic Treaty.

Fourteen Australian Senators and MPs have written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urging his Government to reject impending WHO pandemic reforms, which are to be voted on by WHO Member States at the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) at the end of this month.

In the letter, parliamentarians from the Coalition (Opposition) and the crossbench expressed “deep concern” at the prospect that the Australian Government might commit Australia to proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) and separately, to a WHO Pandemic Treaty.

The Australian Government says that the proposed IHR amendments and WHO Pandemic Treaty are necessary to prevent, prepare for and respond to future pandemics and other international health emergencies.

However, in their letter dated 14 May, the 14 Senators and MPs warn that the reforms “pose a significant threat to Australia’s autonomy and independence on the global stage.”

“If adopted, and implemented into Australian domestic law, the World Health Organisation will hold an unacceptable level of authority, power and influence over Australia’s affairs under the guise of declaring ’emergencies’.”

The letter acknowledges “a large volume of correspondence from Australians who are rightly concerned about the IHR Amendments and the WHO Pandemic Treaty,” which, taken together, “will transform the WHO from an advisory organisation to a supranational health authority dictating how governments must respond to emergencies which the WHO itself declares.”

Public consultation on the reforms attracted 4,521 submissions from individuals and stakeholder groups in December last year, indicating a high level of interest in the matter within the community.

The letter also notes that the impending vote on the reforms later this month is in breach of the WHO’s own rules. The final IHR amendments are meant to be circulated four months in advance of the vote to allow the 194 Member States time to review them (Schedule 2, Article 55).

However, updated versions of the IHR amendments presented in April 2024 were still in draft form, and were still being negotiated by the working group as late as last week.

This means that, in contravention of WHO guidelines, Member States still have not received the final versions of the documents, with mere weeks remaining for them to consider how the complex amendments will interact with the proposed WHO Pandemic Treaty and national domestic law before voting at the WHA, which is scheduled to take place between 27 May to 1 June.

Moreover, the letter argues that the WHO Pandemic Treaty “goes well beyond [the WHO’s] jurisdiction” of “assist[ing] Governments upon request, in strengthening health services.”

“We call on the Government to reject the IHR Amendments and the WHO Pandemic Treaty at [the 77th World Health Assembly],” concludes the letter, signed by the below members of the Coalition and the crossbench.

At the top of the list is vocal WHO critic Senator Alex Antic, who has frequently referred to the WHO reforms as a “power grab.”

  • Alex Antic, Senator for South Australia
  • Pauline Hanson, Senator for Queensland
  • Matt Canavan, Senator for Queensland
  • Malcolm Roberts, Senator for Queensland
  • Ralph Babet, Senator for Victoria
  • Terry Young MP, Member for Longman
  • Tony Pasin MP, Member for Barker
  • Matthew O’Sullivan, Senator for Western Australia
  • Colin Boyce MP, Member for Flynn
  • Hon Luke Howarth MP, Member for Petrie
  • Hon David Gillespie MP, Member for Lyne
  • Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Member for New England
  • Llew O’Brien MP, Member for Wide Bay

politicians against the WHO pandemic treaty

Mounting international pushback

The letter from 14 Australian elected officials urging the Government to reject the WHO reforms comes after the UK Government announced this month that it does not intend to sign onto the WHO Pandemic Treaty at the impending WHA.

“We will only support the adoption of the accord and accept it on behalf of the UK, if it is firmly in the UK national interest and respects national sovereignty,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement to Reuters.

In the US, 49 Republican Senators have written to President Biden strongly urging him “not to join any pandemic-related treaty, convention, or agreement being considered” at the upcoming WHA.

“Instead of addressing the WHO’s well-documented shortcomings, the treaty focuses on mandated resource and technology transfers, shredding intellectual property rights, infringing [on] free speech, and supercharging the WHO,” they wrote.

Additionally, 22 US Attorney-Generals are calling on President Biden to reject the IHR Amendments and WHO Pandemic Treaty.

Sovereignty in question

Most of the controversy around the proposed IHR amendments and the WHO Pandemic Treaty relates to the question of sovereignty. Critics are concerned that the reforms will effectively make the WHO a supranational director of public health policy, with Member States being bound under international law to bring their own domestic law into line with the WHO’s directives.

The WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus flatly denies such claims, stating on numerous occasions that not only will nation-states retain their sovereignty, but that “the [WHO Pandemic Treaty] agreement actually affirms national sovereignty and national responsibility in its foundational principles.”

Australian Senator Katie Gallagher, representing the Health portfolio in the Senate, similarly assures that the proposed WHO Pandemic Treaty poses no threat to Australia’s sovereignty.

If it’s that simple, then why do so many credentialed experts insist that the WHO’s proposed Pandemic Treaty and IHR amendments really do pose a threat to national sovereignty?

Because, “that is what is written in black and white in the documents, and there’s no other way rationally to interpret it,” says Dr David Bell, a public health physician and former WHO Medical Officer.

“I mean, it’s not a theory. It is very specific in the IHR that countries will undertake to do what a single person, the Director General of the WHO recommends, and it’s repeatedly stated in these amendments,” he told me in an interview for Umbrella News.

This is unsurprising given that the Australian Government’s FAQ sheet on the IHR amendments states that the IHRs are “an instrument of international law that is legally binding on 196 countries,” and that “Australia has complied with the IHR since their development in 2005.” Australia has already incorporated key IHR standards into domestic law, such as in the Biosecurity Act 2015 and the National Health Security Act 2007.

It is worth noting that Dr Bell references the IHR amendments as the primary source for the claim that the WHO will supersede national sovereignty, while assurances that to the contrary are generally made in reference to the proposed WHO Pandemic Treaty, as in the Director General’s statement referenced above.

The treaty and the IHR amendments are often discussed interchangeably or in isolation from each other, but they perform different functions that work in conjunction. Dr Bell has written extensively on the two reforms, how they interact, and the globalisation of public health more broadly, for the Brownstone Institute.

Another way to think about the issue of sovereignty is to see the WHO reforms as a “shell game”, says executive director of Rights Probe and professor of law at Queen’s University, Bruce Pardy. In an article titled “The WHO’s Managerial Gambit“, Pardy writes (emphasis mine),

“Under the [WHO Pandemic treaty and IHR amendment] proposals, the WHO will become the directing mind and will of global health. It will have authority to declare public health emergencies.

“National governments will promise to do as the WHO directs. Countries will ‘undertake to follow the WHO’s recommendations.’

“… The idea is to persuade the public that their governments must obey the WHO. Binding recommendations legitimize the heavy hands of domestic governments. Local officials will be able to justify restrictions by citing global duties.

“They will say that WHO directives leave them no choice. ‘The WHO has called for lockdowns, so we must order you to stay in your home. Sorry, but it’s not our call.‘”

In other words, the unelected WHO gives advice and elected officials in nation-states dutifully implement it. It’s a partnership that allows the WHO to say ‘we didn’t make you do anything’ and allows politicians to say ‘we were just following advice.’

Case in point: A recent Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee Report reveals that the Australian Government granted indemnity to the Covid vaccine manufacturers under the guidance of the World Health Organisation.

“An international precedent was set, in accordance with guidance from the COVAX facility, requiring that all 172 member states, including Australia, who received vaccines through the COVAX Facility indemnify manufacturers,” states the report.

COVAX was a global vaccine procurement and delivery project co-ordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. The WHO’s role in COVAX was to provide “normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery.”

As well as pressuring nations into granting indemnity to vaccine manufacturers, COVAX arranged for wealthy nations to buy vaccines for poorer nations. This is reportedly the main sticking point for the UK in its rejection of the WHO Pandemic Treaty in its current form, as it would allegedly force Britain to give away a fifth of its vaccines in a future pandemic.

Both WHO pandemic reforms will unquestionably strengthen the self-reinforcing feedback loop between governments, their agencies, and NGOs, regardless.

How the vote works

The WHO Pandemic Treaty will come into effect if two thirds of Member States present at the WHA vote to accept it.

Australia can reject the treaty, but if it is accepted by the required two thirds, the Australian Government advises that it, “will be required to domestically implement the agreement in accordance with their constitutional processes.”

The IHRs (2005) are already legally binding, with compliance being enacted through domestic legislation, however the proposed amendments are not yet binding.

Acceptance of the IHR amendments only requires a 50% majority. Once the amendments are adopted, individual Member States can reject them within a designated time frame – otherwise, at the end of this period, the amendments become binding.

This process played out last year, when the deadline for rejecting several IHR amendments (adopted in 2022 and different from those discussed in this article) passed on 1 December 2023. While some countries, like Slovakia, Estonia and New Zealand, rejected the amendments, Australia simply did nothing. This means that the amendments are now legally binding in Australia.

Australians join together to reject WHO reforms

In response to the seeming political inertia, confusion and ignorance on the reforms, the Aligned Council of Australia (ACA) formed in February of this year to raise community awareness, educate politicians, and co-ordinate activism campaigns. The ACA now comprises 37 organisations representing over 1.7 million Australians.

Last week, the ACA hosted an international press conference featuring Professor Ramesh Thakur, who previously served as the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, the aforementioned Dr David Bell, Professor Augusto Zimmermann and Professor Ian Brighthope.

The panel discussion touches on all the main ‘need to knows’ about the reforms, and with questions from the floor at the end, also allows for the correction of some unfounded anxieties. Click here to watch (1 hour 53 mins).

A key point highlighted by Dr Bell is that the reforms needn’t be rushed through at breakneck speed without time for proper review. A ‘no’ vote at the upcoming WHA is not final, but would simply allow more time to consider the nature of the problems we face and how best to ameliorate them.

Dr Bell said that the notion that natural pandemics are increasing is a myth, and that the urgency in shoving the proposed reforms through to the vote at the WHA are not only in contravention with WHO guidelines, but are wholly misplaced.

Interested readers may wish to read a report calling for rational policy over panic prepared by Dr Bell and colleagues in partnership with the University of Leeds and the Brownstone Institute, which assesses the research underlying the global pandemic agenda. Read the four-page summary here, and the full 116-page document here.

With limited time remaining until the 77th WHA convenes, the ACA is encouraging Australians to take action.

“The 14 parliamentarians who wrote to our Prime Minister raising concerns about the WHO pandemic reforms mentioned a large volume of communications from the public. This is a sign of how effective public pressure can be,” says ACA Co-Founder Katie Ashby-Koppens.

“We have been working so hard on different campaigns with the Aligned Council of Australia, but there’s still more to do.”

Find out more about the ACA and how you can get involved.

Download the letter from 14 Australian parliamentarians to the Prime Minster Anthony Albanese here.

Update 15 May: On seeing new video of the British Health Minister speaking in the House of Commons, it seems to me that Britain is open to signing the WHO Pandemic Treaty, but is angling for more favourable terms by posturing in the press about how they won’t sign it until they’re happy with the text.


Republished with thanks to Dystopian Down Under.

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  1. IAN Moncrieff 16 May 2024 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Such a power grab, and to what end?
    A wise and careful Australian Government is well able to handle any future health situations without interference and control by WHO.

  2. Mac Finlayson 16 May 2024 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    As of the end of April, there were at least 1,200,000 Australians who willingly signed against the Federal Government accepting the WHO treaty. I am sure that by now there will have been many more. Why would we give so much power over our medical autonomy to a group of bureaucrats who were never elected?

  3. Gail Petherick 20 May 2024 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Thank you Rebekah for revealing where things are at between Australia and the WHO Pandemic Treaty.
    Thanking God for the 14 Senators and Australian MPs who have stood against it.
    It is troubling to learn that ‘Australia can reject the treaty, but if it is accepted by the required two thirds, the Australian Government advises that it, “will be required to domestically implement the agreement in accordance with their constitutional processes.”
    It is a great matter for prayer given the way our Govt has been adopting policies most people don’t agree with in other areas.
    May the voice of justice be heard and may God guide our Govt in these days when things seem to slip in beneath the radar (like the OK for digital currency).
    The fact Australia signed an indemnity agreement for the vaccine companies remains a national tragedy for many who have been injured or for the family of those who died as there is a complete lack of accountability.
    May God have mercy on Australia and may He bless those standing against the WHO Treaty, knowing it will only bring in further harm to citizens. As a democracy we should be able to choose our many leadership and not give our sovereign decisions to outside powers who have another agenda.

  4. Pearl Miller 21 May 2024 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    The modern day Tower of Babel.

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