Prime Minister Scott Morrison has arrived in the UK for the G7 meeting and immediately pledged at least 20 million doses for developing countries. Mr. Morrison’s trip was off to a rocky start after his plane was delayed by fog for four hours, forcing him to land at RAF Brize Norton near Oxford and not at Cornwall Airport in Newquay as initially planned.
The Prime Minister’s vaccine pledge follows similar promises from other G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, who Mr. Morrison will meet with during the three-day economic summit. Australia’s commitment will include locally made vaccines and a mix of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna.
“Australia will be doing its part, as we already have been, committing some 20 million doses as part of that effort here at the G7 Plus in Cornwall,” he said. “That comes on top of our very recent commitment of $US100 million in support for the COVAX initiative, working together with the Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshi Suga, and I commend him for his outstanding leadership on that initiative.
“These 20 million doses will go to support doses in our region to ensure that we continue to exercise our responsibility as part of a broader global responsibility to combat this virus.” Australia is not part of the G7 but is attending as a guest as part of the “G7 Plus”, including South Africa, India, and South Korea invitees.
Following the G7, Mr. Morrison will head to London for talks with British Prime Minister Mr. Johnson with hopes of striking a free-trade deal between their two countries. However, Mr. Morrison said in an opinion piece in the UK Telegraph that Australia would not accept an agreement that was against its national interests.
He said a “strategic balance” in the Indo-Pacific needed to be struck, which “favors freedom and allows us to be who we are – a vibrant liberal democracy, an outward-looking open economy (and) a free people determined to shape our own destiny by national sovereignty”.
Mr. Morrison will also spend his time in London visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle early next week before flying to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Morrison will use his first face-to-face meeting with Mr. Biden to talk about climate change and how the US and Australia could best respond to new cyber and technological threats posed by nations, including China and Russia.
The Prime Minister told The Australian his key message going into the summit in Cornwall was that “no country in our region should have to compromise their values or interests to live peacefully together”. Mr. Biden has encouraged other nations to take a harder line against Chinese economic coercion. Still, Mr. Morrison insisted that competition between the US and China did “not have to lead to conflict”.
Mr. Morrison has a fascinating family association with Cornwall, with the Prime Minister admitting this week that his “fifth great-grandfather,” William Roberts,, was cast out of the town for stealing “five pounds and a half-weight of yarn” in 1786 and sent to Australia as part of the First Fleet. “It’s a long time since one of my family was in Cornwall,” Mr. Morrison said in a speech in Perth on Wednesday.
Hundreds of demonstrators protest G7.
The talks have already been met with protests as more than 500 Extinction Rebellion demonstrators blocked roads and branded world leaders “liars” near Cornwall. Extinction Rebellion, a climate activist group, says the protests are in response to G7 nations’ “failure to respect the global climate commitments they made in Paris in 2015” and “to urge the leaders meeting at Carbis Bay in Cornwall to act immediately to address the climate and ecological emergency”.
Members of the group said they were there to represent the threat to seas and wildlife if more decisive action is not taken to combat climate change. Flags could also be seen, saying “G7 drowning in promises” and “Action not words”. In a Twitter message, Devon and Cornwall Police said they were monitoring the situation and warned locals to expect delays in the area, particularly the town center. Some demonstrators also held a silent protest while others gathered on the town’s beach, putting on cardboard cutouts of the faces of the world leaders.