Prime Minster 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 originally 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, as well as 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 great 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”, which also includes invitees South Africa, India and South Korea.
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 a deal that was against its national interests.
He said a “strategic balance” in the Indo-Pacific needed to be struck, which “favours 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 in accordance with national sovereignty”.
Mr Morrison will also spend his time in London visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle early next week before flying to Paris for a meeting 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 in order to live peacefully together”.
Mr Biden has encouraged other nations to take a harder line against Chinese economic coercion, but Mr Morrison insisted that competition between the US and China did “not have to lead to conflict”.
Mr Morrison has an interesting 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 pound 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, say 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 which said “G7 drowning in promises” and “Action not words”.
Devon and Cornwall Police said in a Twitter message they were monitoring the situation and warned locals to expect delays in the area, particularly the town centre.
Some demonstrators also held a silent protest while others gathered on the town’s beach putting on cardboard cut outs of the faces of the world leaders.