Prime Minister Scott Morrison has arrived in the UK for the G7 meeting and immediately promised at least 20 million doses for developing countries.
Mr Morrison’s journey got off to a rocky start after his plane was delayed four hours by fog, 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 promise follows similar promises from other G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, who will meet Mr Morrison at the three-day economic summit.
Australia’s commitment includes locally made vaccines, as well as a mix from Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.
“Australia will do its part, as we have already done, by delivering some 20 million doses as part of that effort here at the G7 Plus in Cornwall,” he said. “That’s in addition to our very recent $100 million pledge to support the COVAX initiative, in partnership with Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshi Suga, and I commend him for his great leadership in that initiative.
“These 20 million doses will be used to support doses in our region, to ensure we continue to live up to our responsibility as part of a wider global responsibility to fight this virus.”
Australia is not part of the G7, but will be a guest as part of the “G7 Plus”, which also includes South Africa, India and South Korea.
After the G7, Morrison will head to London for talks with the British Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, in hopes of concluding a free trade agreement between their two countries.
However, Mr Morrison said in an op-ed in the British Telegraph that Australia would not accept a deal that ran counter to its national interests.
He said a “strategic balance” had to be found in the Indo-Pacific that “promotes freedom and allows us to be who we are – a vibrant liberal democracy, an outward-looking open economy (and) a free people.” that is determined to shape our own destiny in accordance with national sovereignty”.
Morrison will also spend his time in London early next week visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle before flying to Paris to meet 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 can best respond to emerging cyber and technology threats from countries like China and Russia.
The Prime Minister told the Australian his main message at the Cornish summit was that “no country in our region should compromise its values or interests in order to live together peacefully”.
Mr Biden has encouraged other countries to crack down on China’s economic coercion, but Mr Morrison stressed that competition between the US and China “didn’t have to lead to conflict”.
Mr Morrison has an interesting family connection to Cornwall, with the Prime Minister admitting this week that his “fifth great-grandfather” William Roberts was evicted from the city for stealing “five pounds and a half weight of yarn” in 1786 and taken to Australia as part of the First Fleet.
“It’s been a long time since any of my relatives were in Cornwall,” Morrison said in a speech in Perth on Wednesday.
Hundreds of protesters protest against G7
The talks have already sparked protests as more than 500 Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked roads and called world leaders “liars” near Cornwall.
Extinction Rebellion, a climate activist group, says the protests are in response to the G7 countries’ failure to “deliver on the global climate commitments they made in Paris in 2015” and “to denounce the leaders meeting in Cornwall’s Carbis Bay urge immediate action on the climate and ecological emergency”.
Members of the group said they were there to represent the threat to seas and wildlife if more vigorous action is not taken to combat climate change.
There were also flags that read “G7 is drowning in promises” and “Action not words”.
Devon and Cornwall Police said in a Twitter post that they were monitoring the situation and warning locals about delays in the area, particularly in the city centre.
Some protesters also held a silent protest, while others gathered on the city’s beach and applied cardboard cutouts of the faces of world leaders.