October 1, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Health Security Partnerships Roundtable

5 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Melbourne, Australia

University of Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much, Dean.  And it’s – thanks to everyone for being here today.  Really, it’s wonderful to be with you, it’s wonderful to be in Melbourne, and it’s wonderful to be at the university in no small measure because of the family connection that we have here.  And I should probably reveal, just cards on the table in case this is a problem for anyone – I have a particular allegiance to Carlton when it comes to (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  I’ve been, I’ve seen them play.  So I just wanted to make sure that I was honest about that.  (Laughter.)

MS GUNN:  We’ll allow it.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

I really want to pick up, Dean, where you brought us because, look, as – at a national level between our countries, between Australia and the United States, I think it’s safe to say that we have been leaders, and leaders together, in trying to deal with COVID and also in trying to build back better so that we have an even stronger, more effective global health security system after we get through this.

But of course, we’re not through it yet and the work that we’re doing together, whether it comes to the production of vaccines, the distribution of vaccines, everything that goes into them, trying to get shots into arms, working on therapeutics, making sure that we’re supporting health care workers who are on the front lines of this – all of that is vitally important, and we know and we continue to experience that the cliché that no one is safe until everyone is safe is profoundly true.  And I know that between our governments – and this is something I’ll be spending some time on here – there is a very deep-seated commitment to do as much as we possibly can this year to really once and for all get ahead of this pandemic.  We’ve said – projected of having 70 percent vaccination in every country in the world by year’s end.  We intend to see that through, but we know the challenges that go with getting that done and getting that done effectively, but at the same time, as we’re doing that, we have to be building a stronger global health security system so that next time around we’re better prepared where we can deal more effectively; hopefully we can prevent, we can detect, we can mitigate more effectively.

But for all the work that the governments are doing – and it’s absolutely necessary – I think what gives me the most cause for optimism are the public-private partnerships that we’ve been building and, of course, the work of the private sector to finally get us to a better place.  And part of why I wanted to get together today, and I’m grateful to all of you for doing that, is to put a bit of a spotlight on that, and in particular the fact that America and Australia together are building these across our countries and across our governments and across our private sectors, building exactly these kind of interconnected partnerships where government can be the ultimate – a catalyst and a facilitator, but at the same time the private sector is doing extraordinary work to really advance our progress.

And I’m anxious to hear from all of you today.  I know from the work that’s been done it’s incredibly gratifying to have Moderna, which is I think a household name now literally around the world, and that’s quite extraordinary.  But the partnership with the Australian Government to open what will be the first mRNA facility, production facility here in this part of the world is a perfect example of how free, open societies can actually come together and deliver benefits not only for our own people but this is going to benefit people around the world.  So this will be the first facility in the Southern Hemisphere to manufacture mRNA vaccines, and that’s going to be a very powerful thing.  It’s also, I’m convinced, going to have a ripple effect – a ripple effect in terms of jobs, a ripple effect in terms of preparing for the future as we need to do, and a ripple effect around the world not just for our two countries but throughout the region and beyond.  And I think it only serves to further solidify Australia’s leadership in dealing with global health security, the pandemic, and the problem.

We have colleagues from Illumina here.  This is another great example of how close-knit our partnership is and doing it in a way that serves the public good.  Even in my short time here today and just in reading about the University of Melbourne and what’s going on here as a remarkable place of knowledge, of learning, of innovation, the genomics hub right here, a partnership again that is going to be serving the public good.  And there, too, the government has a profound role to play in this partnership with the private sector as well as work that’s being done with the university is actually making a difference, and I’m gratified again that American firms are part of this, making these investments, driving these partnerships.

We have IBM, and there again, working on another aspect of things, and that’s the – all the potential of artificial intelligence.  We are developing standards together – our governments are working on this as well – to make sure that as technology emerges, it does so in a way that lifts people up and tries to advance the common good and is not used for repressive or malign interests.

So there are multiple examples of this.  I just thought this was a wonderful way to illustrate how both our countries and governments are working together, but also how we’re doing this in a public-private way, and hopefully to the benefit of a lot of people.

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