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Estimates: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee (Zika virus)

Lee asks the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade whether the government is reassessing its decision to phase out aid completely for South America in light of the proliferation of the zika virus in that region.

Senator RHIANNON: Just moving onto South America: considering the spread of the zika virus in South America, is the government reassessing its decision to phase out aid completely for that region?

Mr McDonald: In relation to the zika virus, Mr Exell will need to come forward, but the allocations at the moment within the budget have been made. There is provision in that where there are needs for additional funding, like humanitarian or emergency funds, as we have talked about before, but, no, there has been no consideration of that at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: The question was about South America itself, so what you just mentioned—is any of that occurring in South America? If not, where is it occurring?

Mr McDonald: In relation to this—if Mr Exell is around, he can help me on this—there has been whole-ofgovernment consideration around the zika virus overall. In relation to your specific question about South America, obviously we are aware of the disease in South America, but we are not considering providing funding to South America, no. Mr Exell might want to add to my answer.

Mr Exell: The focus for us has really been in the Pacific region. There was an announcement from the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Mr Ciobo, on the weekend about giving support to the region, in particular a $500,000 contribution to the WHO Zika Virus Action Plan for the Pacific.

Senator RHIANNON: Does this work include any evaluation of the accessibility of affordable contraception in zika affected countries?

Mr Exell: No, our work has not specifically looked at or done an assessment on the value of contraceptives in in affected countries. As you may know, we support family planning activities, including the distribution supply, information about the type and use of contraceptives already, but we have not looked specifically at this issue. I would probably refer you to the Department of Health. I am aware of a study about the issue of possible sexual transmission of zika, but I do not think the science has actually been completely established. There is quite a bit of debate going on. I think the Department of Health—we take our technical advice from them in terms of specific advice that may or may not be needed to be given in terms of sexual transmission of the zika virus.

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