ASEAN, Australia should work in preparing for future health emergencies, says PM Ismail Sabri

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 27): ASEAN and Australia should prepare for future public health emergencies and emerging diseases through exchange of knowledge and capacity building programmes, including by leveraging on digital technologies.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this at the inaugural ASEAN-Australia Summit held virtually on Wednesday.

He said Malaysia appreciated Australia’s strong support for ASEAN’s efforts to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

“Almost A$700 million have been earmarked for various intiatives. This would greatly assist ASEAN in pursuing its Comprehensive Recovery Framework to implement ASEAN’s recovery strategies and build a future that is sustainable and resilient,” he said in his intervention at the Summit which was also attended by his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. 

Ismail Sabri said that since 1974, ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations have continued to grow and deepen into many new areas of cooperation.

He said Malaysia supports the elevation of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and this annual engagement at the highest level will provide greater impetus to further strengthen our partnership for mutual benefit.

“Malaysia welcomes the announcement by Prime Minister Morrison on further assistance of A$124 million for the next ten years.

“The proposed areas of cooperation are highly relevant. Malaysia looks forward to mutually beneficial projects across the three ASEAN Community pillars,” he added.

The prime minister also noted that another area that demand attention is mental health, which Malaysia, Brunei and Australia have been been working closely.

He said Malaysia had launched the Mental Health Strategic Plan 2020–2025 and has plans to establish the National Centre of Excellence on Mental Health.

“In this connection, Malaysia looks forward to working with member states and Australia to make mental health care more accessible and available through using digital platforms,” he said, adding that Malaysia also looks forward to the proposed ASEAN-Australia Mental Health Experts’ Meeting.

On education, Ismail Sabri had underscored the importance of Technical Vocational Education and Training, and how it can contribute to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups.

He said MSMEs account for more than 60% of employment in the region.

“Education is a significant element of ASEAN-Australia partnership. In strengthening the cooperation in this area, ASEAN can work together with Australia to equip the underserved communities including youth, women and children in the region, particularly with critical ICT skills.

“This will significantly assist in upskilling and developing skilled workers. It would also enhance the quality of the labour force, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of MSMEs and startups, and ultimately boost supply chain and manufacturing productivity in the region,” he said.

He also extended appreciation to Australia for its participation in the recent Five Power Defence Agreement "Bersama Gold" exercise. 

The 1st ASEAN-Australia Summit was held on the sidelines of the three-day virtual 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits, which began Tuesday under the chairmanship of Brunei.