Melanie Parker, PHAA Communications Officer
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday 21 August discussed why the government is establishing an Australian Centre for Disease Control. It follows comments he made earlier this month about the potential for a significant funding announcement for the Centre in the October Budget.
The Public Health Association of Australia and its members have advocated for such a centre for many decades. National Office staff and members have shared their insights via the CDPC Corner on the potential scope, funding and governance arrangements of the Centre.
Here, we provide a chronological timeline of key updates from high-level decision makers; Health Minister Mark Butler MP, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
5 October 2020
It noted that, “Australia is the only OECD country without a CDC equivalent and the Federal Government has not led a national pandemic drill for 12 years.
“An Australian CDC has widespread support, including from the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Public Health Association [of Australia], health experts, and other experts such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.”
Throughout the 2022 federal election campaign, this commitment was one of the Australian Labor Party’s key policies.
This pandemic caught the Government on the back foot. We can’t let that happen again. We need a Centre for Disease Control. pic.twitter.com/m1cWmeq7vP
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) October 5, 2020
8 October 2020
Mr Albanese reiterated the ALP commitment to the ACDC in his budget reply.
“… our pandemic preparedness was poor. The last national pandemic preparedness exercise was run by the Rudd Government in 2008.
“A Labor Government will establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control to bring us into line with other advanced economies.”
1 May 2022
23 May 2022
Two days after the Labor Government was elected, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, addressed the World Health Organization’s 75th World Health Assembly. He discussed the importance of learning lessons from the pandemic, to strengthen the health system.
“It is important that we embed what we have learned through the pandemic and ensure that we maintain scalable supports for our health system,” Prof Kelly said.
“To advance this and strengthen international collaboration, Australia will be establishing our own Centre for Disease Control, bringing together the critical elements of our health system to better prevent and respond to future disease risks.
“This will be necessary worldwide and the lessons from COVID-19 gives us a strong basis for enhancing our global preparation and response settings.”
🇦🇺#WHA75 “it’s important we embed what we’ve learned in the #pandemic… to advance this & strengthn international collaboration Australia will be establishing an #AusCDC bringing together critical elements of our health system to better prevent & respond to future disease risks” pic.twitter.com/LV57SxFv0b
— Lucy Westerman (@lewest) May 23, 2022
20 June 2022
A keynote speaker at the inaugural Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2022, Professor Kelly, engaged in an insightful discussion on the national Centre with PHAA President Adj Prof Tarun Weeramanthri and audience members. Watch the recording here.
— Public Health Association Australia (@_PHAA_) June 20, 2022
30 June 2022
Health Minister Mark Butler MP, in response to a journalist’s question about government progress made on the national Centre, explained current actions being taken.
“This is something that we will roll out in close collaboration, firstly with state and territory governments,” Minister Butler said.
“For a CDC – which is in place in pretty much every other OECD country – for a CDC to be effective, to be valuable in a federal system, it must have buy-in from state and territory governments that have so much responsibility for the delivery of healthcare.
“So I’m meeting health ministers tomorrow. I intend to flag this process with them.”
He cautioned, however, that these consultations would take time.
“We want to do this properly in close collaboration, obviously, with state and territory governments, and then also with other health care stakeholders.
“I’ve detected in my few weeks as Minister a great level of enthusiasm through the healthcare system for this model, particularly given what we’ve experienced as a country over the last couple of years.
“But we’re going to take this carefully. It’s going to start with a discussion with state and territory governments, and then a process to bring in other healthcare stakeholders.”
4 August 2022
When asked about the ACDC in a post National Cabinet meeting press conference, Prime Minister Albanese disclosed that he’s been in discussions with “a couple of Premiers who are very keen to have it located [in their state]. We’ll provide funding for our commitments like other commitments in the October budget.
“Stay tuned,” Albanese concluded.
14 August 2022
SBS News reported that, in response to a question about whether action on preventing zoonotic spillover events was needed, “Mr Butler said in a statement his department was preparing advice on the establishment of an Australian Centre for Disease Control (CDC), which was a Labor election commitment.”
21 August 2022
Prime Minister Albanese spoke to a Sky News journalist about state, territory, and federal governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, there are lessons to be learned there… We were very late in involving the pharmacies in the distribution of support and perhaps that is one of the lessons that could be examined as well.”
He discussed coordination and interaction across the whole healthcare system and said that ensuring Australia is better prepared for a future pandemic was “one of the reasons why we’re setting up an Australian Centre for Disease Control”.
We’ll continue to keep a close eye on related events as they unfold.