Australia will seek a "please explain" from the World Health Organisation following reports of racist behaviour in the region.
Current and former WHO staffers have accused the top director of the organisation in the Western Pacific of racist, unethical and abusive behaviour, undermining its efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press has reported.
The claims were detailed in internal emails, which described a "toxic atmosphere" and "culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing" at WHO's Western Pacific headquarters in Manila.
The director, Takeshi Kasai, has denied allegations of racism and unethical behaviour.
Among the concerns were Dr Kasai blaming the rise in COVID cases in some countries on their "lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race and socioeconomic level".
The UN agency told AP it was "aware of the allegations and is taking all appropriate steps to follow up on the matter".
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Friday he would be seeking a briefing on the matter.
"If we have any matters of concern we will raise them directly with the WHO, but we will be asking the WHO for independent advice and respond to these claims," Mr Hunt said.
He noted the Australian government had previously been "very plain" in its discussions with WHO.
This included Australia arguing strongly in favour of international border closures, when the WHO felt this was not needed, and declaring a pandemic before the WHO had acted.
"Generally they have done a great job in helping lower income countries both with pandemic and non-pandemic related issues," Mr Hunt said.
Australia's core contribution to the WHO was $15.4 million in 2020/21.
Australian Associated Press
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