Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has demanded China “answer questions” about the origins of coronavirus.
Mr Dutton said the families of more than 60 Australians who have died from the disease deserve answers about how the outbreak originated.
There are reports from Washington that US President Donald Trump and some of his officials are floating an outlier theory that a Chinese lab let the virus escape.
“More and more, we’re hearing the story,” Mr Trump said, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adding it was “very telling” that China hadn’t provided answers.
Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, probably from an animal that caught the virus from a bat.
“I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened,” Mr Dutton told Nine on Friday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he would prefer China was a democracy so there was greater transparency about the cause and true extent of the disease.
“What we don’t want is theories that don’t have any basis spreading out there – we’ve seen a lot of that on social media – what we want is the facts,” he told reporters.
“The facts of what the origin of this coronavirus was, what occurred in terms of how it originated, how it spread, and the circumstances around that.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he would not give China advice on its system of government but acknowledged the Asian superpower had some explaining to do.
He said the most pressing priority was for the world to get through the outbreak.
“What we need to do is make sure we get the health and economic conditions right, we need to get a vaccine, we need to get through this crisis,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“Then we can talk about why it started, where it started, and certainly China has some answers to give in that regard and some questions to own up to and to answer.”
The Prime Minister said Australia intended to maintain a strong trade relationship with China after the crisis but added a caveat.
“We have an eyes-wide-open relationship,” Scott Morrison told 3AW radio.
More than 6500 Australians have been infected by coronavirus and 63 people have died.