‘This is a reaction to the COVID s*** storm we’re all experiencing together! Please rest assured that you will receive your goods, as soon as possible.’
The above statement appeared on the website of rapid antigen tests (RATs) supplier Werko in reference to their inability to meet retail demand. However, it is safe to say that the reaction from all Australians to the ‘COVID s***storm we’re all experiencing together’ is not going well for the Morrison Government.
As Australians struggle to obtain RATs tests, access polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test sites and days go by before those that managed to get PCR tests receive results, people have no way of knowing if they’re infected and what they should be doing about it.
In a climate of scarcity for both adult boosters and vaccines for children in the lead up to the start of the school year, several Morrison Government ministers continued spreading misinformation about vaccines. This, in the face of Government ads urging people to get tested, increased confusion and added to the fears of an already anxious nation.
RATS FOR SOME
A range of reports, including from Queensland State Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey, surfaced on Twitter this week, suggesting that RATs tests meant for pharmacies and other retail outlets, as well as for Queensland Rail, had been snaffled by the Federal Government.
IA obtained a copy of the email sent to Queensland Rail:
The email states:
Unfortunately the sponsor of the product has decided that (even though these were fully paid for) they will now only be dealing with the Federal Government and these tests are no longer available.
I understand this puts you in a very difficult position however there is nothing we can do.
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey told IA in a statement:
We know this is not the only situation this has occurred in.
…They’ve taken 20,000 tests from Queensland Rail’s critical workforce at a time when our supply chains are under more pressure than ever before.
Interestingly, RATs supplier HiCraft, also sent an email to its customers indicating its inability to fulfil orders for the tests was related to a "Government Emergency Requisition":
'We are emailing you to advise that our stock of the Orawell Rapid Antigen Test Kits that we had secured has unfortunately been recalled and we have not been able to secure an accurate date for replacement stock to arrive.'
This is the same product that Queensland Rail ordered (20,000 units in total) but failed to receive.
The website of RATs supplier Werko also displayed the following message for its customers:
Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt have publicly denied this is the case.
A spokesperson from Mr Hunt’s office informed IA that the Minister for Health categorically denies mandatorily requisitioning, redistributing or otherwise appropriating stocks meant for retailers.
They advised that "these claims are false" and directed us to several Federal Government media statements affirming this position.
The spokesperson also told IA that at least one supplier, HiCraft, who reneged on orders citing “Government Emergency Requisition” as the reason, had retracted their claims.
IA contacted HiCraft for comment and received the following statement in response:
Despite the Health Department spokesperson indicating that the claim had been retracted by HiCraft, a careful reading of the above statement supplied by the company does not show this to be the case.
As well, the following excerpt from HiCraft's response, in particular, which gives a third person explanation of the market shortage appears uncannily similar to Federal Government media releases:
A combination of massive local demand coupled with current air & sea freight delays and demand from other countries is severely impacting the availability of Rapid Antigen Tests in Australia.
This has resulted in some importers over-selling their available stock and causing considerable difficulties for resellers and retailers who are counting on deliveries that then fail to materialise.
And just today, IA has received confirmation of further cancelled orders, citing "Federal Government emergency stock powers" and stocks being "commandeered":
As a Queensland Government source remarked to IA:
"It would be very odd for many of the country’s biggest suppliers to all be making the same 'false claim'."
A RAT INFESTATION
The RATs debacle came to a head over the past week with complaints from retailers and consumers flooding social media after the Federal Government discreetly issued $62 million in tenders for the test kits.
An AFR report indicated:
‘The procurement notices for the tests, which are split across five suppliers, cited “extreme urgency or events unforeseen” as justification for not running an open tender process, prompting Labor to accuse the Morrison Government for being unprepared for the Omicron crisis.’
Mr Bailey told IA:
For the Morrison-Joyce Government, every problem is someone else's fault. Every crisis is someone else's responsibility.
When they are called out on failures, they just flat out lie and spin.
Australians can’t believe a word they say.
This is an abridged version of an article originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online, including our editorial analysis, in the IA members-only area.
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