Greg Hunt doubles down on denial that federal government took thousands of rapid antigen tests meant for essential workers despite MP claiming new evidence proves it
- Queensland MP claims federal government ‘commandeered’ rapid antigen tests
- He cited a $26 million contract between the Health Department and Motion One
- Motion One said it was yet to supply a single kit to the federal government
- Mr Hunt also denied the claims saying the contract doesn’t start till February 7
A $26 million contract with a major supplier of rapid antigen tests is evidence the federal government diverted supplies from essential workers, a Labor MP claims.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt doubled down on denials any tests were requisitioned by the Commonwealth, saying that contract isn’t in effect until February 7.
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey on Friday published a letter from a supplier claiming the federal government ‘commandeered’ 34,000 rapid antigen tests originally destined for the state’s rail staff.
He shared a screenshot in another post on Saturday, which appeared to show an agreement between the federal Health Department and supplier Motion One for $26.29 million.
Greg Hunt (pictured) said the federal government has not requisitioned any rapid antigen tests
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Baily posted details of a $26million contract between the government and Motion One (pictured) but both Mr Hunt and the supplier say that contract doesn’t start until February 7 with no test kits yet supplied
‘Either the Morrison govt has commandeered the stock using emergency powers, or they’ve swooped in late with a big money procurement offer of $26.29 million that a supplier couldn’t refuse given the massive profit margin offered,’ Mr Bailey tweeted.
But Mr Hunt denied the kits were diverted from essential workers in Queensland.
‘The claims that were made about the Commonwealth are false. They had been referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission because they are false,’ he told reporters.
‘I have confirmed with the Department of Health, the Commonwealth has not received and is not expecting to receive any supply from that supplier until at least February 7.’
Motion One also denied any tests were commandeered, saying it was yet to supply a single kit to the federal government.
The company supplies Orawell saliva rapid antigen tests that are manufactured by Jiangsu Well Biotech, which is in turn owned by Chinese conglomerate Jinsheng Group.
Queensland MP Mark Baily is fuming over claims the federal government ‘commandeered’ 34,000 rapid antigen tests from Queensland Rail
Mr Hunt said the federal government is providing 200,000 rapid antigen tests to Queensland on Saturday, and rejected suggestions it did not plan well enough to meet surging demand amid the Omicron wave.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government was warned months ago of the need for widely available rapid antigen tests.
‘This government simply didn’t prepare properly,’ he said in Launceston, before visiting a local chemist to talk about the rapid test shortage.
Australia has moved to scrap the requirement for international arrivals to show a negative PCR test and will instead accept a rapid antigen result within 24 hours of boarding.
The rapid antigen test kits are in short supply with many stockists sold out and huge markups for the tests common (pictured: a Sydney chemist in January)
The change is consistent with domestic measures, where rapid antigen tests are accepted as a diagnostic tool.
The period a person can enter the country after testing positive to Covid has also been cut in half, from 14 days to seven, bringing it in line with domestic isolation requirements.
But quarantine requirements upon entry remain subject to state and territory restrictions.
Mr Hunt said the changes were ‘important steps’ to help bring Australians home.