Retailers telling customers that stocks of rapid test kits are being redirected to the federal government's national stockpile are "lying", according to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who says he is reporting the companies to Australia's competition watchdog.
Mr Hunt delivered the rebuke as it emerged an industry-pitched plan to allow children to drive forklifts would be raised at Thursday's national cabinet meeting, as the nation continues to grabble with major supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages amid the Omicron wave.
State and territory leaders will meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide frustration over shortages of rapid antigen tests.
Mr Morrison on Wednesday brushed off claims that the Commonwealth had redirected home testing kit supplies to the national stockpile, describing the allegations as "absurd" and "rubbish".
But claims continue to surface. The Australian Financial Review late Wednesday reported three retailers - Werko, Star Hygiene and HiCraft - were blaming the federal government's requisition of saliva tests after they arrived in Australia for delays in filling customer orders.
Fed Govt takes 34,000 RATs from Qld Rail;— Mark Bailey MP (@MarkBaileyMP) January 20, 2022
I’m incredibly disappointed to confirm a 2nd order of rapid antigen tests bound for QR has been commandeered by the Morrison Government.
Last week 19,000 tests were taken from a supplier, now another supplier has told us… 1/2 pic.twitter.com/pxbvJcosiO
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey on Thursday posted a redacted email from a supplier to social media, which claimed the federal government had "commandeered" rapid antigen tests using "emergency stock powers".
The email, which appears to be addressed to Queensland Rail, was dated January 14.
Without naming companies, Mr Hunt said retailers making the claims were lying.
"And that is why I am reporting them to the ACCC [Australian Competition & Consumer Commission]," he said on Thursday.
"There are people in the market who will make statements and make promises and then not be able to [deliver].
"What we are seeing is that, whether it's the Commonwealth, state or territories, or the community or private sector, some suppliers have overcommitted and not been able to deliver.
"There are different reasons and excuses put out, but the truth is that there is a global spike in demand and that's having an impact not just in Australia but around the world."
South Australian premier Steven Marshall earlier this week said he would ask the ACCC to investigate allegations the Victorian and NSW governments had requisitioned home testing kits bound for his state. The allegations have been denied.
The federal health department issued a statement following Mr Hunt's comments to confirm it was reporting "false" claims about redirected supplies to the competition watchdog.
"These claims are categorically untrue," the statement said.
"Supplies of RAT kits are not being redirected to the Commonwealth and at no time has the department sought to place itself ahead of other commercial and retail entities."
The statement said supply was expected to "normalise" over the coming weeks.
The Canberra Times this week reported that of the 1.6 million home tests ordered by the ACT government, just 62,000 had been delivered.
ACT authorities said they were managing test supplies on a "day-by-day basis" and couldn't provide any firm indication as to when supply will increase.
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