PM ignored health advice, Albanese says

Dominic Giannini |

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says while the prime minister didn’t need to be clairvoyant, he should have listened to health experts and planned for the current COVID-19 outbreak. 

Mr Albanese’s comments come as the government placed an urgent tender for more than $60 million of rapid antigen tests, with the five separate tenders sent out due to “extreme urgency or events unforeseen”.

“The national plan made it clear that once we opened up there would be an increased number of infections and we needed to make sure we planned for it,” he told the ABC.

“The prime minister doesn’t have to be Nostradamus here, he just needs to have listened to the health experts and acted.”

Mr Albanese said the spike of cases was foreseen and predicted by experts like the Australian Medical Association after RATs were approved for use in September.

“Some $62 million of RATs that have been purchased were because of urgent and unforeseen circumstances as part of the tender,” he said.

“Well this was foreseen. People knew as part of the national plan that we would face increased number of infections and therefore increased pressure.

“We needed Scott Morrison to do his job but he just went through saying, ‘We will all be together at Christmas it will all be right’, without putting in place mechanisms required.”

Leaders will decide at national cabinet on Thursday a date for when concession card holders will able to access RATS from pharmacies and rubberstamp arrangements for the scheme.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has again called for RATs to be free and easily accessible ahead of the meeting. 

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus says the first priority is keeping workers safe as leaders discuss adding more industries and workers to the list of close contacts exempt from quarantine requirements.

“”The current conflict over this issue is a result of the Morrison government’s refusal to make RATs free. Employers do not want to pay, leaving the cost to be borne by individual workers,” she said ahead of national cabinet meeting. 

“”Rapid antigen tests are an essential part of keeping workers and the whole community safe, and this is the only way that businesses will be able to stay open and function.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says tests are free for vulnerable Australians and people who are struggling, but reiterated universally free tests would hit the taxpayer’s hip pocket.

“This idea that everybody gets them for free, I don’t know about that,” he told the Nine Network.

“The money doesn’t fall out of the air, we take it off your wages, salaries, businesses, to pay for them. It goes on the credit card and you pay for it later on.”