Qld test claims ‘categorically untrue’: PM

Laine Clark |

The prime minister says Queensland government claims that the Commonwealth is intercepting COVID-19 tests are based on “falsehoods” that have been referred to the competition regulator.

State Transport Minister Mark Bailey has published a letter from a supplier claiming the federal government “commandeered” 34,000 rapid antigen tests originally destined for Queensland Rail staff.

“I’m incredibly disappointed to confirm a 2nd order of rapid antigen tests bound for QR has been commandeered by the Morrison Government,” Mr Bailey tweeted on Thursday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that was “categorically untrue”, saying Mr Bailey’s claim had been reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

He said he didn’t know why test suppliers were telling buyers like the Queensland government “falsehoods”.

“You’d have to ask them why they’re doing that,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

“All I’m making it very clear is if you’re being told that you can’t get access to it, or that your supplier is no longer going to supply you, because the Commonwealth has been taking your supplies it’s not true.

“It’s just not true.”

The supplier, whose name was redacted in the letter Mr Bailey posted, said the RAT supplies had been redirected to the federal government under commonwealth emergency powers.

“While new supplies were originally expected in January, in the last 24 hours, we have been advised by our suppliers that under the federal government’s emergency stock powers, product that had been committed … has now been commandeered,” the letter said.

“We appreciate this is frustrating, but unfortunately, this is a situation out of our control.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles also weighed in, saying the “intercepted” RAT supplies were vital amid the state’s current outbreak.

He said Queensland Rail was critical to the state’s supply chains, logistics and transport. 

“It is bad enough that the federal government says it’s not their job to assist with rapid antigen tests,” he told reporters.

“It’s bad enough that they won’t help us, it is worse that they’re making our job even harder by taking the tests away from us that we have secured.”

Last week Mr Bailey said he had proof of about 19,000 RAT kits intended for QR workers being diverted elsewhere.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has also taken aim at Mr Morrison this week, saying he should apologise for a federal government advertisement spruiking free RATs.

She said it was “irresponsible” for the ad to claim millions of free RATs were available at state testing clinics before they had been delivered.