A major new claim has emerged in Australia’s rapid test disappearance saga, with the federal government back in the hot seat.
After days of denials, the Queensland Government claims to have discovered the smoking gun that suggests a $26 million contract for rapid antigen saliva tests was signed by the Morrison Government around the same time suppliers claimed their orders were “going missing.”
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey claims the tests “are in the hands of the Morrison Government.”
But the importer of the products, who has just signed the $26 million contract, flatly denied this to news.com.au, insisting they are yet to provide a single test to the Federal Government.
”After more than a week of denials and lies we’ve found out where the Orawell rapid antigen tests (the same product Queensland Rail ordered) have gone – they are in the hands of the Morrison Government,’’ Mr Bailey said.
“There are at least five suppliers who state their RAT stock was taken by the Morrison Government, and the one thing they all have in common is the same product, that being the Orawell Covid-19 rapid antigen test.
“There is only one sponsor of this product into Australia and that is a company called Motion One.
“A federal government tender quietly published on January 18 reveals Motion One filled the Morrison Government’s “extreme urgency” order for $26.29 million.”
However, Motion One told news.com.au they were yet to deliver a “single test” to the Morrison Governnment.
“We haven’t even supplied one test to the government. We haven’t diverted any stock,’’ Motion One’s Austyn Campbell said.
”If people are saying their tests aren’t coming, it’s nothing to do with us. We are the sponsors for the test, that’s it. None of these companies are direct clients of us. They are obviously downstream clients of our suppliers but I don’t have any knowledge of them.”
Rather than the hard-to-find tests being seized by the Morrison Government, the Health Minister Greg Hunt has insisted the shortage is simply a case of suppliers over promising and under delivering stock.
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The Morrison Government’s new tender with Motion One is under Clause 10 3.b which provides an exemption to usual procurement processes due to “extreme urgency or events unforeseen”.
“This is almost exactly the same language used by the suppliers over the last few weeks to explain where the stock has gone,’’ Mr Bailey said.
“Either the Morrison Government 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.
“One thing is certain, the Morrison Government now has a multimillion-dollar stockpile of rapid antigen tests, and the dozens of doctors, chemists, essential workers and everyday Australians that ordered that same product don’t.
“All of this is down to Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt’s incompetence for not ordering millions of RAT tests for Australia seven months ago when advised to like other nations did.”
“Scott Morrison should confess the truth and offer an apology to suppliers who have had their orders cancelled for doctors, chemists and essential workers to meet his last minute, ‘extreme urgency’ procurement order.”
The exclusive distributor of rapid antigen saliva tests has previously rubbished widespread industry claims that supplies were ever seized, stolen or commandeered by the Morrison Government for the national stockpile.
But at the time, the $26 million contract with the government wasn’t mentioned.
Australia’s consumer watchdog, the ACCC, has now been tasked to investigate multiple suppliers claiming they were told by distributors that saliva rapid antigen tests were held up because the government was seizing them.
Email correspondence obtained by news.com.au between a Queensland based supplier and another company suggests the story may have emerged after an email that was sent on January 11.
Titled “Order Taken from Sydney Airport” the email was sent from a Brisbane based supplier to another Queensland supplier that had been contracted by Queensland Rail to secure 20,00 tests.
In the email, the supplier states “Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news. The order you had with us for 20,000 saliva based rapid antigen tests kits was at Sydney airport as I advised you late last week.”
However, it claims the importer of the tests had decided to not honour the agreement and sell them all to “the government” instead.
“Unfortunately, the sponsor of the product has decided (even though they were fully paid for) they will now only be dealing with the Federal Government and these tests are no longer available.”
Celsus International’s Marcus Bolton, who wrote that email said he stood by the claims which were “word for word” what he had been told by a Sydney supplier he had bought them from.
“They were taken. How you brush it up doesn’t really matter,’’ Mr Bolton told news.com.au
“It wasn’t necessarily the government that took it, it was more that the sponsor (the importer) may have said “we are just going to deal with the government.”
“What are you going to do? You are not going to get the stock. All is fair and love and war. They may have paid more. I don’t know. It’s just insane trying to get stock.”
After Mr Bolton sent his email to Queensland Rail, a number of other companies including HiCraft started claiming supplies were being nabbed by the Federal Government.
That prompted the major importer of the tests in Australia, Motion One, to write to suppliers on January 11 telling them to stop making the claim.
Motion One, has told news.com.au it has never told any suppliers that the Morrison Government was seizing tests.
”We discovered through third parties that a company unknown to Motion One, a customer of one of our distributors, had notified its own customer base that the product we supply had been “recalled” on the basis of Government requisition,” CEO and Founder of Motion One, Ms Austyn Campbell said.
”We contacted this customer as soon as the discovery was made and demanded they issue an immediate retraction since there was no justification for a claim that there had been any “recall”. A retraction was issued. As far as we are aware, the Government has not requisitioned our product at any time.
’We will continue to monitor this situation closely and co-operate with the Government to minimise the spread of misinformation.”
Motion One is the exclusive distributor in Australia of the Orawell COVID-19 Ag Rapid Saliva Test Device and supplies both Government and non-Government clients.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned suppliers that false claims governments are seizing the tests could result in substantial penalties.
”The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Health, is reporting false claims of the requisitioning of rapid antigen tests to the ACCC. These claims are categorically untrue,” Mr Morrison said.
”If you’re being told by a supplier that you cannot get those rapid antigen tests because the Commonwealth Government has redirected it, that is not true.
”Get them to tell you the truth.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said any business that makes those claims is “lying” and may have been made as a result of some suppliers who “have overcommitted and not been able to deliver”.
Source: News AU