Morrison’s titanic failure on R.A.T.s

Scott Morrison has failed again! Despite having months to prepare for this latest COVID-19 outbreak, the Prime Minister has failed to shore up supply of Rapid Antigen Tests for people on the Central Coast.

14 January 2022



SLOMO ESCARGOT’s decision to let COVID rip is having a devastating impact on the economy and on people’s lives. Morrison has failed to plan a proper booster program, with one of the slowest booster rollouts in the developed world, and he has failed to plan a proper rapid testing regime in spite of being warned about this back in September by the AMA. Morrison was also warned by health practitioners that he needed a strategy to supply rapid antigen tests, including to the truckies and transport workers on whom our economy depends. He didn’t listen.


Morrison failed to plan wide availability of the tests and make sure they are free of charge. The aged care sector can't get rapid tests. Food and grocery can't get rapid tests. And for love nor money, Australia's working families cannot lay their hands on a rapid test.


Scott Morrison has failed again to protect aged care, with the result that, today, tens of thousands of vulnerable aged care residents, yet again in lockdown in their rooms, unable to receive visitors because of Slomo Escargot’s failure.


Scott Morrison failed to plan a proper vaccine rollout for Australia's primary school aged children to make sure that they received at least one vaccine dose before school returns later this month.


COVID case numbers are exploding, hospitals and ambulance systems are overwhelmed and Australians are dying. Supermarket shelves are empty and Australia's parents are deeply worried that they won't be able to get a vaccine dose for their primary school aged children before school returns. Scott Morrison decided to let it rip a few weeks ago without doing his job to protect Australians first. He always fails to plan and never takes responsibility.


And to try and cover his failure to the Australian people, Scott Morrison is using taxpayer’s money to run television ads promoting the Government securing rapid antigen tests when Australians all around the country are unable to get a rapid test.


This shameless Prime Minister had television ads running, patting himself on the back, before he had provided a single rapid test to Australians who need them.


This is a Prime Minister who can find the money to congratulate himself but not to fund the tests that workers, businesses and families are crying out for.


Scott Morrison’s refusal to do his job is having real consequences.


Rapid antigen tests (RATs) should be free and accessible for all Australians via Medicare. But Scott Morrison’s arrogance and ideology of a user-pay health-care system is crippling all Australians.


And with COVID-19 cases soaring across NSW and testing clinics being overrun, Central Coast locals have no choice but to pay top dollar for a RAT, if they can find one.


“This Government has a responsibility to secure more Rapid Antigen Tests for our community, but they’ve been too slow to act once again,” Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride said.


“Now we’re seeing supermarket shelves stripped bare, pharmacies running out of tests and vulnerable Coasties being forced to pay outrageous prices for a simple swab.


“We’re in the third year of this pandemic and the Prime Minister should have been prepared.”


While Ms. McBride welcomes news that concession card holders will now be given free RATs, she says the Government needs to take things further.


“I’m pleased to see Rapid Antigen Tests being made free for some of the most vulnerable people in our community, but the reality is, they should be free and accessible, for all Australians,” she said.


“PCR tests are free for everyone through Medicare, RATs should be too.”


As a pharmacist of 20 years, Ms. McBride said the Government also had a responsibility to work with pharmacies to secure supply before making this announcement.


Instead, pharmacists have been told to source RATs themselves, pass them on free of charge and wait for the Government to reimburse them.


In the meantime, local pharmacies are being overwhelmed with enquires and it’s unlikely they’ll receive stock before free tests are made available in the next two weeks.


“Pharmacists need to be able to access stock to ensure equitable distribution to the most needy and vulnerable in our community,” a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild on the Central Coast said.


“It’s outrageous,” Ms. McBride said. “The government should pay local community pharmacies in a timely manner.”


“Pharmacists are some of the most trusted healthcare professionals in our community and if they don’t have RATs on hand, vulnerable Coasties will be worse off."


It has now become blatantly obvious that Slomo Escargot doesn’t ‘GIVE A RATs’.


The recent surge in Covid-19 cases has demonstrated that both the State and Federal governments were under-prepared for both the increase in cases and logistical considerations during the holiday period.


Lack of PCR testing facilities, access to rapid antigen tests, rules around isolation and supply chain issues have plagued the Christmas period and is continuing to cause problems, even as students approach a planned return to school.


The recent surge in Covid-19 cases has demonstrated that both the State and Federal governments were underprepared for both the increase in cases and logistical considerations during the holiday period.


Now with students returning to school at the end of the month, Coasties are experiencing a lack of vaccine supply for children with many pharmacies and GPs having to cancel appointments because promised stocks have not arrived.


David Harris, Member for Wyong, said, “The community’s confidence in both the New South Wales government and the Australian government response to Covid-19 is being undermined because of a chaotic approach since November, with both levels of government scrambling to react to the reality on the ground being experienced by communities including the Central Coast.”


“People are trying their hardest to be responsible and follow the rules but the basic infrastructure needed to comply either doesn’t exist, is too hard to access or doesn’t work and this is adding to the stress families are already feeling with sickness spreading through their loved ones.


“The New South Wales government must find a way to provide rapid antigen tests for free, ensure the Service New South Wales app is working to provide recording of positive tests and that our GPs are properly educated in the procedures they should follow when their patients contact them looking for help.


“It’s time that the politicians who are being driven by ideology get out of the way and let the health experts back in charge so that the community can have confidence that this pandemic is being handled in the best way.”


Australians want leadership during the pandemic, they don’t want a Prime Minister who continues to fail them. Right through this pandemic Scott Morrison, time and time again, has been ambushed by events that he was warned about, should have predicted and should have planned for. And with growing evidence that high COVID-19 case numbers are stretching supply chains and leading to food shortages at supermarkets, it is increasingly clear that free and accessible rapid antigen tests are the only safe way to get truck drivers and supply chain workers back on the job.


Across Australia,  truck drivers and supermarket and distribution centre workers are being forced to stay home and isolate as they wait for test results. Some reports suggest that up to 50 per cent of truck drivers are absent from work due to COVID-19.


While the Morrison-Joyce Government may be considering cutting isolation times for close contacts to allow supply chain workers to return to work, this can only be done safely in consultation with unions and with easy access to free RATs.


As usual, the Morrison-Joyce Government has been asleep at the wheel, leading to empty shelves across the country.


The Government cannot now try to cover their own mistakes by forcing workers back to potentially unsafe workplaces without access to RATs.


Liesl Tesch, Member for Gosford, said that she was disappointed and furious over the lack of access to rapid antigen tests across the Central Coast.


“It is absolutely ridiculous that we are living in the 21st Century yet we cannot get a PCR or RAT test,” Liesl Tesch said.


“The mismanagement of this Liberal Government at both the state and federal level is absolutely reprehensible and people in our community are suffering.


“Other countries have managed to handle their outbreaks well, facilitating the delivery of free tests to households and ensuring people could test from home. There’s no excuse for NSW’s and Australia’s current situation – we should have been equipped to deal with this.”


The capitalisation on RATs is of concern with some places charging $25 for one test. There’s no sign of it ending any time soon according to an ABC report, which said that until mid-February it is likely there will be a lack of RAT test supplies.


An additional concern is that potentially COVID positive community members are travelling between numerous pharmacies, supermarkets and service stations trying to source a RAT, which could be perpetuating the spread of COVID-19. This is something the government should be proactive in preventing.


Ms. Tesch says the Liberal Government have created the perfect environment for a COVID-19 commercial storm.


“The fact that only the more affluent members of our society can afford RATs is a problem that I simply will not stand for.


“While it is positive that some vulnerable community members will be able to gain access to free RATs the reality is that for your average Aussie on an average wage or salary, where you do not qualify for Centrelink or any of the other exemptions, a $25 test is still too much.


“If you have a family of four that’s $100 just to do a test, a cost this Liberal Government should be ashamed of.


“With PCR testing queues still lengthy on the Central Coast RATs are the only option for many, if only they could get their hands on some.


“We are all feeling let down and embarrassed by the handling of this pandemic by the NSW and Federal Liberal Government with first access to vaccines being an absolute nightmare and now we are experiencing the troubles of accessing tests and booster shots.”


And although yesterday the Prime Minister chaired National Cabinet, which used the time to focus on the extreme set of circumstances that the Omicron variant is posing, will Slomo Escargot’s disastrous handling of the pandemic improve? Unlikely!


Despite being warned that without a comprehensive strategy for rapid tests that would be free of charge to workers, there would be drastic shortages in our supermarkets, and despite being warned how important it was to the public health system to ensure RATs were freely available, Scott Morrison just wouldn’t listen. This is one of the defining failures of Scott Morrison and his Government.


The whole plan that was announced yesterday hinges on whether or not people can find tests that either don't exist, or are priced out of people's reach. Australians are prepared to do their jobs, they just need the Prime Minister to do his job.


Scott Morrison is a Prime Minister who never takes responsibility, and right now, Australia's working families are yet again paying the price for Scott Morrison’s failure to do what is expected of him - to be a Prime Minister that does the job he was elected to do.

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