Plan to subsidise rapid antigen tests to be discussed at National Cabinet meeting today

  • Published January 5, 2022

9 News, 5 January 2022

Australia's spiralling rapid antigen test crisis is expected to be the main item up for discussion when leaders meet at National Cabinet today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is tipped to propose a plan to subsidise the COVID-19 home testing kits as pressure mounts on the government to provide them for free.

Leaders will discuss whether the rapid tests should be made cheaper for low income earners and pensioners.

Last week, Mr Morrison promised to provide free rapid tests at already overwhelmed COVID-19 testing sites for people required to take a test, including close contacts.

However, the prime minister said he did not want to "undercut" suppliers by making them free for everyone.

Angry and frustrated Australians have been scrambling to find rapid test kits, with most retailers and pharmacies selling out almost as soon as more stock arrives.

Yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched an investigation into complaints of price gouging as some sellers appear to be trying to take advantage of a desperate market.

The ACCC has received more than 100 complaints from consumers about excessive prices being asked for rapid tests.

It comes as some convenience stores are offering rapid tests for sale through UberEats at inflated prices.

One shop has listed a two-pack of tests for $65. This is more than double the $30 they are listed for at major supermarkets and chemists.

"We won't be shy to name and shame suppliers and retailers we consider to be doing the wrong thing," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

Health Services Union National President Gerard Hayes told Today the government's rollout of rapid testing was ill-planned and it needed to intervene immediately to stop price gouging.

"Profiteering like this is exactly the same as looting," Mr Hayes said.

"We would take looting very seriously. We should be taking profiteering in a pandemic, in a crisis, equally as seriously.

"People should be named and shamed if they are going to make money out of people in the community who are struggling, it is just disgraceful.

"It is un-Australian."

Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said yesterday the situation was a mess.

"Australians are being told you're on your own, go out and get a rapid antigen test, but they're not available in so many areas," Mr Albanese said.

"If people are lucky enough to find one, they're not affordable. And for many people that's simply pricing them out of access to that important health care.

"And of course, we have no action from the federal government when it comes to price gouging.

Labor has however stopped short of saying it would offer the tests to Australians for free, instead Mr Albanese said on Twitter they should be affordable.