PM stands firm on rapid tests as Labor calls for them to be free

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to resist calls for the tests to be supplied to everyone at no cost, ahead of today’s National Cabinet meeting.
Labor had previously been advocating for the home testing kits to be subsidised for people on low incomes.

However, speaking today Mr Albanese said everyone should be able to have access to a rapid test if they need one.

Rapid tests being sold at a service station in Sydney's Edgecliff for $30 each.
Rapid tests being sold at a service station in Sydney’s Edgecliff for $30 each. (Airlie Walsh)

“Rapid antigen tests should be free and available. We are in a pandemic. Everyone needs access,” he said.

“We have been saying for some time that nobody should be denied a test because they can’t afford one. We have considered the options and it is clear that this is the simplest, most efficient, fairest and most responsible way to fix the mess that Scott Morrison has made of testing at this critical juncture of the pandemic.

“As always, we are prepared to work with the government to determine the best way to provide free tests through the Medicare system.”

Australia’s spiralling rapid antigen test crisis will be the main item up for discussion when leaders meet at National Cabinet today.

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 and reports of price gouging mounting.

Mr Morrison said this morning the tests were already being offered free at testing sites for those requiring one under the new rules for close contacts.

The prime minister will propose a plan today to make the tests cheaper for low-income earners and pensioners.

Rapid antigen tests have flown from Australian shelves, triggering major shortages as residents stock up amid changing COVID-19 testing requirements.
Rapid antigen tests have flown from Australian shelves, triggering major shortages as residents stock up amid changing COVID-19 testing requirements. (9News)

“I’ll be putting a proposal to the premiers and chief ministers today, how we can offset the cost for those who are on Commonwealth Seniors health cards and pensioners, and those on health care cards and things of that nature to defray the costs for those that they’re seeking to get, where other Australians are buying,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said simply making the tests free would not solve the problem of supply.

“There’s no silver bullet,” he said.

“Making everything free is not a silver bullet. There are no silver bullets here. You’ve just got to work the problem, work it together and push through.”

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.

A sign on display advises the public to the requirements of face masks.

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“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.

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