Labor has accused the federal government of “an incredible waste of money” with almost two million COVID tests bought from billionaire Andrew Forrest, set to be thrown out if they are not used by later this month.
The government says it placed an order for 4.89 million and distributed three million to states and through private pathology laboratories. Almost 1.9 million tests and components will expire on May 25.
The Minderoo Foundation also established laboratories and provided training for staff – in all taxpayers paid $186 million.
“It’s an incredible waste of money. This government has been addicted to announcements with no follow-through,” Labor’s Shadow Minister for Government Accountability Pat Conroy told 9News.
“To see two million of them reach their expiry is an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Hunt defended the expenditure, saying at the time the tests were purchased “the world was facing a supply shortage”. He described the tests as “absolutely vital”.
“It’s been a critical part of our national testing program, it’s helped save lives and protect lives,” Mr Hunt said.
The Minderoo Foundation said it did not profit from this arrangement and the federal government only reimbursed it.
9News has spoken to Queensland, South Australian, Victorian, New South Wales, ACT, Northern Territory, and Western Australian Governments and health authorities and has accounted for 13,563 tests.
“The advice of Healius, one of the providers, was they would not have got through the full testing with Victoria during the second wave here without those supplies,” Mr Hunt told 9News.
Healius told 9News it conducted 1.2 million BGI tests.
“The Department does not require laboratories to report on the number of products used by each manufacturer,” a spokesperson for the Victorian Health Department said.
The government said it does not have any immediate plans to purchase more testing kits from the Minderoo Foundation, but has “always had the option for more if needed”, describing it as a “contingency reserve”.