After so much criticism of his holidaying during national crises, you have to acknowledge that Scott Morrison stuck to his job through summer.
Certainly he showed an admirable commitment to lying — not taking a break through the holidays from misleading voters.
And he farewelled 2021 — truly his annus dolosus — with another whopper.
As rapid antigen tests disappeared from view and attention turned to how the government had yet again stuffed up a key procurement moment in the pandemic, the prime minister was pressured on whether they should be made free, with the Omicron variant spreading like, well, a plague, and given the collapse in PCR testing over the holidays.
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Turns out, Morrison wasn’t having a bar of that. Why not? Because it would undercut private suppliers. And they’d told him that, he claimed. On December 30, he told journalists:
Anyone else who would like to get a rapid antigen test, well, you go along to your pharmacy or to the supermarket or the warehouse, a whole, big suppliers, where we believe, as a result of making this change and being very clear about who is being provided with a public test and who is not, all the private industry who gave us that advice this week, they can go now, they can book their supplies, they can get them on the shelves and not have any concern that somehow a new policy will come in and tests will be be handed out to anybody who wants one.
But private industry denied giving Morrison any such advice, that week or any other, as Guardian Australia discovered. Pathology Technology Australia, which represents most RAT suppliers, said it “doesn’t matter to us whether they’re free, subsidised or some other thing”. Pharmacy Guild head Trent Twomey added: “That’s not a conversation he had with us.”
And in any event, with RATs still scarce four weeks later, this concern-free booking of supplies has yet to materialise.