House debates

Monday, 23 March 2020

Questions without Notice

Coronavirus

3:03 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. The coronavirus is challenging Australia and the rest of the world on so many fronts. That includes an unprecedented demand for food, for medicines and for vital equipment at this time. But I want to assure the Australian people that our supply chains are working well, are functioning well and remain open. I say that because I want to assure the Australian people that there is no need for them to panic buy. There is no need for them to hoard, particularly food and medicines.

When it comes to food, we can produce enough food for 75 million people, three times the population of Australia. Our food manufacturing sector has grown every quarter for the past four years, so it's thriving. We produce significant amounts of food, so there's nothing for Australians to be concerned about. I understand that it's alarming when you go into the supermarket and you don't see food on the shelves but that is a restocking issue rather than a supply issue, so rest assured that we do have sufficient supply. We also have a sufficient supply of medicines here in this country. So, again, there is no reason for you to have to panic buy and to hoard your medicines.

There have already been discussions and debates here today about personal protective equipment. I will take the remaining time to just add to my previous answer, particularly in relation to manufacturing of personal protective equipment. We have gone out with a request for information quite broadly across Australia so that we can bring out as many manufacturers as we can with regard to those who are capable of and are currently producing personal protective equipment and those who have the capacity to retool and to start producing those products. I want to speak about one of the businesses that we are currently helping. Med-Con, a manufacturer of surgical masks, based just outside Shepparton, has already doubled its manufacturing capacity of surgical masks and continues to do so with the support, over the short term, of the Australian Defence Force.

In relation to hand sanitisers—which, again, is something that people are starting to see is not on the shelves—I can say that production is fine. Ego Pharmaceuticals, which make Aquim sanitisers, are now producing 90,000 bottles a day—five times their forecast levels. So you will start to see hand sanitisers back on shelves very soon.

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