Thursday, 2 April 2020

The Coalition Government’s first priority is the safety and welfare of the Australian community, and never more so than when facing a global pandemic like COVID-19.

We have acted decisively to address concerns about the hoarding and profiteering of essential goods, such as personal protective gear, disinfectants and other medical products and have introduced tough penalties for price gouging.

The Government has implemented amendments to the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 to stop exploitative exports of essential goods (which commenced on 30 March 2020).

The Minister for Health has now made a determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to enable the Australian Border Force to require that goods already in their custody be surrendered for provision to the National Medical Stockpile, or destruction if the goods are defective.

The requirement will apply to essential goods currently in the custody of the Australian Border Force, which were attempted to be exported between 30 January and 29 March 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding. It does not apply to exports by legitimate businesses or humanitarian organisations.

As a further step to address exploitative practices, the Health Minister has also determined a requirement that stops price gouging, by preventing people who have purchased essential goods at retail to on-sell them at extortionate prices.

The Health Minister’s requirement prevents a person who has purchased essential goods at retail on or after 30 January 2020, and for the duration of the human biosecurity emergency period, from selling or offering to sell these goods for more than 120 per cent of the price for which they were purchased.

This measure will not apply to manufacturers or legitimate business activities, ensuring that it does not apply to key suppliers that are vital to maintaining Australia’s supply chains.

Where individuals have been found to be engaging in ‘price gouging’, they will also be required to surrender the essential goods to the Australian Federal Police for provision to the National Medical Stockpile, or destruction if the goods are defective.

These measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging. These goods are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The Government recognises that businesses are generally doing their best to keep prices down and has made exceptions to ensure that these measures do not apply to those doing the right thing.

These temporary measures will ensure that essential goods are distributed to those with the highest need, such as vulnerable communities, front line health workers and law enforcement, while safeguarding legitimate trade.