The Australian government on March 29 enacted new laws banning price gouging as well as the export of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectant products as supplies in hospitals, aged-care centers, and other centres across the country are in short supply amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton moved to ban the exports of disposable masks, gloves, gowns, and eye visors, as well as disinfectant products like alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer.
Those breaching the law can be punished with up to five years in jail. Australia’s Customs can seize the critical items and incorporate them into the national stockpile for use by healthcare workers, provided the items are not defective.
The latest measure comes after Chinese-Australian companies reportedly sent back bulk medical supplies to China in recent months as people in Wuhan and across China fought the first known epidemic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
In one case, Australian employees of Greenland Group, a global property giant backed by the Shanghai government, bought up 3 million masks, half a million pairs of gloves, 700,000 hazmat suits, and bulk quantities of hand sanitizer, thermometers, and other medical items, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The Herald also reported that another property group Risland Australia, a subsidiary of one of China’s largest property developers, had shipped 80 tons of medical supplies to China in late February. The supplies included 100,000 protective coveralls and 900,000 pairs of medical gloves.
Late Tuesday, the Herald revealed that a former Chinese military officer, Kuang Yuanping, now based in Sydney, was found to have coordinated with CCP agencies to export tonnes of Australian medical supplies to Wuhan in February. This marked “the first time an explicit link can be made to Chinese influence activities in Australia,” investigative reporter Nick McKenzie noted.
Kuang, a former People’s Liberation Army officer who runs CCP-backed organizations in Sydney and Melbourne, reportedly helped coordinate two airlifts of medical supplies from Australia to Wuhan. Kuang is now planning to send medical equipment to Australia. Those familiar with his plans told the Herald that he wants to help Australia in its fight with the CCP virus and help the CCP meet its soft power and political influence goals through charitable activity.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday reported, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, that the Australian Border Force (ABF) in recent weeks has seized several deliveries of PPE that have been found to be counterfeit or faulty. The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify the reports.
Price Gouging Ban
Health Minister Greg Hunt has used emergency powers to stop the same critical medical supplies and disinfectant products from being sold at unreasonably high prices.
From Monday, those who are found guilty of selling the items at a mark-up of 120 percent or more face a fine of AU$63,000 ($38,500) or five years in jail if they do not surrender the items to law enforcement. If the items are surrendered, they would be directed to the national stockpile.
“There is growing public concern that protective gear and disinfectants are not reaching those with the greatest need, as a small number of individuals continue to purchase these goods in large quantities from retailers with the intention of re-selling them at extortionate prices or sending them offshore,” according to an explanatory statement on the country’s updated biosecurity measures.
“This practice prevents these goods from reaching individuals who need them the most. Included are essential service providers such as front-line health professionals and law enforcement, whose services are vital to preventing or controlling the spread of COVID-19 and who frequently deal with individuals who carry a high risk of transmitting the virus,” it adds.
The Australian federal government in mid-March tried to source locally-made masks and gowns as global supply chains were becoming depleted. The country’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources issued a Request for Information to better understand Australia’s manufacturing capability and capacity for PPE.
Department minister Karen Andrews said at the time, “We are casting the net as widely as we can, asking manufacturers if they have the ability to diversify the work they do.”
“As those opportunities continue to present, we will work with manufacturers to support their transition. Australian manufacturers have already been reaching out with offers to help. I’m confident our Aussie ingenuity will guide us through this difficult time.”
The Australian Army was deployed in mid-March to manufacture masks in the country’s only mask manufacturer at the time, Med-Con, which is located near the city of Shepparton in Victoria.
Across the country, companies are modifying their production lines in efforts to keep up medical supplies.
Motorsports company Erebus Motorsport has begun producing full masks and protective Perspex boxes in Melbourne for medical staff on the front-line.
Adelaide’s food packaging manufacturer Detmold Group recently began mass-producing masks. Under an agreement with the government, the company will hire up to 160 extra staff to produce 145 million masks, 100 million of which are destined for the national stockpile. The remainder will be kept for use in South Australia.
Information on the COVID-19 pandemic for Australians is available at health.gov.au.
The Coronavirus Health Information Line for Australians is 1800 020 080. Call Triple Zero (000) if you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing. To opt-in for daily government updates on Whatsapp, register at oz.gov.au/whatsapp