Stockpile of COVID-19 testing kits worth $200million bought from mining magnate Twiggy Forrest could be useless within WEEKS – and only a fraction have been used
- Millions of testing kits bought by Mr Forrest have shelf life of just six months
- Industry body has also expressed concern about ‘transparency’ of the deal
- Mining billionaire in April announced he had secured 10 million kits from China
- $200million purchase touted at the time by billionaire for expanding capacity
- Mr Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, which bought the tests, defended the deal
- Said Australia’s goal was simply to ‘substantially increase testing capacity’
Millions of COVID-19 testing kits Australia bought from billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s non-profit organisation will expire in a matter of weeks.
The mining magnate, 58, announced in April he had secured ten million coronavirus testing kits from a Chinese company at a cost of $200million.
So far, just 4.8 million of these have been received by the Australian government – with a shelf life of just six months – but now tax-payers will refund every penny.
The $200million purchase by Mr Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation was touted at the time by the businessman for vastly expanding Australia’s testing capacity, saying it allowed ‘mums and dads and boys and girls to get tested across our country’.
The tests, bought from the Beijing Genomics Institute, are now in plentiful supply in Australia – with twice as many kits stockpiled nationally than the 2.4 million COVID-19 tests carried out to date.
Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest (pictured, left, with his wife Nicola) The mining magnate’s ten million coronavirus testing kits only have a shelf life of six months
A healthcare worker is seen testing for COVID-19 in Keilor, Melbourne on Wednesday (pictured), as the state’s premier warned all 6.4 million Victorians could soon be locked down
The government has said it will refund the costs Minderoo – which has said it is not making money on the deal – incurred in acquiring the tests.
The Department of Health has confirmed the products only have a shelf life of six months.
‘If the government and BGI and Minderoo didn’t cover this adequately, then shame on them, because this is not an unknown,’ Pathology Technology Australia chief executive Dean Whiting told The Guardian.
Staff prepare to test residents in Keilor, Victoria on Wednesday (pictured) as testing is ramped up across Melbourne
Mr Forrest (pictured, left with Health Minister Greg Hunt, right) as he announced the extra ten million COVID-19 test kits had been secured from China in April
He added that Minderoo’s purchase of nucleic acid extraction kits from a BGI company for Australia had been helpful.
PTA bills itself as the country’s leading representative for the pathology industry in Australia – covering 90 per cent of all pathological tests across Australia.
A submission to a senate select committee by the organisation in May expressed concern about Minderoo’s acquisition of the tests.
‘Whilst we fully support increasing product diversity and supply chain certainty, we are… concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation,’ the submission read.
Pictured is the equipment earlier supplied by Mr Forrest to help Australia through the early stages of the pandemic
Responding to the criticism, Mr Forrest’s foundation said it had been focused on its goal of expanding testing capacity.
‘Our only priority has been to do what the government asked us to do: deliver Covid-19 PCR testing equipment and tests that substantially increased Australia’s testing capacity during this pandemic,’ a spokesman for the foundation said.
The revelation comes after Mr Forrest caused controversy in April when he invited the Victorian China Consul-General Zhou Long to speak at a ministerial press conference announcing the testing kits had been secured.
The consul-general did not take questions but credited the ‘open, transparent and responsible’ manner with which China had worked alongside the World Health Organisation.
Coronavirus tests (pictured in Melbourne on Wednesday) have been ramped up, but millions more testing kits are about to expire
The speech was delivered amid increasing tensions between the two countries after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Forrest said at the time backlash over the unexpected appearance was a ‘complete non-story’.
The billionaire denied claims Mr Zhou’s appearance represented a hijacking and said the health minister was aware the Consul-General would be in attendance.
Mr Forrest also used his contacts in China to secure $160million worth of much-needed medical supplies for Australia.
Earlier in April, it emerged Minderoo had stepped up to help by fronting the cash for the 90 tonnes of medical supplies, with state governments to reimburse the organisation for any goods used.