Ex-Treasurer slams ‘absurd’ decision to shun Aussie made rapid antigen test

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
The failure to back a locally made rapid antigen test has been slammed as absurd by a former government minister. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone
Camera IconThe failure to back a locally made rapid antigen test has been slammed as absurd by a former government minister. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia

The Morrison government's failure to back a locally made rapid antigen test has been slammed as absurd by former Liberal treasurer Joe Hockey.

Brisbane-based Ellume was last year awarded a $302 million contract by the US Department of Defence to contract to ramp up its production of Covid-19 tests.

But the biotech company say they have received little interest from the Australian government.

Australia’s former US ambassador and treasurer Joe Hockey said it was frustrating the government turned its back on the company.

ONJ
Camera IconJoe Hockey says the government made a mistake by walking away from Ellume. Photo by Danny Moloshok Credit: News Corp Australia

“Australia was offered by an Australian company what is probably the best technology in the world for rapid testing and Australia walked away,” Mr Hockey told Nine Radio on Friday.

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“It’s very frustrating for Australia because Ellume are now exporting 100,000 tests every day to the United States because the US government backed them and the Australian government didn’t.”

Mr Hockey said Ellume first approached him in August 2020 about a rapid test for the flu. He then advised them to pivot towards Covid tests.

He added it was the Department of Industry, not the Health Department or the Therapeutic Goods Administration, who wasn’t prepared to back the biotech company.

“I felt it was absurd,” Mr Hockey said.

ELLUME COVID
Camera IconEllume won a $300 million contract with the US Government to supply at-home Covid-19 tests. NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled Credit: News Corp Australia

“When you have an incredible technology in an emergency situation, you’ve got to do what is in the best interest of the country and that there was a process and the Department of Industry basically walked away.”

Currently only one of the 22 at home tests approved by the medical regulator is made in Australia.

Sixteen are sourced from China, two from the US and the remaining from Korea, Singapore and Germany.

Two Australian companies are still waiting for TGA approval, Ellume and Anteo-Tech.

Speaking in Sydney, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese called the government’s handling of RATs a failure.

“The Morrison government, which rejected the approaches from Pfizer to gain access to vaccinations early enough … committed exactly the same mistakes when it comes to rapid antigen tests and the consequences are there for all to see,” he said.

“It‘s extraordinary that of all the tests that have been approved, only one Australia made.”

Originally published as Ex-Treasurer slams ‘absurd’ decision to shun Aussie made rapid antigen test

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