'Take A Cold Shower': Minister Slams Coronavirus Panic Shoppers
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has told those panic-shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic to "take a deep breath and a cold shower", before assuring Australians the country has food security.
An unimpressed Littleproud told Australians the only pressure being put on supply chains is "from the stupidity of people themselves".
"The reality is we produce enough food for 75 million people. We are just 25 million people. So, there is no risk of us having any issues around food security," he told the ABC.
"They need to take a deep breath, have a cold shower and understand that if they shop normally then the shelves will be stocked normally."
His blunt messaging comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said stockpiling food was "un-Australian".
"I can't be more blunt about it. Stop it," Morrison said during a press conference on Wednesday.
"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis," he continued.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said supermarket staff had been abused by people looking to strip shelves of essential items or frustrated because items weren't available.
"It's unfair and it's unnecessary. There's no supply problem here. There's a selfishness problem," she told ABC radio.
Elderly and vulnerable Australians have reported struggling to access essential household items such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, pasta and rice.
Woolworths was forced to introduce a designated shopping hour for the disabled and elderly on Tuesday due to the unprecedented demand.
But many complained they had queued in the dark for hours and left stores empty-handed.
Coles has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements announcing limits on toilet paper, pasta, flour, eggs, some meat, hand sanitiser and soaps.
Coles chief operating officer Matt Swindells said shops were geared up to put products on the shelf as quickly as possible, with more than 5000 extra casuals employed.
"There is lots and lots of stock in the system," he told Nine's Today Show.
"The suppliers are producing more than ever, faster than ever and here in this (distribution centre) with our partners Linfox, we're moving record volumes into our stores."
Homeless Australians and those on low incomes are also concerned about the unprecedented demand caused by panic-shoppers hiking up prices.
But Littleproud said Australia produces three times more food than the country needs and urged shoppers to go about their business as normal.
"It is just common sense. All I ask people is to use two words: common sense."
The minister denied the agriculture industry could face significant damage amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the majority of workers hailing from overseas.
"There are over 140,000 backpackers already in the country. The Immigration Minister has already taken preemptive steps around allowing international students to work in those supermarkets to stock those shelves."
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said discussions about relaxing night truck curfews were underway with local councils to allow more deliveries to supermarkets.
"We will be engaging in those conversations to make sure we are facilitating the delivery of goods into supermarkets," she told Seven's Sunrise.
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