As Canberra supermarkets shelves continue to be emptied of toilet paper, hand sanitisers, and dry and canned foods, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has bluntly told Australians to stop hoarding and panic buying.
While not waving a big stick yet, Mr Morrison called it un-Australian and a distraction from other measures and efforts to maintain supply chains into shopping centres.
“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 said at a morning press conference updating the nation on measures to contain coronavirus.
“That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing.”
Mr Morrison said there was no reason for people to be hoarding supplies in fear of anything like a lockdown.
“As I have said, we’re putting in place scalable and sustainable measures. I am seeking Australia’s common-sense cooperation with these very clear advisory positions,” he said.
The Prime Minister was emphatic.
“Stop doing it! It’s ridiculous! It’s un-Australian, and it must stop, and I would ask people to do the right thing by each other in getting a handle on these sorts of practices.”
He also warned people about taking out their frustrations on staff, wherever they may be, and urged people to support each other.
“Also: do not abuse staff. We’re all in this together,” he said. “People are doing their jobs. They’re doing their best. Whether they’re at a testing clinic this morning. Whether they’re at a shopping centre. Whether they’re at a bank, a train station, everybody is doing their best. So let’s just support each other in the work that they are doing.”
But Mr Morrison did not mention any measures the Government may take to crack down on hoarders if the empty shelves continue.
Later, Chief Minister Andrew Barr endorsed ”100 per cent” the Prime Minister’s comments, but also would not canvass any particular measures to stop panic buying and keep the shelves stocked.
Mr Barr said he expected that as supplies were replenished the panic buying would start to dissipate over time.
“I guess the good news is that those people probably have several years supply of these products, and won’t need to go to the supermarket again for those products for some time,” he said.
“We will reach the point when people run out of storage space in their homes.”
But Mr Barr said the government would keep a close eye on the situation.
“It is certainly an agenda item every time we meet locally and at the National Cabinet, around what we can do to get supplies into the market place,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s call came as the country’s major supermarkets issued a joint message to Australians reassuring them that they, their suppliers and their teams were doing all they can to get as many products on to shelves as soon as possible, ”often under very difficult circumstances”.
They also are urging shoppers to stick to the product limits and be considerate to each other and to staff.
“We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with a disability,” the statement from Aldi, Coles IGA and Woolworths said.
“There are thousands of your fellow Australians working tirelessly across our stores every day.
“We ask that you treat these dedicated people with the courtesy and respect they deserve. No one working or shopping on any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour
“Thank you for your patience and support as we rise to the challenges of these extraordinary times together.”
For coronavirus updates on product limits and opening hours visit the supermarkets’ websites.