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Dutton calls in cops over "criminal" hoarding, profiteering

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Peter Dutton has blamed criminals for sparking the panic buying engulfing Australian supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The home affairs minister is promising harsh consequences for anyone found to be profiteering through stockpiling food, toilet paper and other products.

“We will come down like a ton of bricks on those individuals because I think they’re the ones that have created this pattern of behaviour of hoarding and clearing out shelves,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

Dutton said there was an operation underway with federal, NSW and Victorian police, and border force involved.

“I’m going to come after those people and I’ll give them a fair warning now it won’t be a pretty experience when we deal with them,” he said.

Dutton said hoarders were making life more difficult for the most vulnerable.

“You force us into a position where you need to ration the purchasing arrangements or ration store hours, which I don’t want to do because I think it sends a bad message,” he said.

“But we need to get under control the actions of some people at the moment that remain completely unacceptable.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Australia produced enough food for 75 million people, three times the nation’s population.

“There is no risk of us having any issues around food security,”  Littleproud told ABC News.

He said the only pressure on supply chains was coming from stupid people panic buying.

“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.”

Pork industry chief Margo Andrae said producers were meeting increased demand at supermarkets and butchers.

“Despite the uncertainties of COVID-19, Australians can be confident about the farm sector’s supply of fresh produce, including locally grown Australian pork, to the market,” she said.

Almost all councils across Australia have agreed to relax night truck curfews to allow more deliveries to supermarkets.

Coles has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements announcing limits on toilet paper, pasta, flour, eggs, some meat, hand sanitiser and soaps.

Woolworths is also limiting purchases of similar products, as well as chilled fresh milk.

Coles chief operating officer Matt Swindells said shops were geared up to put items 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.”

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.

-AAP

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