Why you still can’t get loo paper
Supermarkets across Australia have seen a panicked run on toilet paper for weeks now, leaving shelves bare and tensions running high.
Panic-buying of a number of essential items due to the coronavirus crisis continues despite pleas from government and the bosses of Woolworths and Coles to remain calm, and loo roll is one of the most in-demand products.
The problem isn't that Australia is running out of products, authorities say.
It's that supermarkets can't keep up with the unprecedented demand - busier than any other peak time ever experienced, according to Woolworths.
Now, a state government has moved to ditch one of the major barriers that's preventing most shops from getting essential items restocked quicker.
Overnight, Queensland passed emergency laws to allow supermarket loading docks to receive items 24 hours a day, along with distribution supply centres.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the reforms relax every individual councils' planning conditions that impose a curfew on truck deliveries.
Ordinarily, the hours that a supermarket can receive stock are limited to reduce noise pollution in residential areas, where many shops tend to be located. It's a curfew that virtually every council around the country imposes.
"We've seen unprecedented demand for groceries like non-perishable food, toilet paper and other essentials," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"We are not running out of products. But we need to make these changes to get products on the shelves as quickly as possible."
Other states and territories have the power to intervene and override local planning restrictions on truck delivery curfews and it's understood New South Wales is working to follow Queensland's lead.
But in the interim, Labor's spokesman for local government Jason Clare yesterday called on councils across the country to be proactive.
"Many councils have curfews on truck delivery times. These restrictions are important to minimise noise and disruption to local residents," Mr Clare said.
"To respond to the current surge in demand, expected to last for at least several weeks, it is important that local governments temporarily lift these curfews.
"I have spoken directly to Woolworths and Coles and they view this as a genuine limitation to their ability to restock in many local government areas."
In an interview on Sky News, Mr Clare said empty supermarket shelves are fuelling anxiety in the broader community.
A number of violent brawls have broken out in aisles in recent weeks, with police in some states now saying they'll patrol supermarkets as part of their routine duties.
"I see it in my own electorate, with the tussle over toilet paper in Chullora last week," Mr Clare said. "Or the fight that happened at Bass Hill Woolies. It got worse (this week) when someone got stabbed in a Woolworths car park in Victoria. And someone was punched in a Coles in Lithgow yesterday.
"Politicians or chief executives of businesses telling people not to panic won't stop people panicking. People have got to feel confident, they've got to feel like they can go to the shops and get toilet paper or get rice or get pasta - it's going to be there.
"The sooner the shelves are restocked and full, the sooner we'll be able to reduce that panic and boost a bit of confidence back in the community that you don't have to hoard.
"The shops will stay open and you can get what you need."
Authorities are repeating the message that Australians should stop panic-buying or hoarding items.
As Prime Minister Scott Morrison sternly put it yesterday: "Stop. Just stop it."
Ms Palaszczuk made a similar plea for people to be reasonable and responsible, so essential items remain in supply for the most vulnerable in the community.
"The message is clear - you do not need to panic buy or unnecessarily stockpile products."