Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has poured $160 million on procuring medical supplies and equipment to help Australia through the pandemic.
His philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation and Fortescue Metals Group, which he founded and chairs, has charted three planes from China to deliver more than 90 tonnes of medical supplies – one of which has already arrived.
The delivery includes more than one million face masks, 400,000 surgical masks, 2.3 million medical-grade gloves, 100,000 nasal swabs, 200,000 medical coveralls, 10,000 medical goggles, 5000 touchless thermometers and more than 30 intensive care unit-grade ventilators.
He told Botica’s Bunch he was only able to do this by fostering his years-old ties with China.
“We had a massive network we had built up over decades across China, really deep friendships,” Forrest said.
“They looked at us as mates through good times and bad, and that is something which governments and companies didn’t have.”
Twiggy had only just come off a “war council” conference call with China on Friday morning.
“…and from the voices in China to the voices in Australia…the tiredness, the crackle in their voices, you could see that they’d been going all night.”
Thing is, Twiggy’s almost expecting problems with the consignment that has just touched-down in Perth.
“It’s being gone through by the Health Department; you don’t anticipate that there’s going to be any problem there?” Lisa queried.
“One hundred per cent, I do,” he deadpanned.
“Like anything you procure from anywhere in the world, you always have issues and, in this case, urgency is extreme.”
Twiggy acknowledged that, due to the pressure people are under, the delivery could go mis-consigned or be the wrong quality.
But this is where Twiggy is different.
“…we pay cash upfront before we take delivery,” he said.
“Bank guarantees, letters of credit, government guarantees? Forget it, it’s either cash upfront or the phone line goes dead.”
And if there are any hitches?
“We’ll just quietly ship them straight back to those suppliers and say, ‘we don’t want our money back, mate, we want what you said you’d deliver. Here’s what you delivered now give us what you contracted’,” he said.
And if they don’t deliver?
“Because the introduction to them has come from really powerful people… [we’ll say] ‘the next call will be from Beijing so, how about you deliver what you said’,” Twiggy said.
Twiggy also said that China deserves our gratitude.
“Firstly, they have prioritised our state, to be completely blunt.”
“Western Australia, Fortescue Metals Group, the Mindaroo Foundation has been getting fantastic help – from the Chinese embassy in Canberra right up to the very top levels in Beijing. They have really looked after us,
“We’re reminding [China], ‘hey, listen, through good times and bad, mate, Australia’s been there for you, through the Global Financial Crisis, when we had to stall payments, we had to do everything for you and we did it, when you went through your Wuhan crisis, we sent you cash, we sent you every face mask we could muster up, and now, we asking you to stand by us like a true mate’.”
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“The WA Government will reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so that (it) can further leverage its incredible commitment of up to $160 million over the coming weeks and continue to source these critical medical supplies for Australia,” Health Minister Roger Cook previously said.
Minderoo is also working with Chinese genomics company BGI Group to dramatically increase WA’s coronavirus testing capacity.
It is hoped the plan would allow authorities to test up to 10,000 people per day.
Minderoo Foundation co-chair Nicola Forrest said the supplies would be equitably distributed in primary and aged care, private and public hospital systems and other frontline services with the greatest need, with WA Health coordinating.
– with AAP