Vision of Australians scrambling over each other to panic buy multi-packs of toilet paper has been beamed across the world, leaving many wondering what's really going on Down Under.

New Zealand has been affected too with some supermarkets selling out of toilet paper and bottled water on Friday after the first case of coronavirus in the country was confirmed.

But the Australians have taken it to the next level.

Shoppers at Costco Casula in New South Wales loaded up their trolleys. Photo / via
Shoppers at Costco Casula in New South Wales loaded up their trolleys. Photo / via

A man has been tasered after a fight over toilet paper broke out at a Big W supermarket in regional New South Wales.


Officers were called to the Tamworth Shoppingworld after being told a 50-year-old man began to argue with a staff member and another customer before he allegedly assaulted them.

It's understood the fight was over toilet paper.

Police arrested him and he was taken to Tamworth police station but no charges have been laid.

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The Northern Daily Leader reports shelves are empty of toilet paper across several stores in Tamworth.

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have introduced toilet paper limits as the shortage across Australia worsens.

Shops in Japan, the United States and here in New Zealand have also run low on the precious sanitary rolls. In Hong Kong, ambitious thieves held up a supermarket to steal a delivery.

Two women carry supplies of toilet paper in Hong Kong. Photo / AP
Two women carry supplies of toilet paper in Hong Kong. Photo / AP

But the panic over toilet paper supplies in Australia shows no signs of slowing, despite assurances from toilet paper companies.


Footage captured inside Woolworths Revesby, in Sydney's south-west, shows customers scrambling to grab packs of toilet paper about 7am yesterday.

Bulk goods supplier Costco has also set restrictions with customers being told they can only buy a maximum of two 48-packs of toilet paper.

Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures Kleenex Toilet Tissue, has now increased its production to 24 hours a day at its South Australia factory.

But Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer said the shortage in stores was exacerbated by the bulky nature of the products and supermarkets' inability to stockpile them in storerooms.

He hinted that the best chance of finding toilet paper was to go early every day as stocks are replenished overnight.

"The challenge with toilet paper is it comes in big, bulky packets and supermarkets can really only hold 150 to 200 packets in an aisle – those packets fill up an aisle pretty quickly," he explained.


"Supermarkets are also conditioned to hold small levels of inventory, which is replenished every night."

Countdown Meadowbank cleaned out of toilet paper and large containers of water at the weekend. Photo / Luke Kirkness
Countdown Meadowbank cleaned out of toilet paper and large containers of water at the weekend. Photo / Luke Kirkness

People are also stocking up on tissues, baby wipes and paper towels.

"I bought a box of baby wipes for my grandson just in case they sell out and the kids can't get any. Panic buying causing panic buying … the irony," one woman wrote on Twitter.

Another person wrote they would soon be making the switch to baby wipes because the local stores have run out of toilet paper.

But people are being reminded not to substitute toilet paper for baby wipes because they're not flushable.

'Not a square to spare'

Plenty of people around the world are seeing the funny side of the rather ridiculous situation as panic buying causes alarm down under.


Stories published on The Washington Post, The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC all including one particular quote yesterday from Australian chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy questioning the approach being taken by roll-ravenous Aussies.

"We are trying to reassure people that removing all of the lavatory paper from the shelves of supermarkets probably isn't a proportionate or sensible thing to do at this time," he said.

Murphy today reiterated: "There is no reason to delude the shelves of lavatory paper."

The articles acknowledged the sudden rationing of the precious ply by supermarket chains such as Woolworths.

"Not a square to spare," the Reuters headline read.

In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek reactions, satirical British TV panel show, Have I Got News For You, offered up one suggestion to bolster the apparent shortage.


The programme shared a photograph on Twitter of former prime minister David Cameron's memoir, For The Record.

"As coronavirus panic buying causes a toilet roll shortage in Australia, the first Red Cross supplies arrive in Sydney," the caption read.

New York Times contributor Justin Wolfers, an Australian economist based in Michigan, said there was "deadset toilet paper panic" happening in Australia.

On Twitter, he shared an image of someone selling a 20-pack of Quilton 3-ply toilet paper on auction site eBay, which after 23 bids was at A$58 ($61) with 10 hours still left to go.

Tech analyst and journalist Justin Warren, from his Twitter account Humans: Ruining Everything Since Forever, replied: "Does your model account for the Australian propensity to take the piss?"

Wolfers later wrote the economics behind toilet paper shortages were the same as bank runs.


"Even if you're not freaked out about a pandemic, you worry that everyone else is and they'll stockpile … and you don't want to be left paperless," he said.

"So you run and get toilet paper not because you need dozens of rolls, but because you fear that others are going to stockpile leaving none for you."

Here are some other responses to the Australian dunny roll dash from across the world.

Australian journalists Mark Di Stefano and Lauren Ingram, both now based in London, offered their thoughts about the wild Mad Max scenes and had some questions.

Sydney-based writer Mireille Juchau compared Australians to the French, sharing an article about a surge in the purchase of philosopher Albert Camus' novel The Plague (La Peste).

"In France they buy literature, in Australia... toilet paper," she wrote.


According to this video from the South China Morning Post, Australians weren't the only ones rushing to fill the bathroom cupboards, with similar scenes playing out in virus-hit countries such as Italy and Japan.

Back in Australia, some tried to water down the toilet paper panic, noting a number of major manufacturers are based in Australia.

Journalist Matt Thompson wrote: "What we know: Toilet paper is made in Australia. Suppliers say they can produce to meet demand. Questions What the heck is going on?"

In a late-night update, Kleenex manufacturer Kimberly-Clark said staff were "working around the clock" at their South Australian mill to replenish shelves.

"As you can see we won't be running out anytime soon," the company said on Facebook alongside a photo of its well-stocked warehouse.

A truck carrying toilet paper caught fire on Brisbane's Gateway Motorway overnight but responding fire crews said they were able to save half of the "quite precious" load.

Kleenex posted on Facebook a photo of their well-stocked supply warehouse. Photo / Facebook
Kleenex posted on Facebook a photo of their well-stocked supply warehouse. Photo / Facebook