The Morrison government urgently purchased nearly $150,000 worth of thermometers at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in case they had to be deployed at the borders.
But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.
Contracts published on the Australian government's Austender website show the federal government bought thermometers from two companies - CW Management Trust, which lists Chemist Warehouse founder Jack Gance as a director, for $70,936.01 and the Canberra-base Aspen Medical for $77,604.09 - on February 19.
The contracts state the "emergency" purchase was in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The virus' most consistently reported symptom is a high fever. Other respiratory symptoms - such cough, breathlessness and sore throat - have been reported in other cases.
Videos began circulating on social media in January of Chinese officials performing temperature checks on planes to try and identify sick passengers.
Video circulating on social media today of temperature checks on a #Wuhan to Macao flight - as authorities step up efforts to contain the #coronavirus in China. More than 200 cases so far, mainly in Wuhan, but also BJ, SH, SZ, plus a few Wuhan travellers to 🇰🇷 🇯🇵 🇹🇭 pic.twitter.com/hgDdhdiDcT— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) January 20, 2020
But Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.
"The evidence suggests that - certainly our evidence in the flu pandemic - suggests that that was ineffective. It missed a large number of cases, as I said cases that may be incubating or afebrile and it often leads to a false sense of security," Professor Murphy said at the time.
"It's not an effective mechanism and all of the public health advice that we've had, we had a meeting of all of our senior public health experts yesterday and we don't believe that is an appropriate measure and that it is helpful."
The Health Department said on Saturday the purchases were made "at the comment of the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure thermometers were available at the border if required".
However temperature checks are not part of current border measures, based on the advice of medical experts, the department said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged there would be tightened border screening for the virus on Friday, as more countries reported outbreaks.
"We've also asked the Commissioner of Border Force to be reporting to us as quickly as possible on additional measures that would be required at our various ports of entry to ensure we're able to identify any persons coming from wherever in the world that may require additional information in terms of being self-quarantined or other forms of quarantine that may be necessary as this issue continues to roll on," Mr Morrison said.
"People might be coming from the UK, but they might have been in Japan, people might be coming from Singapore and they might be coming through the United States. It doesn't matter where people are coming from now, once things get to a pandemic stage, then you need to be lifting your overall level of protection at the entry point," he said.
However Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said mass airport screening was not being considered by the Australian government as it was not "reliable".
The Health Department also spent around $53,963.04 on banners and stands related to the outbreak, the contracts register shows.
It also bought $35,000 of translation devices from Lexigo Global in response to the outbreak.
It comes as a Queensland health authorities try to track down around 40 people who were treated by a Gold Coast beautician, who has become the state's latest confirmed case of the virus.
The 63-year-old woman travelled back to Australia from Iran on February 24.
The government announced on Saturday a "do not travel" ban to Iran. Australians will be advised not to make the trip, while foreigners coming from Iran will be banned from entering Australia.