Writings

22 Sep 2017

Biosecurity Queensland doubles effort to fight fire ants but problem is ten times worse. Again, too little, too late.

Having wasted $400m of public money on a failed fire ant program that has seen the infestation get ten times worse, Biosecurity Queensland is desperate keep the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments funding the program. Biosecurity Queensland has promise to double its efforts, which are again, too little too late: likely to waste more public money. Biosecurity Queensland plans to: • Treat more of the infestation by air. 16 years after they were told to blanket the infestation with low toxic bait by air, they are now going to treat less than a quarter of it. • revamp the decommissioned aerial surveillance program that found millions of rocks and cow pats and only 38 nests while the infestation tripled. • increase the use of odour detections dogs that are expensive to train and have limited use. • better engage the community who find most of the fire ants and who are sick of waiting months for Biosecurity Queensland to treat them. • Improve the program's Information Technology system. Biosecurity Queensland still does not have a functioning data base to support any claims of success. • Continue to dump the responsibility for containing the spread of fire ants onto the public. 22 September 2017

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16 Sep 2017

Biosecurity Queensland's fire ant program budget blow-out: from $123.4m for 5 years to $800m for 26 years.

The fire ant eradication program has been well-funded. The original plan was for five years and to cost $123.4. It has now blown out to a sixteen years and cost $400m: a lot of public money. The fire ant infestation is now ten times worse and Biosecurity Queensland blames a lack of funding. The Biosecurity Capability Review of 2015 and the science review of 2010 blame Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence. Because fire ants are such a serious problem, the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum agreed in July to fund the program for another ten years at the cost of another $411m. A five year fire ant program to cost $123.4m has now blown out to a 26 year program to cost $800m. The Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, home of Biosecurity Queensland, recently tweeted, that for the first time, the program was to be genuinely and comprehensively funded to address the fire ant infestation. This is not true. The program has been well-funded from the beginning. But, if the Director-General does not address Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence and continues to blame funding problems for the ever expanding fire ant infestation, it is likely that the fire ant program budget will blow out even further. 16 September 2017

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02 Sep 2017

Hundreds of fire ant nests. Public losing confidence in Biosecurity Queensland

A vigilant public in south east Queensland is reporting hundreds of fire ant nests and Biosecurity Queensland is taking months to respond. The public is giving up on Biosecurity Queensland and taking matter into their own hands: risking their own safety and likely making the infestation worse. 2nd September 2017

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26 Aug 2017

Fire ants now in Deagon: yet another breach of Biosecurity Queensland's Fire Ant Zone Lines

Fire ants are breaching Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Zone lines at an alarming rate. Fire ants are now in Deagon, Bracken Ridge, Upper Kedron, Camp Mountain, Beerwah and Lowood: all way outside fire ant containment lines because Biosecurity Queensland cannot stop fire ants spreading. 26 August 2017 Update: 28th August 2017 Fire ants found in three separate locations in the suburb of Fitzgibbon in July. Fitzgibbon is adjacent to both Deagon and Bracken Ridge in Brisbane's north-east. Residents of Deagon advised to check their properties.

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08 Aug 2017

Fire ants found in another new housing estate: in Lowood, way outside Biosecurity Queensland's fire ant zone

Another new housing estate in south-east Queensland has been found to be infested with fire ants, threatening the safety of residents. Ten fire ant nests were found in a new housing estate in Lowood last week: well into the Somerset Regional Council area and many kilometres from Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant boundary. Fire ants have also been found recently in a number of new housing estates in south-east Queensland: in Beerwah, Camp Mountain, Upper Kedron, Yarrabilba, Pimpama and Ripley. This is just more evidence of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence. Biosecurity Queensland cannot find fire ants, cannot kill fire ants and has totally abrogated it responsibility to stop fire ants spreading further into south-east Queensland. The Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments have recently agreed to give Biosecurity Queensland another $400m of public money, on top of the $400m it has wasted so far, to finally eradicate fire ants. The likely outcome is that Biosecurity Queensland will waste even more public money and a well-entrenched fire ant infestation will spread into the rest of Australia. 8th August 2017

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31 Jul 2017

Will Biosecurity Queensland bluff the new fire ant oversight committee? Likely, without public scrutiny too.

The Australian Agriculture Ministers’ Forum has agreed to extend the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in south-east Queensland by another ten years at the cost of another $400m: on top of the $400m Biosecurity Queensland has wasted over the past sixteen years with the result the infestation is now ten times worse than when fire ants were first detected around Brisbane in 2001. This time, the program will come under the scrutiny of a new oversight committee, but will it do any better than the last one? Program auditor Deloitte questioned the previous oversight committee’s ability to properly manage public money because it allowed the Queensland government to make 100% of program decisions while putting in only 10% of the funds, it never held Biosecurity Queensland accountable for meeting program targets and it accepted Biosecurity Queensland stories that it was eradicating fire ants; even as fire ants spread. But because the fire ant program has brought around $360m of extra money into the Queensland Treasury, the Queensland Agriculture Minister is telling the same stories to keep the money coming: that there is still a window of opportunity for eradicating fire ants, that he is 90% certain that Biosecurity Queensland can eradicate the fire ants and that Biosecurity Queensland has the best expertise to do the job. The new oversight committee’s challenge will be to see through Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant stories. The committee’s oversight and governance of the program can be improved, I believe, if the committee opens this 100% publicly funded program to public scrutiny: by posting all program reports and reviews on-line, freely and in a timely manner and by listening to first-hand information on the program from the public and field staff, unfiltered by program managers. 31st July 2017

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17 Jul 2017

Biosecurity Queensland's Fire Ant Fiasco and Cover-up.

Multiple independent reviews of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program have said that Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant treatment does not work, that fire ants are spreading faster than Biosecurity Queensland can find them and have recommended that Biosecurity Queensland implement an aggressive containment program. They haven’t. Fire ants now infest 400,000ha of south-east Queensland, taking in 300 suburbs, because Biosecurity Queensland can’t find fire ants, can’t kill fire ants, dumped its responsibility for stopping the spread of fire ants onto the public and cover-up the resulting fiasco. The Australian Agriculture Ministers’ Forum will decide the future of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program this month. For the sake of all Australians we have to hope they continue to fund one. But they will be throwing more good public money after the $400m that Biosecurity Queensland has wasted so far, if Biosecurity Queensland* whose incompetence has seen the fire ant infestation get ten times worse, continues to run the program. 17 July 2017 *Biosecurity Queensland also refers to it predecessor within the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - the Fire Ant Control Centre.

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04 Jul 2017

Fire ants in seven new housing estates this year, or more. Biosecurity Queensland has failed.

In May, I reported that fire ants were infesting four new housing estates in south-east Queensland: in Upper Kedron, Yarrabilba, Ripley and Pimpama. Since then, fire ants have been found in a new housing estate in Jimboomba in the Logan area, in a new estate in Raceview in the Ipswich area and in a new housing estate in Beerwah; the first to be found on the Sunshine Coast. And it is possible that the recent detection in Camp Mountain, in the Moreton Bay area, is in a housing estate, and a housing estate in Upper Coomera is also infested. The 2010 science review found that Biosecurity Queensland’s methods were not eradicating fire ants and instructed Biosecurity Queensland to ‘contain’ the spread of fire ants. Instead, Biosecurity Queensland dumped that responsibility onto the public. Biosecurity Queensland has been well funded to run the fire ant program with $400m of public money over sixteen years, so it has no excuse for dumping its responsibility onto the public and for winding back its team of Biosecurity Inspectors to a mere handful. Once, inspectors assisted businesses to mitigate their risk of spreading fire ant and monitored the movement of fire friendly materials like soil, mulch, compost and turf from infested areas. A mere handful of inspectors can do little to stop people accidentally or carelessly spreading fire ants when there are thousands of businesses operating in a fire ant infested area of over 400,000ha now. The Australian Agriculture Ministers will decide the future of the fire ant program this month. We have to hope for the sake of all Australians they continue to fund a program. But they will be throwing more good public money after bad if Biosecurity Queensland, whose incompetence is putting the safety of residents at risk, continues to run the program. 4th July 2017

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28 Jun 2017

Fire ants now in Moreton Bay area. Biosecurity Queensland has failed.

Because of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence, fire ants have now invaded the Moreton Bay Regional Council area north of Brisbane: the third largest local government area in Queensland after Brisbane and the Gold Coast which are already infested with fire ants. Most of south-east Queensland is now infested with fire ants. On 6th June, Biosecurity Queensland told residents in the rural area of Camp Mountain they had fire ants and they should go on the hunt for them. Camp Mountain is in the Moreton Bay region, near Samford Village and contains parts of the much-loved recreational area of Brisbane Forest Park. It was inevitable that Camp Mountain and the Moreton Bay region would become infested with fire ants. A month ago, fire ant nests began exploding in two new housing estates in the next-door suburb of Upper Kedron and just about all of south-east Queensland is now infested with fire ants. The cities of Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan and Redlands are all infested. So too are the Lockyer Valley, the Scenic Rim, and Somerset regions. Because of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence it was inevitable that fire ants would get into the Moreton Bay region as well. Fire ants could have flown into Camp Mountain from Upper Kedron because Biosecurity Queensland did not kill the infestation in Upper Kedron. Or they could have arrived in Camp Mountain in loads of fire ant carriers like top soil, mulch, compost, turf or potted plants because Biosecurity Queensland is failing to stop the movement of these fire ant carriers into fire ant free areas. It is crucial that the public keeps looking for fire ants and it is crucial that the Commonwealth and other States and Territories continue to fund a fire ant program but they will be throwing more good public money after the $400m Biosecurity Queensland has wasted so far, if Biosecurity Queensland continues to run the fire ant program. 28th June 2017

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23 Jun 2017

Fire ants now in East Brisbane parks. Biosecurity Queensland has failed.

Fire ants are now infesting parks in the suburb of East Brisbane: putting the safety of young children at risk. Fire ants have been found in heritage listed Mowbray Park, on the bank of the Brisbane River, and in nearby Real Park. Both parks have picnic areas and children’s playgrounds: particularly attractive places for fire ants to nests. Dozens of fire ants will swarm anything that stumbles across their well disguised nests and inflict multiple firey stings. Young children and older people who might not be quick enough to avoid the swarm are particularly at risk. Biosecurity Queensland is putting the safety of East Brisbane residents and visitors at risk because it cannot kill fire ants or stop them spreading. Biosecurity Queensland has wasted $400m of public money. Fire ants now infest nearly 300 suburbs in south east Queensland, ten time worse than at the beginning, and they are still spreading. The Australian Agricultural Ministers Council will meet soon to decide the future of the fire ant program. For the sake of all of Australians we have to hope the Ministers decide to keep running a fire ant program. But the Ministers will be throwing more good public money after bad if Biosecurity Queensland runs any future fire ant program. 23rd June 2017-06-23 Photo courtesy Robert Maxwell, East Brisbane resident.

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