Media & News

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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12 Jun 2017

Biosecurity Queensland's fire ant map is out of date. Fire ants are out of control.

Fire ants are out of control: moving into previously fire ant free suburbs and tightening their grip on suburbs they have already invaded. But Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant map is nearly a year out of date. Is Biosecurity Queensland trying to cover-up this disaster and its own incompetence? In August 2015, 259 suburbs in the Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Redlands, Logan City Council areas and the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset Regional Council areas were infested with fire ants. By February 2016, there were 276 infested suburbs in south-east Queensland because Biosecurity Queensland had to re-instate suburbs it had prematurely declared fire ant free. On 1st July 2016, when Biosecurity Queensland published its last fire ant map, 280 suburbs in south-east Queensland were infested. Nearly a year later, there are at least 11 more newly infested suburbs and the infestations have gotten worse in at least 17 other ones. Biosecurity Queensland wants the public to report fire ant nests. The public have done their bit: detecting 70% of new nests. But the public cannot remain vigilant in their search for fire ant nests if Biosecurity Queensland can’t keep its maps up to date. Or is Biosecurity Queensland’s covering-up an exploding fire ant infestation and more evidence of its own incompetence? 12 June 2017

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04 Jun 2017

Fire ant nests are popping up near Rosewood - again! Biosecurity Queensland has failed.

As the weather gets cooler, fire ants build mounts above their nests to soak up the warmth of the sun. Fire ant mounds are now popping up in grazing land and along the sides of major roads near the township of Rosewood in south-east Queensland. Rosewood is within the Ipswich City Council local government area, and like most of Ipswich, has been infested with fire ants for years. Biosecurity Queensland has been treating the fire ant infestation in Ipswich for many years: with no effect. Fire ant nests popping up again in Rosewood is just more evidence that Biosecurity Queensland cannot kill fire ants. In 2009, the independent science review said ‘the efficacy of (Biosecurity Queensland’s) current treatment methods is questionable given that infestations are recurring in key or difficult habitats’, as they are in Rosewood, and the reviewers concluded that ‘fire ants cannot be eradicated from Brisbane using current techniques.’ It is obvious that nothing has changed. Biosecurity Queensland has spent $400m of public money and the fire ant infestation is now ten times worse than at the beginning. Nothing will change if Biosecurity Queensland continues to run any future fire ant eradication program. 4th June 2017 Photo courtesy Robert Burton, ex Biosecurity Queensland Fire Ant Inspector

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23 May 2017

Fire ant nests exploding in new housing estates. Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated its responsibility.

There is an explosion of fire ant nests in new housing estates on the edge of the Fire Ant Biosecurity Zone: threatening the safety and well-being of the residents and poised to spread even further. People carelessly or accidentally moving fire ants in truck-loads of soil, mulch, compost, hay or potted plants is the most common cause of fire ants spreading. Fire ant experts said we could not eradicate fire ants if we could not stop them spreading. Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated it responsibility for controlling the movement of fire ants and fire ant carriers like soil and mulch and have dumped that responsibility onto building developers. 23 May 2017

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13 May 2017

Fire ants have infested Brisbane's south-west for 16 years. Biosecurity Queensland has failed.

Fire ants were first detected around Brisbane in 2001 in two locations: one in the north east, centred on the Port of Brisbane: the second and largest spread over suburbs in Brisbane’s south-west. The Port of Brisbane is again infested after a few years of being fire-ant free. Fire ants never left the suburbs in Brisbane’s south-west: including the suburb of Oxley, named after the explorer John Oxley. Near an entrance to the Queensland Police Service Academy at Oxley there is now a sign that says ‘Attention. Active Red Imported Fire Ant’ But after spending $400m of public money over sixteen years, on millions of tonnes of fire ant bait, the suburbs in Brisbane’s south-west are STILL infested and fire ants now infest an area ten times bigger than in 2001. Biosecurity Queensland has failed. Queensland has no chance of eradicating fire ants if Biosecurity Queensland continues to run any future fire ant program. 13 May 2017

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03 May 2017

Hundreds and hundreds of fire ant nests. Biosecurity Queensland has lost control.

Hundreds and hundreds of fire ant nests on the edges of the fire ant infestation that covers more than 400,000ha of south-east Queensland are poised to spread the infestation even further. Fire ants are out of control because Biosecurity Queensland cannot kill them or stop them spreading. In July, the Australian Agriculture Ministers Council will meet to consider the future of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. We have to hope the Ministers of all States and Territories and the Commonwealth agree to continue to fund a program to rid Australia of this super-pest. But if Biosecurity Queensland continues to mis-manage the program, the Agriculture Ministers will throwing be more good public money after the $400m of public money that Biosecurity Queensland has, to a large extent, wasted so far. 3rd May 2017 Updates 6th May 2017. Fire ants are again infesting the suburb of St Lucia because Biosecurity Queensland did not clear the fire ant infestation that was found there at the University of Queensland in 2015. Fire ants are now moving into the previously fire-ant free suburbs of Holland Park West and Fairfield: suburbs that border infested suburbs, because Biosecurity Queensland cannot stop fire ants from spreading.

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19 Apr 2017

Biosecurity Queensland gets $900,000 to pitch a new fire ant program

Queensland Treasury has given Biosecurity Queensland nearly $1m to make a pitch for another $400m for a new Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Plan to replace the Failed Fifteen Year Fire Ant Eradication Program. Biosecurity Queensland has spent $400m of public money over the past fifteen years chasing fire ants: with the result that fire ants are now out of control, infesting an area ten times bigger than fifteen years ago: evidence of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence. And while it has been a pretty poor investment of public money, it has been a boon to Queensland Treasury. Over the past fifteen years, the Queensland Government has contributed about $40m to the fire ant budget, but received $360m in return from the Commonwealth and other States and Territories governments. In July 2017, the Australian Agriculture Ministers will decide the future of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. We have to hope they continue to fund a program to rid Australia of this super-pest, the Ministers will be throwing more good public money after bad if Biosecurity Queensland’s new Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Program is the same as the Failed Fifteen Year National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. The only way to get a new, effective National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is with new and effective program managers. 19 April 2017

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07 Apr 2017

Crunch time for Biosecurity Queensland's failed fire ant program

The Australian Agriculture Ministers will meet soon to decide the future of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. Over fifteen years, Biosecurity Queensland has spent $400m of public money on a failed chase after the last fire ant. Fire ants now infest an area ten times bigger than when they were first detected in south-east Queensland in 2001. In 2001, fire ant experts from the USA said the only chance we have of eradicating fire ants is to bait the whole infested area to make sure no ants can escape and to have teams of biosecurity inspectors to make sure residents and businesses do not accidentally move fire ants in truck-loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, hay and potted plants. US fire ant experts said the same thing again in 2002 and 2006. In 2010, US fire ant experts said Biosecurity Queensland had not been eradicating fire ants since 2004. We have to hope that the Agriculture Ministers continue to fund a program a get rid of this super pest that threatens Australia’s unique environment, economy and out-door life-style. But we also have to hope the Ministers give the money to an agency and managers well qualified and competent to do the job. Otherwise the Agriculture Ministers will be throwing more good public money after the millions already wasted by Biosecurity Queensland. 7 April 2017

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22 Mar 2017

No public scrutiny of Biosecurity Queensland's failing fire ant program

Even with $400m of public money, Biosecurity Queensland has failed to stop the spread of deadly fire ants. But the public is not allowed to know how Biosecurity Queensland spent so much public money for so little public good. Biosecurity Queensland tells the public that its fire ant program is ‘on track’ to eradicate fire ants: that it has eradicated some populations of the ants and, after fifteen years, has finally been able define the limits of the infestation. The truth is, the infestation is now more than ten times what is was fifteen years ago. At 450,000ha, it is now twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory. And fire ants continue their steady march beyond bounds of Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones. I know the truth about the fire ant program from program reports and reviews I have accessed through Queensland Right to Information processes. Unfortunately, those processes are slow and potentially expensive, AND Biosecurity Queensland can block access to documents about the fire ant program: including ones likely to be critical of Biosecurity Queensland’s performance. I believe the public should have timely, easy, online access to all documents associated with the fire ant program so that the public can scrutinise how its money is being spent in the public good. 22 March 2017

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08 Feb 2017

Commonwealth oversight of the fire ant program: poor.

Biosecurity Queensland, a Queensland government agency, has wasted $400m of public money trying to find and kill fire ants. Fire ant now infest an area over 400,000ha: ten times bigger than it was in 2002. Clearly, Biosecurity Queensland is incapable of managing the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. The fire ant program is a national program. Studies by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences show that fire ants, one of the world’s worst invasive species, pose a serious threat to most of Australia’s unique environment, economy and out-door lifestyle. Therefore, the fire ant program is funded by a cost-share arrangement between the Commonwealth, States and Territories governments. Fifty percent of the money comes from the Commonwealth and the rest from the States and Territories. The Australian Agricultural Ministers’ Forum, made up of the ministers for agriculture from all States and Territories, and chaired by the federal minister, decides the direction of the program and approves funding for it. The Ministers’ Forum is advised by two oversight committees, managed by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Program auditor, Deloitte, has criticised the ability of these committees to monitor the progress of the fire ant program and its use of public money. Commonwealth oversight committees might not be giving the Minister’s Forum the best advice. The Agricultural Ministers’ Forum is due to meet in early 2017 to decide the future of the program. We have to hope the Ministers continue to fund a fire ant program, but I suggest, the Ministers will be throwing good public money after bad if Biosecurity Queensland continues to run the fire ant program and if Commonwealth oversight committees fail to give good advice to the Minister’s Forum. And, I suggest, there would be better scrutiny of the fire ant program if it was opened up to public scrutiny by making all program reports and reviews and the minutes of Ministers’ Forum and governance committees meetings available, on-line, as soon as possible after the event.

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21 Jan 2017

Where are fire ants: really?

A vigilant Queensland public has found 60%-70% of the fire ants we know about so far. But, to remain vigilant, the public needs to now just where fire ants are, or are likely to be. But Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Restricted Area maps, now covering an area of 410,000ha, ten times more than in the beginning, are more about convincing the Commonwealth, States and Territory governments that it is containing and eradicating fire ants than encouraging the public to keep looking for them. A vigilant Queensland public is critical for finding fire ants but the public needs to know where fire ants are, or are likely to be, to keep up their good work.

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05 Jan 2017

Did Biosecurity Queensland managers write their own fire ant program review?

It’s hard not to believe that they didn’t. Biosecurity Queensland has spent about $400m of public money trying to eradicate a fire ant infestation that is now ten times what it was in 2002. In 2015, the Australian Agricultural Ministers’ Forum commissioned a fifth independent scientific review of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. The review panel, ably supported by Biosecurity Queensland managers and contracted researchers, reported in 2016 that fire ants have not been eradicated so far was because of funding uncertainties: not poor science or incompetent management. The review panel recommended the Commonwealth government provides another $380m for a ten-year program to continue the same program and the same jobs that have failed so far; with less strings attached. We have to hope that the Commonwealth government continues to fund a fire ant eradication program. But the Commonwealth will be throwing good money after bad if Biosecurity Queensland continues to runs the program and if the Commonwealth does not provide proper oversight of the program. All reports and reviews of this publicly funded program should be available to the public to scrutinise how money is being spent in the public interest.

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13 Dec 2016

Inside story: How Ipswich became infested by killer ants - Queensland Times

Bungling by successive Queensland governments has seen the war on the red fire ant lost and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted. Dr Pam Swepson, who worked on the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program from its inception in 2002 for three years, has told the QT “the war against fire ants was lost at the beginning” and continued to be lost.... Ms Swepson said it was inevitable Ipswich was infested. Joel Gould, Queensland Times, 24th November 2016

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12 Dec 2016

Fire ant interview with Steve Austin ABC612 8th December 2016

A report has estimated that if fire ants are not wiped out in Australia they could be responsible for up to 3000 anaphylactic reactions each year. An independent review, or a supposedly independent review, has warned that the window of opportunity to eradicate the red fire ant is closing. You would know that this pest was imported into Queensland in 2001 and, so far, nearly $400m has been spent on it. Now a new report, tabled in Federal Parliament, has called on the Federal government to redouble its efforts. And yes: more money is needed. Someone who’s a sceptic of this, is someone who sat up last night reading the report. Dr Pam Swepson who was a senior policy officer in the Department of Primary Industries has been a constant critic of how Queensland has handled the eradication program. She became a whistle-blower, although her whistleblowing was rejected by the Crime and Corruption Commission here in Queensland. Pam Swepson, you sat up and read the latest report and you see it as a money grab. Tell me why.

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29 Nov 2016

Queensland lost the war on fire ants in June 2001

The Science Manager of Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant program warned in October 2016, that Australia could lose the war against the super-pest, red imported fire ants, if the Commonwealth did not give the program more money. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12238/pdf With his long association with the Queensland fire ant program, the Science Manager would know that Queensland lost the war against fire ants in June 2001 when Minister Henry Palaszczuk rejected scientific advice in favour of pursuing a short-term political agenda. Queensland lost the war on fire ants at that moment and has never recovered. Fire ants now infest an area more than ten times what it was in 2001 and are out of control. Minister Palaszczuk and all subsequent Ministers need to be held to account for failing to administer legislation that makes it illegal to spread fire ants and for wasting $350m of public money on a chaotic program that can neither find nor kill fire ants. There is no doubt that Australia needs to continue the war on fire ants. The long-term costs of fire ants on Australia’s unique wildlife and environment, outdoor lifestyle and clean agricultural products will be in the billions of dollars each year. For Australia to win the war against fire ants, the fire ant program needs to be removed from Biosecurity Queensland and managed by a scientifically based, competent, independent biosecurity agency.

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19 Nov 2016

Fire ant fact check: Two incursions eradicated. Really?

In January 2016, the Science Manager of Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program wrote that the program had eradicated two incursions of the Red Imported Fire Ant. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12197/full Just six months later, the Port of Brisbane, Queensland’s largest port and the site of one of those incursions, was back on the Fire Ant Biosecurity Zone map, along with the nearby Brisbane Airport and five other adjoining suburbs. How could the Science Manager get it so wrong?

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31 Oct 2016

Fire ants are out of control: Biosecurity Queensland has no fire ant controls

October 2016 Fire ants now infest more than 400,000ha of south-east Queensland: an area more than ten times what it was when they were first found around Brisbane in 2001. The Queensland Government has spent $350m of public funds over fourteen years and fire ants are now out of control. Fire ants spread most rapidly when people carelessly or accidentally move them in loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, animal manures, hay, potted plants or turf. In 2001, fire ant experts from the USA said the Queensland Government needed to implement a program of ‘aggressive containment’ to stop people spreading fire ants. The Queensland Government never did. Instead, the Queensland Government started its futile chase after the last fire ant to eradicate it because an eradication program attracts Commonwealth funding. This came at the expense of containing the spread of fire ants which the Commonwealth Government does not fund. The Queensland Government consistently failed to implement its own legislation to stop the spread of fire ants. Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Containment Program consists of a handful of biosecurity inspectors and a few road signs: not competent containment or ‘aggressive containment’. All Queensland Ministers who have been responsible for the fire ant program need to be held to account for fire ants now being out of control.

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25 Oct 2016

'Fire ant numbers said to be out of control' Queensland Country Life

Queensland Country Life journalist Lucy Ziesemer wrote on 21 September 2016: 'Debate flares: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries remains adamant its fire ant eradication program is on track. Readers would be forgiven for expressing surprise and disbelief at the notion of Queensland's fire ant infestation being out of control, but that is precisely what one former DPI employee is suggesting.' http://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/4179554/pressure-on-state-government-over-fire-ants/?cs=4733#!

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18 Oct 2016

Fire ants out of control: more nests found in last year than previous years

‘There have been more fire ant nests found in the last 12 months than in previous years,’ a former fire ant program field assistant has told me. Another former field assistant told me ‘I have observed farms….in the Alberton area …which previously had low infestations, now have fifty plus nests’ and ‘In Purga...one property had fifty nests another property had two hundred nests.’ Yet another former fire ant program field assistant told me ‘The public reports fire ant nests but nothing gets done. Sites that had a couple of nests blow out to sixty nests. ‘ Fire ants are out of control because Biosecurity Queensland wasted $350m of public money and failed to stop the spread of fire ants.

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03 Oct 2016

Fire ants out of control: back in Brookfield

Brookfield, a leafy semi-rural suburb in Brisbane’s west, has been off the Fire Ant Restricted Area maps for many years. But it is back on them again now. In September this year owners of a landscape business in Brookfield did the right thing and reported suspicious ants to Biosecurity Queensland. Biosecurity Queensland collected some samples of the ants and identified them as fire ants: one of the most dangerous and aggressive pests on the planet. The latest Fire Ant Biosecurity Zone map, from July this year, covers 411,500ha. It is even bigger now with new infestations being found in Brookfield and Bracken Ridge. Fire ants are out of control because Biosecurity Queensland has failed to stop the spread of fire ants.

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01 Oct 2016

Fire ants out of control: now in Bracken Ridge.

Large fire ant nests have been found in Bracken Ridge, a suburb on Brisbane’s northern edge and more than ten kilometres from the nearest fire ant nests at the Brisbane Airport: more evidence that fire ants are out of control. Fire ant nests get bigger over time. Large nests in Bracken Ridge mean that fire ants have been there, undetected, for some time. Most likely, they got there by people bringing them in in loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, compost and pot plants and because Biosecurity Queensland failed to implemented any proper movement controls to prevent people from carelessly or accidentally moving fire ants.

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15 Sep 2016

Biosecurity Qld sacks fire ant program whistle-blower

In August, Biosecurity Queensland sacked a diligent fire ant program field assistant. His sin was to call out program managers’ unfair treatment of workers and their practices of exposing workers to health risks – one time too many. Update: 8th December 2016: Since the whistle-blower was sacked, it looks like the old practices of flagrantly disregarding pest management regulations are back. Managers on the National Fire Ant Eradication Program have been out of their depth from the very beginning: struggling with a large, complex and expensive program. Managers out of their depth can become defensive, punitive and penny-pinching. This was the management culture that emerged at the beginning of the fire ant program and continues to this day. The Fire Ant Program is managed by Biosecurity Queensland which is a Division of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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15 Aug 2016

Interview with Steve Austin, ABC 612, Brisbane 18 July 2016

Steve Austin: How do you feel about spending $350m to solve a problem only to see it become ten times worse. That’s what the State Government has done with public money for the Fire Ant Eradication Program. Obviously, they haven’t eradicated anything. Today, Estimates hearings commence at State Parliament: the means by which MPs examine how public money is spent. As far as I can determine, this program is not on the agenda but perhaps should be. My story this morning is about what they should be looking at: a very expensive public policy failure in Queensland, involving State and Federal money. The question is why? My guest is Dr Pam Swepson who formerly worked for the Department of Primary Industries for 17 years. She was a policy advisor within the Fire Ant Eradication Program and, as you know, she became a whistle-blower a number of years ago.

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24 Jul 2016

Fire Ant Fiasco Fact Check

On 19th July 2016, Steve Austin, ABC 612, interviewed Ms Sarah Corcoran, Director of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program about why the eradication program has been such a failure. The Fire Ant Eradication Program is managed by Biosecurity Queensland which is part of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Steve reminded his listeners that the National Fire Ant Eradication Program has cost over $350m of taxpayer money so far, only to see fire ants spread ten-fold and the scientific review of the program in 2009 said it was NOT eradicating fire ants.

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17 Jul 2016

Fire Ant Fiasco: ignore the science, waste public money, dump the consequences back onto the public

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, run by the Queensland Government with national funding, is a fiasco. The Queensland Government, from both sides of politics, has spent $350m of public money over fifteen years on hundreds of staff and thousands of tonnes of bait. The fire ant infestation is now ten times worse than it was when they were first detected around Brisbane Queensland in 2001. The fire ant program is a familiar story of of politicians ignoring scientific advice, of wasting public money, of incompetent but compliant managers, of covering-up the facts and then dumping the resulting mess back onto a public that has already paid for an eradication program.

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08 Jul 2016

Fire ants are coming back!

The Queensland Government is claiming it can eradicate fire ants while fire ants are re-infesting ‘fire ant free’ zones. In 2001, there were two separate fire ant infestations around Brisbane: one in some south-western suburbs and another in some north-east suburbs, including the Port of Brisbane and the Brisbane Airport. In 2012, the Queensland Government declared the Port of Brisbane free of fire ants. The Brisbane Airport and the rest of the suburbs in the north-eastern infestation dropped off Red Imported Fire Ant Restricted Area maps. The Queensland Government claimed success in eradicating fire ants. But fire ants are coming back! As of 1 July 2016, the Port of Brisbane, the Brisbane Airport and the north-eastern suburbs that had been declared ‘fire ant free’ are now back on the map of Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones.

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04 Jul 2016

Queensland Government dumps the fire ant problem onto the public

Having failed to stop the spread of fire ants into 280 suburbs covering more than 350,000ha of south-east Queensland, the Queensland government is now dumping the fire ant problem onto the public. On 1 July 2016, the new Biosecurity Act 2014 came into effect. It creates a ‘General Biosecurity Obligation’ which means that people and organisations living or working in fire ant biosecurity zones have a legal responsible to take all reasonable precautions to ensure they don’t spread fire ants. The ‘General Biosecurity Obligation’ applies to commercial growers, land owners and backyard gardeners whose work or hobbies involves moving or storing fire ant friendly materials such as soil, turf, mulch, baled hay or straw, animal manures, mining or quarry products, composts and potted plants. People moving loads of fire ant infested materials or potted plants is the number one cause of fire ants spreading so far into south-east Queensland. If people do not meet their ‘General Biosecurity Obligation’, they can be penalised.

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24 Jun 2016

Searching for fire ants by helicopter: remote sensing or remote chance?

In 2009, with fire ants still marching across south-east Queensland, Professor Roush from the University of Melbourne and his team reviewed the fire ant program. They stated the obvious when they said the Queensland Government was not eradicating fire ants because they couldn’t find them and they needed to do something different. Incredibly, the Queensland Government said, ‘We will do something that no one in the world has done: we will search for them by helicopter! It is called ‘remote-sensing.’ Six years on, it found a few nests and missed a whole lot more. It should have been called ‘remote chance.’ The Queensland Government’s remote-sensing folly was contrary to scientific advice, wasted public funds and did nothing to stop the spread of fire ants.

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20 Jun 2016

Creating a fire ant biosecurity industry?

Has the Queensland government, of both political persuasions, been creating the conditions for a new industry of private fire ant bio-security consultants: consultants to charge Queensland businesses and residents for services the State government has failed to deliver, with more than $350m of public money, over the past fifteen years?

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12 Jun 2016

Fire Ant Program in SEQ in Limbo

The Fire Ant Program in SEQ is in Limbo: Eradicate, contain, manage? Who pays? The Commonwealth Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) has yet to make a decision on the future of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication (RIFA) Program in South East Queensland (the Program), the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Leanne Donaldson informed me in her letter on 9 June. Until then, the Program remains in limbo. Will the Queensland government continue trying to eradicate fire ants or will it refocus on containing and managing them? And who will pay? In April 2015, AGMIN commissioned an Independent Review into the future of the Program. The report was finalised in December 2015.

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07 Jun 2016

Biosecurity Queensland: incapable now and in the future

In September 2015, an independent panel found that Biosecurity Queensland, a division of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (DAFF), is incapable of protecting Queensland’s economy, environment and way of life from the threats of invasive pests and diseases: both now and in the foreseeable future. Biosecurity Queensland was created in 2007, by pooling government experts in biosecurity into one agency to protect Queensland and to form the front line of Australia’s biosecurity defence. Queensland fights more incursions than any other State or Territory. ‘The (review) panel formed the view that Biosecurity Queensland does not have the capacity to implement the changes required to meet the needs of the future and address current needs.’ This is a damming indictment!

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12 Apr 2016

Fire ant Fiasco

Fire ants are on the march….

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11 Apr 2016

ABC Fire Ants Interview

An interview with Terri Begley from ABC Radio about fireant issues in Queensland.

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05 Apr 2016

$250 million fire ant eradication program a failure as pest spreads through south-east Queensland

The war against deadly fire ants could be lost amid claims the $250 million program to eradicate the pest has been badly mismanaged.

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05 Apr 2016

Queensland launched a war against the fire ant invasion, but 12 years later, they’re still on the march

Queensland launched a war against the fire ant invasion, but 12 years later, they’re still on the march.

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17 Feb 2016

New Swepson Website

I am very pleased to announce the launch of my new website.

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