Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mark Furner, told ABC news the fire ant eradication program is ‘world class.’ Truth: The fire ant program has wasted $400m+ of public money and the infestation is now ten times worse. Truth: There is not a scrap of scientific evidence that eradicating fire ants from south-east Queensland is possible. Scientific advice has always been to aggressively contain fire ants to a small area. That would have been a cheaper and more effective option. The Minister also told ABC news the program is regularly assessed for effectiveness. Program reports for 2017-18, the first year of the new $411m Ten Year Eradication Program, give appalling results: areas targeted for 3 rounds of bait got only one. The plan to spot treat persistent infestations was abandoned because of too many reports from the public. The first year of the new, expensive fire ant program has been a total failure and the waste of another $38m. The Minister also said ‘Just be patient.’ There are plenty of reasons for the public to have lost patience. The program’s budget has quadrupled and its timeframe tripled. The public have been lied to for seventeen years: told that Queensland had become a world leader in fire ant eradication, told that Queensland had progressed from the brink of disaster to the brink of eradication, told that some areas are fire ant free, told that the program had contained and suppressed the spread of fire ants in south-east Queensland. None of those statements were true. It is now time for a Senate inquiry into the colossal waste of public money that has resulted in more public harm than public good. 19th November 2018
Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mark Furner, told ABC news the fire ant eradication program is ‘world class.’
There is not a scrap of scientific evidence that it is technically feasible to eradicate fire ants from south-east Queensland. International and national experts have said since 2001, the infestation was too well entrenched to be eradicated. Scientific advice has always been to aggressively contain fire ants within a small area of south-east Queensland.
An aggressive containment program would likely have restricted fire ants to a fraction of the 400,000ha it is now (ten times what it was in 2001), and cost a fraction of the $400m+ of public money spent so far.
The Minister also told ABC news an expert panel assesses the program on a regular basis, looking at the effectiveness of the program to ensure the eradication of fire ant. The results for 2017-18, the first year of the new $411m Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication program, are appalling.
The plan was to significantly increase the area receiving multiple and consecutive application of bait. Scientific advice in 2001 was for four applications of bait, each season, for three years. Instead, most of the western areas of the infestation, scheduled to receive three rounds of bait, received only one. One or two rounds of bait each season is just throwing good bait after bad. And the plan to spot treat persistent infestations in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and Gold Coast cities during 2017-18 was abandoned after just six months, because the program was being swamped by reports of fire ant nests from the public. The first year of the new Ten Year Eradication Plan has been a total disaster, and has wasted another $38m of public money.
The Minister said ‘Just be patient.’
The public are well justified in losing patience. In 2001, national cost share partners committed $123.4m to a five-year program. The program has spent four times that amount and the time-frame has more than tripled.
The public are well justified in losing patience because they have been lied to for seventeen years.
In 2005, the public was told wide-scale treatments for fire ants were almost over for most of Brisbane and Queensland had become the world leader in fire ant eradication. It wasn’t true.
In 2006, the public was told the program had progressed from the brink of disaster to the brink of eradication in five short years and was planning for the post eradication validation program. It wasn’t true.
In 2008, the public was told eradication had been so successful it had reached the point where some previously infested places were considered fire ant free. It wasn’t true.
In 2009, the public was told there had been a massive reduction in the fire ant population in south-east Queensland. It wasn’t true.
In 2011, the public was told the program had contained and suppressed the spread of fire ants in south-east Queensland. It wasn’t true.
Now Minister Mark Furner says ‘I’m sure working together we’ll address this particular pest.’ The truth is, the public has done their bit. 70-80% of new detections of fire ants are made by the public, but Biosecurity Queensland, the responsible agency within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, cannot find fire ants, cannot kill fire ants and cannot stop them spreading.
It is time for a Senate inquiry into this colossal waste of public money that has created more public harm than public good.