The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, is a very expensive, nationally funded program, implemented by Biosecurity Queensland, an agency within the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Queensland Government must assure the Australian public it is not wasting a very large amount of public money and is eradicating fire ants from south-east Queensland and Australia. The program does not have its own website for keeping the public informed - as recommended by the Efficiency and Effectiveness review in November 2019. The program reports to the public on the website of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries – but only with the approval of Minister Mark Furner. The program produces monthly, quarterly and annual reports. Minister Furner has denied the public access to program reports since March 2020. What is he hiding? The facts are: • Biosecurity Queensland has now spent $600m of public money, • the fire ant infestation has blown out from 40,000ha in 2001 to 650,000ha in 2020, and • fire ants continue to spread out of control. Time for a Royal Commission to hold Minister Furner to account. 24th January 2021
In November 2019, the independent Efficiency and Effectiveness Review of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program slammed the program’s Steering Committee, chaired by Dr Wendy Craik, for being ‘too close’ to the Program.
The reviewer said the program needs to have its own website and profile as a national program. More than a year later, it still doesn’t.
Instead, the program Steering Committee posts program reports and media statements on the website of Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries – but only with the approval of the Minister, Mark Furner whose government contributes just 10% of the national program’s funding.
Minister Furner has denied the public access to Fire Ant Program reports since March 2020.
Minister Furner is denying the Australian public access to reports of this high profile and extremely expensive national program.
Further, Minister Furner is preventing the program’s Steering Committee from fulfilling its governance responsibilities.
The Steering Committee is accountable to the National Biosecurity Committee, not Minister Furner, and provides advice to the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum. Steering Committee must ensure the federal, state and territory governments that fund the program, the program is both accountable and transparent.
In February 2020, Steering Committee Chair Dr Wendy Craik intended to discuss with Minister Furner the relationship between the nationally funded program and the Queensland government on how the program is ‘branded’, how the program is communicated to the public and how the media is ‘handled’.
Minister Furner approved the program’s third quarter report for 2019-2020 in March 2020, but none since. What is he hiding? The facts are:
Time for a Royal Commission to hold Minister Furner to account for the waste of a large amount of public money and a fire ant infestation that is out of control.