In August 2020, the Steering Committee of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, chaired by Dr Wendy Craik, faced the inevitable grim consequences of a fire ant eradication program that was doomed from the beginning.
The fire ant infestation is out of control, up from 40,000ha in 2001 to over 650,000ha now. The Program’s budget has blown out from $123m in 2001 to $560m now. Program funding will be reduced in 2021-22 and the public is unwilling to have the costs and risks of treating fire ant nests dumped onto them.
Steering Committee’s response was to consider strategies to force the public to treat fire ants on their property, as part of their shared responsibility for eradicating the infestation, with the help of a spin doctor.
Steering Committee knows:
The public is NOT responsible for an out-of-control fire ant infestation.
The Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review of 2015 said Biosecurity Queensland, including the Fire Ant Program, fails to understand that shared responsibility comes with shared decision making. Instead, the Program only engages with the public to demand they do something. Nothing has changed.
The public is not responsible for fire ants invading Australia sometime in the 1990s. That was a failure of the Commonwealth Government.
The public is not responsible for fire ants spreading out of control. That was a failure of the 2001 Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Henry Palszczuk, who ignored scientific advice to aggressively contain the infestation, to embark on a futile and extremely costly chase after the last ant to kill it.
A vigilant public have been responsible for reporting 70-80% of new detection because the Fire Ant Program does not accept its responsibility to conduct systematic surveillance for fire ants.
Time for a Royal Commission to hold the Steering Committee of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, chaired by Dr Wendy Craik, to account for wasting public money and putting the public at risk with an out of control fire ant infestation.
22nd March 2021.