In July 2017, Biosecurity Queensland received $411.4m for another Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Plan 2017-27. The plan said by 2021-22:
In January 2022, the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Plan, reported at www.fireants.org.au , has no surveillance plans, no risk mitigation and compliance plans and only the vaguest of treatment plan – a staged, rolling strategy, starting in the west and moving east – a strategy the 2019 independent audit review said was unscientific and simply prioritised rural areas of urban.
In 2001, fire ant experts from the USA said if Queensland neither eradicated the fire ant infestation nor controlled its spread, an infestation that has blown out from 40,000ha to over 650,000ha is evidence of that, the only option was self-management.
Biosecurity Queensland is now dumping the responsibility to find, treat and stop the spread of fire ants onto the public – the inevitable consequence of Biosecurity Queensland’s $650m, 20 year fire ant fiasco.
Dr Wendy Craik, chair of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, has not released the program’s annual report for 2020-21, available since July 2021, or the findings of the independent Strategic Review of the program, conducted by Dr Helen Scott-Orr, former Australian Inspector-General of Biosecurity, and available since August 2021.
The Australian Agriculture Ministers’ Forum considered Dr Scott-Orr’s report in November 2021 but have not released their findings. In 2001 the Ministers’ Forum approved a $123.4m five-year plan to eradicate fire ants from the entire country. Over the past twenty years, the infestation has blown out from 40,000ha to over 650,000ha and the budget from $123.4m to over $650m. Has the Ministers’ Forum finally decided to stop funding this fiasco? Perhaps it has.
The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, chaired by Dr Wendy Craik and supported by all Australian ministers of agriculture is a disaster. Those responsible need to be held to account. Time for a Royal Commission.