More money and more fire ants.
The 2020-21 budget for the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication, implemented by Biosecurity Queensland and Chaired by Dr Wendy Craik, was $58.5m – up from $41m pa in 2017.
By the beginning of the 2021-22 financial year, the program was threatened by significant new infestations outside the western and south-western boundaries of the program and significant new infestations inside the program’s boundaries because of gaps in the program’s previous treatment rounds.
Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer, Malcolm Letts feared the program would exhaust its nearly $60m budget to treat an entrenched and spreading infestation by December 2021. So, he threatened the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments. He said if they did not cough-up another EXTRA $33.3m for the second half of the 2021-22 financial year, Biosecurity Queensland would pull the pin on the entire National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program.
Throwing good public money after bad.
The Australian Agriculture Ministers’ Forum, chaired by Federal Minister David Littleproud, with Queensland Minister Mark Furner a member, caved in and approved an EXTRA $33.3m of public money so the program could re-do what it failed to do in 2017.
In July 2017 the treatment plan for the fire ant program was a progressive ‘rolling’ strategy that focussed on the outer western and south-western boundaries of the infestation in the Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Scenic Rim local government areas then rolling eastward to treat Ipswich city in 2019, Brisbane and Logan cities in 2021 and Redland and the Gold Coast cities 2023.
In January 2022, the treatment plan for the fire ant program is a staged, ‘rolling’ strategy, starting on the western and south-western boundaries of the infestation in the Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Scenic Rim local government areas and Ipswich city, then moving east towards the coast. Look familiar?
Time for a Royal Commission
The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum continues to throw more good public money after bad when it knows:
The Ministers’ Forum continues to throw good public money after bad when it has in hand:
Time for a Royal Commission to hold those responsible for the waste of public money and an out-of-control fire ant infestation to account.
31 January 2022