On Tuesday 5th July 2022, the Acting Director-General of Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Mr Terry Hill, inspected the headquarters of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Program at Berrinba in Logan City, south-west of Brisbane.
Was he considering, again, if Western Australia should pull its funds from the program? He met with Director-General of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Bob Gee, Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer Mr Malcolm Letts, and the program’s chief scientist, Dr Ross Wylie. They undoubtable think Western Australia should continue to fund the program’s top-heavy management, high staff turnover because of incompetent management, wasting tonnes of water-sensitive bait on wet ground, and patchy aerial baiting.
The national program is funded by the Commonwealth and all State and Territory governments, but all jurisdictions have to continue believing it is in their best interest to keep funding a national program. Western Australia has had its doubts before.
Both New South Wales and Western Australia withdrew their funds for the 2015-16 financial year. Queensland made up the shortfall. The scientific review of the program in 2015, chaired by Mr Bill Magee and supported by Dr Ross Wylie, did nothing to convince them to keep funding it. The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum commissioned the reviewers to assess the program’s progress and advise if eradication was technically feasible at a reasonable cost. The reviewers could not assess the program’s progress because it does not collect reliable performance data, but advised continuing with an eradication effort on the basis of the long hoped-for but consistently failing silver-bullet to save the program – an updated version of the remote-sensing surveillance technology. A review of the latest, expensive, helicopter mounted technology in 2018 said it detected all warm things as fire ant nests and identified actual fire ant nests as piles of soil.
Both Western Australia and New South Wales, have had their own incursions of the red imported fire ant to deal with. Do they think it is time Queensland paid for its own fire ant fiasco?
There certainly should be a Royal Commission to hold those responsible for the fire ant fiasco to account.
15th July 2022