Biosecurity Queensland started blaming the results of its unscientific and incompetent Fire Ant Program on budget constraints in 2006. And continues to do so. Independent reviewers say the program is unscientific, incompetent, with no performance data and no cost-benefit analyses of its use of public money. Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program budget has blown out from $123.4m in 2001 to over $700m and wants to throw more good public money after bad. The result after twenty-one years is an out-of-control infestation now twenty times worse than in 2001. A case for a Federal Integrity Agency to hold those responsible to account.
The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is unscientific.
In 2001 national and international experts said the fire ant infestation in south-east Queensland was too entrenched to eradicate and recommended tightly containing it and baiting it continuously to suppress it.
Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, Henry Palaszczuk rejected that advice and made the political decision to mount an eradication program that would attract national funding.
Scientific advice for an eradication attempt was to overestimate the extent of the infestation and blanket bait the entire area, by air, three times a year for three years. If the ants were not virtually eradicated by the end of 2004 the eradication attempt should be terminated.
The 2009 scientific review said the program’s treatment method were not effective and its surveillance methods were not detecting new infestations and said the program should revert to suppression and containment.
In 2019 the independent auditor said the program’s rolling west to east treatment strategy had no scientific basis and was just a policy decision to prioritise rural areas over urban areas.
In 2020, CSIRO said the program’s scientific principles were a mish-mash of poorly referenced biological details and management actions that failed to respond to a major change in the fire ant population in south-east Queensland: consequently, the program was chasing the wrong ant.
The management of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is incompetent.
In 2006, the program director blamed budget constraints for the program’s poor performance. The 2006 independent scientific review team blamed operational decisions.
An independent Biosecurity Capability Review said in 2015, that Biosecurity Queensland does not have the capacity to implement the changes required to meet the needs of the future and address current needs.
In 2017, the Queensland Audit Office said Biosecurity Queensland cannot always demonstrate it has successfully achieved the ultimate aims of its programs because it does not capture adequate, reliable and consistent performance data.
The program’s own Risk Management Committee said in December 2018 that the program’s lack of any accurate performance data, poor operations and poor governance by the oversight committee posed extreme and long-standing risks to the program.
There are no cost benefit analyses of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Program’s use of public money.
In 2013, auditors Deloitte questioned Biosecurity Queensland’s ability to demonstrate its ability to take due care in the use of public money when it does not report against specific performance indicators and the program’s return on investment.
In 2015, the Biosecurity Capability Review said Biosecurity Queensland is unable to mount credible business cases for on-going funding because it does not collect performance data and analyse it on the basis of risk to show how it has and will use public funds to best effect.
In 2019, auditor, Mr Bernard Wonder questioned the ability of the program to ensure the proper use of public money when the budget had blown out and the program had no outcome focussed performance indicators.
A case for a Federal Integrity Agency to hold those responsible to account.
Every Chair of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program oversight committee since 2001.
Every Queensland Minister for Primary Industries/Agriculture since Minister Henry Palaszczuk in 2001.
Every Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture since Minister Warren Truss in 2001.