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Minister calls for changes after report bags State’s biosecurity

Queensland’s biosecurity had been ad hoc and under-funded while fire ants spread throughout south east Queensland and posed a threat greater than cane toads, according to the Invasive Species Council.

Jul 05, 2023, updated Jul 05, 2023
The fire ant which has spread across 700,000ha of south east Queensland (Photo: Invasive Species Council)

The fire ant which has spread across 700,000ha of south east Queensland (Photo: Invasive Species Council)

The accusation follows a highly critical report from the Auditor General which found there was a lack of leadership and strategy within Biosecurity Queensland. It highlighted the case of fire ants and the more than $600 million spent on dealing with the pest with a lack of leadership.

There was also little transparency and no clear goals.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has said he wants to see changes.

He told the ABC has asked the department to go through the report and see what can be done.

He said there had been significant gains made in dealing with the fire ant issue and modelling had showed that had the department not acted it would have infested 100 million hectares of Australia.

The infestation is now 11km from the NSW border, but there had also been detections in other states.

“We want to go through the report and … I want to see some changes,” Furner said.

The Opposition’s Agriculture spokesman, Tony Perrett, said the damning assessment highlighted the true extent of the chaos and crisis within the Palaszczuk Labor Government.

​“The Palaszczuk Labor Government have completely dropped the ball on managing fire ants because they’re in a constant state of chaos and crisis,” Perrett said.

“It’s only a matter of time before fire ants force playgrounds to close, family barbeques will come under threat and the reputation of the Gold Coast’s beaches will be put at risk.

“Queensland’s tourism industry can’t afford a catastrophe like this.”

After spending $644 million on fire ants so far the Federal and State government will meet next week to decide the next step with expectations of a similar amount to be dedicated for the ongoing fight.

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The report’s findings raise questions about whether that future funding would be well spent.

“It is clear from this report that any further delay to ramping up the funding for fire ant eradication will doom Australia to failure. This would be devastating for wildlife, agriculture and tourism across the country,” the Invasive Species Council said.

“We urgently need changes to ensure some basics like prioritisation of risks and adequate reporting on outcomes are routine parts of the system at all levels. We also need a big boost to the baseline funding that is dedicated to invasive species action in Queensland, including to scale up action on key invasives like feral cats and regional priority weeds,” the council said.

“As one of the greatest threats to native wildlife in Queensland, the development of a statewide feral cat management strategy needs to be a priority.

“With a state election on the horizon, Queenslanders will be looking for parties to increase their ambition on invasive species action.

“A fire ant invasion will be worse than the cane toad. They will devastate our native wildlife and cause billions of dollars in lost agricultural production every year.”

 

 

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