Dangerous, imported pest threatens SEQ and the ag minister
AGRICULTURE Minister Mark Furner has defended the State Government’s embattled fire ant eradication program amid revelations the Queensland Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the scheme.
Fire ants are dangerous, imported pests that could spread to large areas of Australia. They are already in some Brisbane suburbs.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries was notified of the “own initiative” investigation in early May.
- Fire ant inspectors take three months to show up
- Perrett blasts fire ant program as over budget and overdue
A leaked letter revealed the department intended to look into the response time to reports from the public on the menace, and the timeliness of the department’s responses.
The investigation comes after reports of long delays in the department’s response time; an Anstead woman said she had to wait three months.
A report into the program released earlier this year raised several concerns, including about performance.
Opposition agriculture spokesman and Gympie MP Tony Perrett said it was ‘unbelievable’ Labor had spent $100 million on the eradication program, yet it was getting worse.
“The LNP raised the alarm on the botched fire ant eradication program for some time, only to be told by Labor that everything is fine,” Mr Perrett said.
“This is yet another example of the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s mismanagement of taxpayers money.
“The LNP firmly believe in the mission of the eradication program, but wholeheartedly rejects Labor’s botched implementation and ongoing mismanagement.”
Mr Furner rejected the accusations, saying the LNP “still fails to grasp even the most basic fundamentals of biosecurity processes” five years after it cut more than a quarter of Queensland Biosecurity officers.
“The Fire Ant Program is a national program, supported and overseen by the Federal Government and all Australian states,” Mr Furner said.
“The national program, like most biosecurity responses, is reviewed regularly to identify improvements to achieve its goal of eradication.
“The national program’s achievements in suppression and partial eradication of this pest are unmatched anywhere in the world.
“The LNP’s repeated criticism of the national program’s achievements is clearly a product of its ongoing and possibly deliberate ignorance.”
LNP Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause said the feeling across his electorate was “there’s no urgency and no commitment from the program to do the job properly.”
“I’ve been to fields where the ants should have been treated and eradicated just to see nests everywhere,” Mr Krause said.
“Fire ant eradication is a big deal for our local community and the Labor management of the program is failing us.
“Biosecurity Queensland and Labor Agriculture Minister Furner need to be held to account for overseeing this failed eradication program.”