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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4985

Mr HAASE (Durack) (21:39): I rise this evening to bring the attention of the House to an organisation called the Kimberley Toad Busters. The Kimberley Toad Busters have been working very hard for some seven years from a core developed by one Lee Scott-Virtue in Kununurra and struggling to get recognition and some financial assistance to do a job that was vitally important to more Australians than Australians realised, quite frankly. Cane toads are an obscene little amphibian that is best treated with a golf club in my opinion, but others might have more humane points of view. But this little core group that Lee Scott-Virtue in Kununurra created has grown to some 7,000 volunteers. Toad busting is carried out 12 months of the year. It is a finely honed group that is well led and well organised. It is well motivated, because I do not think that there are any amongst us that recognise cane toads as being anything but a toxic, obnoxious pest. It does not endear itself to any one of us.

The important fact is that cane toads are an introduced species that have created havoc with our fauna since their introduction. They were introduced in a well-meaning way to combat the cane beetle, as I think you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, would well know. Since then they have slowly worked on our Australian native fauna to its disadvantage. At all stages of the food chain, the cane toad attacks and destroys, because they, frankly, are absolutely toxic. They are toxic at tadpole stage. They are toxic as they emerge as nymphets. They are toxic as adults. All stages of the Australian fauna have been destroyed, from the smallest lizards to the largest crocodiles. We have crocodiles found with stone dead cane toads in their mouths because the cane toad toxin has impacted them as they struck the cane toad.

Government members interjecting

Mr HAASE: I would appreciate it if you would stop this heckling—this rubbish that comes from the other side of the House. This is a serious topic. The reason I stand here tonight is that this incredibly well-motivated and dedicated parochial Australian group of volunteers that are doing their bit to keep back the advance of the cane toads have not received any funding in this last budget. It is true to say that there has been no funding received at any stage from this Rudd and then Gillard government. There has been—

Mr Champion interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! I will deal with the member, who will shortly find himself out of this Federation Chamber if he continues to interject.

Mr HAASE: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There have been some substantial funds received from the state government of Western Australia, because Western Australia is not in love with cane toads. Western Australia believes that anyone who will do anything to stop this advance needs to be supported, because collectively the people of Western Australia—the taxpayers of Western Australia—agree that there is no place in Western Australia for cane toads. Queenslanders have a different point of view, I am sad to say: they have almost conceded that the cane toads have won and that all stages of the food chain of Australian fauna are now victims of cane toads.

The Western Australian government gave some $1.2 million to the Kimberley Toad Busters and, back in the Howard days, there was $289,000 received from the federal government. But sadly there is now nothing, especially in this last fantasy budget of the government. There is nothing for a group, now 7,000 strong, of volunteers working tirelessly to halt this advance of the cane toad. There is not a brass razoo. There is no support. There are no dollars. It is totally unacceptable, because at this stage there is nothing else that will stop the advance of the cane toads to, for instance, the pristine tourism area of the Margaret River in Western Australia. There is no federal funding being devoted to CSIRO research, for instance, that might find a molecular or viral solution to the advance of the cane toads. We need to commit serious funds; I am talking millions of dollars, not tens of thousands of dollars. Until such time as we support the CSIRO or other independent researchers to find some viral solution to the cane toad—this may involve great research, perhaps going back to South America, where these insidious amphibians emerged from—and until such time as we seriously treat this as an issue that needs substantial funding, we are not going to have an institution that dedicates its time to coming up with a permanent solution. Until such time as we have a permanent solution, all Australian fauna is at risk, because there is no point in the food chain that is not susceptible to the toxins of the cane toad.

Having said that, I believe there is absolute justification for substantial funding going to the Kimberley Toad Busters. Let me explain to you why they are deserving of substantial funds. The Kimberley Toad Busters have never been about just busting toads, quite frankly. They are a community group of volunteers. They have, of course, been involved in halting—slowing down, I should say—the cane toad movement. They have also been absolutely committed to mitigating the impact on the native biodiversity. They have also involved themselves as, if you like, an amateur group—but that should not be considered a criticism of their status—that has been supporting scientific research. They have given research funds to a number of graduates who have looked at various issues that may halt the advance, including the lungworm. The lungworm parasite research includes the questions of when the density of the lungworms is actually affecting cane toads, how lungworms affect the immune system of cane toads and whether lungworms could possibly be used as a biological control for the eradication of the cane toads. They have been looking at non-invasive methods to determine lungworm infection in the cane toad. They have been looking at the migration of the lungworm parasite.

The name 'Kimberley Toad Busters' implies an amateurish group, but this is a mob led by a veterinarian, Lee Scott-Virtue. It is not well resourced by government but is certainly promoted by local business entities. It is, quite frankly, true to say that the Kimberley Toad Busters are the primary volunteer group in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. They need funds, basically. They need funds to keep doing the good work—work that today includes taking on the Kids @ Risk Positive Outcomes program, where disruptive members of the Indigenous community in Kununurra are now being taken out on toad-busting campaigns to occupy their days and give them a vision of nature and community contribution that is above and beyond just making hell on the streets at night. So the motivation of the KTB is strong and their research and associated activities are strong. The only thing that they do not have is some reasonable support from what is supposedly a caring government, dictated to by the Greens but totally bereft of funding for such a worthy institution.