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US gun crackdown unlikely despite latest massacre

US gun crackdown unlikely despite latest massacre

Broadcast: 17/04/2007

Reporter: Tracey Bowden

The scale of today's massacre at Virginia Tech University in the US, which left at least 33 people
dead, has shocked the nation all the way to the White House. But in the land where the right to
bear arms is enshrined in the constitution, a crackdown on guns remains unlikely.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's an image that's become depressingly familiar, armed police escorting terrified
students from the scene of the latest mass shooting in the United States.

The scale of today's massacre at Virginia Tech, which left at least 33 dead, has reverberated
through the nation all the way to the White House.

In this country after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people were killed, tough new gun
laws were introduced which virtually banned all semi-automatic firearms.

But in the land where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution, and where tens of
thousands are killed by guns each year, any similar crackdown remains unlikely.

This report from the ABC's North America Correspondent Tracy Bowden.

STUDENT: All of a sudden, I just hear these ... like these fires going off and like all these
gunshots, and like everyone just screaming "run!", and everyone ran across the field.

(Montage)

US REPORTER: Tonight, the massacre at Virginia Tech, out of nowhere the deadliest shooting rampage
in American history.

US REPORTER 2: Tonight, campus tragedy, massacre at Virginia Tech.

(End montage)

TRACY BOWDEN: Once again, Americans are confronting the terrible images that have become all too
familiar - mass murder at one of the nation's education facilities.

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When
that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American
community.

TRACY BOWDEN: This time the sanctuary was Virginia Tech, a university founded in 1872, and home to
26,000 students.

STUDENT 2: And I've heard that a classroom of students was shot and basically, a gunman went into
the classroom, unloaded.

STUDENT 3: Every second it was like new stuff and the fatalities just went from like nine to 20 to
31. It's just insane.

TRACY BOWDEN: This wobbly mobile phone video footage taken by a student captures the drama.

STUDENT 4: My RA (resident advisor), who I'm good friends with, was across the hall. She was in the
room across the hall in Norris from where the majority of the shootings took place and we haven't
been able to get a hold of her, find out anything out about her all morning.

TRACY BOWDEN: At least 33 people are dead and 15 wounded after two separate incidents. It's still
not clear if the same gunman was responsible for both.

Two people were found dead inside a university dormitory at 7:15 in the morning. Then, two hours
later, 31 deaths in Norris Hall, the engineering building. The gunman took his own life.

CHARLES STEGER, VIRGINIA TECH PRESIDENT: Norris Hall is a tragic and sorrowful crime scene, and we
are in the process of identifying victims and in the process of notifying next of kin. This may
take some time.

WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: We have one person that's deceased in Norris Hall
that was a shooter. We do not know if the two incidents are connected. That's part of the
investigation that we're looking into and we're trying to determine whether they are or are not
related.

TRACY BOWDEN: After the second series of shootings, the university was locked down with anxious
students trying to contact parents and friends.

STUDENT 5: It's really hard because this is impacting our whole country, this is my school. So, I
don't even know, I think I'm still in shock, like I don't want to believe that it's true.

TRACY BOWDEN: Virginia Tech authorities are now being quizzed about why there wasn't a lockdown
after the first shootings.

WENDELL FLINCHUM: The information we had on the first incident led us to make the decision that it
was an isolated event to that building, and the decision was made not to cancel classes at that
time.

CHARLES STEGER: We had some reason to think the shooter had left the campus, in fact, may have been
leaving the state and this other event occurred two hours later.

TRACY BOWDEN: The crime is now being described as the worst shooting of its kind in US history. It
has brought back memories of another school massacre at Columbine High, eight years ago this week.
Twelve students and a teacher were shot dead before two student gunmen killed themselves. Last
October at an Amish school in Pennsylvania, a gunman took hostages before shooting dead six females
students and then himself. Despite this latest massacre, there appears to be little likelihood of
any further clampdown on America's gun culture. Police have indicated two handguns were found at
the scene. In Virginia no permit is needed to buy a gun and under state law people are allowed to
carry concealed weapons.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER US PRESIDENT: You don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting. You don't need an
AK-47 to go skeet shooting.

TRACY BOWDEN: More than 10 years ago, after an earlier schoolyard shooting, President Bill Clinton
convinced Congress to ban the import of foreign assault weapons. Even that modest measure has been
allowed to lapse.

JOSH HORWITZ, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Since the Columbine shooting the assault weapons ban
has been allowed to expire. Gun manufacturers are free from lawsuits, we can't sue them any more
for many types of lawsuits. And the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is really
working with one hand tied behind their back.

TRACY BOWDEN: As police in Virginia continue their investigations all those connected with the
tragedy are waiting to find out who the gunman was and what motivated this terrible act.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Widespread the tragedy may be, and it may be felt around the country, but it doesn't
ever seem to penetrate to the ballot box. Tracy Bowden with that report.

Rudd unveils IR plan

Rudd unveils IR plan

Broadcast: 17/04/2007

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has detailed the central elements of his industrial relations
battle plan. The Federal Government says it is a disaster for small business but the business
community is not so emphatic.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: The national political debate around industrial relations here has become one of the
most potent of our time. John Howard remains determined to push forward with his WorkChoices
reforms despite growing anxiety in the electorate. And today Kevin Rudd detailed the central
elements of his IR battle plan which he says will deliver both flexibility and fairness. Labor
would introduce a new, limited unfair dismissal clause, and a national industrial system for the
private sector, but strikes will be illegal unless they've been approved by a ballot box or by a
secret ballot.

The government says it's a disaster for small business, but the business community is not so
emphatic, and Mr Rudd's announcement coincided with revelations in the Sydney Morning Herald, that
figures leaked from the Government's Office of the Employment Advocate suggested that up to 45 per
cent of all Australian Workplace Agreements had stripped away all award conditions that were
supposed to be protected by law. Political editor Michael Brissenden reports.

KEVIN RUDD, FEDERAL OPPOSITION LEADER: Labor's way forward is a better way forward for both
employers and employees. It will be simpler, fairer and in our judgment, more flexible, and will
not throw the fair go out the back door.

JOE HOCKEY, FEDERAL WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: This is a disaster for small business and it's a
disaster for job creation. It's bad policy, it's old Labor policy, and the union bosses are back in
town.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: This Government has been the best friend that the workers of Australia
have ever had.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Industrial relations was always going to be one of the key battlegrounds of the
coming election. The Government's WorkChoices changes have made sure of that. But the new
industrial environment has also presented big challenges for the Labor Party. It's something Labor
has been struggling with for some years now. The expectations of a booming small business sector
and the growing army of contractors on the one hand, and the trenchantly held views of Labor's 20th
century industrial base on the other, have proved to be a difficult political terrain. In between,
the 21st century workers who want flexibility, and those who are worried about the erosion of their
rights. Today, Kevin Rudd laid out a plan he says will deliver both flexibility and fairness.

KEVIN RUDD: We believe Australia can go forward without throwing the fair go out the back door.
These unfair laws have stripped away basic conditions and the take home pay of hard working
Australians. And then they have Mr Howard still telling them they've never been better off. A
Federal Labor Government will create a new workplace relations system that is simple, fair and
flexible, and we will get rid of Mr Howard's unfair laws once and forever.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As we know, Labor plans to scrap AWA's altogether. But today Mr Rudd put some
more flesh on the policy he'll be taking to the next election. Labor will introduce a national
industrial relations system for the private sector. The states have yet to agree to that one. And
under Labor's new policy, unfair dismissal laws will be back but with significant caveats.
Businesses with less than 15 employees will be exempt from unfair dismissal laws for 12 months.
Those with more than 15 workers will be exempt for six months.

KEVIN RUDD: We believe this passes the common sense test for small business. A full year should
give any small business operator the time to make an evaluation about whether new staff are going
to fit into their businesses.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Government's response has been tough and predictable. This is a step
backwards, bad for small business and bad for jobs. Yesterday, Joe Hockey and Kevin Rudd were
telling us how they were such good mates. But gentle Sunrise banter was one thing. The full glare
of real politics is another.

JOE HOCKEY: The Labor Party is still committed to tearing up nearly 1 million AWA's at the next
election. The Labor Party wants to reintroduce patent bargaining. There's nothing in the statement
today about union's right of entry, something that every small business in Australia should fear
now the Labor Party has confirmed that they're going to reintroduce the unfair dismissal laws.
Kevin Rudd is running around trying to tell small business that he is going to deliver them Phar
Lap. Today, he delivered them a donkey.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The initial response from small business has been disappointment rather than
angry rejection. The Council of Small Business says it prefers the current WorkChoices legislation,
particularly in respect of unfair dismissals. But the group has indicated that should Labor be
elected to Government, it will engage on the development of a proposed process for unfair dismissal
claims to be dealt with by a mediator, a new fair dismissal code. But what about the big end of
town? The Labor Party has put considerable effort into wooing business since the dark days of the
Latham leadership. Here too, the initial response to today's IR announcement has been cautious.

GARRY BRACK, EMPLOYERS FIRST: The economy will turn sometime down the track. When it does there are
going to be savage job losses and unless we do something pretty significant in order to improve our
productivity, our flexibility in business, the way we produce things, the way we utilise people at
work then the consequences are going to be dire. And one of the ways of trying to ameliorate those
problems is the Australian Workplace Agreements.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: One aspect of the Rudd plan the employers are happy with is the move to outlaw
any industrial action unless there is a secret ballot. Even the unions appear to have swallowed
that one.

SHARAN BURROW, ACTU PRESIDENT: Look, we're cautious about secret ballots, but provided they are
efficient, then it's a very fair way of saying to working people you have a right to strike in the
context of bargaining for a fair deal. If good faith bargaining principles are not respected, then
you have an avenue of strike action. When working people are treated unfairly then they will take
action and a secret ballot will not be an impediment.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It all seems too easy. But there is, of course, a lot of politics at play here.
Labor has to counter the strong argument that comes from the Government that it's beholden to the
unions. There will be some in the union movement who find it all a bit too hard to stomach, but
that's a fight Kevin Rudd seems more than happy to bring on. With the polls riding the way they
are, he knows it's a fight he'll win.

KEVIN RUDD: Obviously, various members of the trade union movement will have reservations about
this. Some of them have expressed those reservations to us. Our challenge however, is to get the
balance right between them on the one hand, and small business needs for flexibility on the other.
We think we've got the balance right and this will be the policy we take to the election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Labor believes IR is a vote changer. Analysis of research conducted by the
Office of the Employment Advocate leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that 45 per cent of
AWAs have stripped award conditions that the Government promised would be protected. These include
shift loadings, annual leave loadings, compassionate leave and parental leave. This is information
the Government has refused to make public after some preliminary research that came to light last
year produced some embarrassing conclusions about the impact of WorkChoices. In the past Mr Hockey
has defended not releasing the data because there's nothing to compare the analysis to. You can't
compare apples with apples, he says. Today, although he said he hadn't seen the new figures, he
didn't accept the analysis.

JOE HOCKEY: We have no reason to believe that the Fairfax analysis is accurate or the methodology
is accurate. We are waiting to find out whether the information they have is in fact correct. But
certainly, the claims and the methodology they've used are their own methodology, they're not the
methodology of the Government or the Office of the Employment Advocate.

Accurate analysis or not, the polling on WorkChoices also shows a considerable level of anxiety
about the impact of the laws. But there are now more than a million workers on AWAs and they can't
all be unhappy about it. If Labor wants to win their votes, they'll need to be convinced that they
really will be unaffected by a return to the future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political Editor Michael Brissenden.

Cancer vaccine a missed opportunity for Aust: Frazer

Cancer vaccine a missed opportunity for Aust: Frazer

Broadcast: 17/04/2007

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Former Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer, whose work lead to a vaccine that could
eradicate cervical cancer, tonight receives yet another top award for his groundbreaking efforts,
the Clunies Ross Award. Dr Frazer tells The 7.30 Report his vaccine could have delivered the
country a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars a year if Australia had the capacity to take
his research to the next stage.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: Dr Ian Frazer, the Scottish-born Australian immunologist whose work led to the
vaccine that could ultimately eradicate cervical cancer worldwide, tonight receives yet another top
award for his groundbreaking efforts, the Clunies Ross Award. Last month, he received the
prestigious Florey Medal for biomedical research. Last year, he was awarded the US Cancer Research
Institute William B Coley award for Distinguished Research and also became Australian of the Year.
All of which Ian Frazer is using to try to put some muscle behind his efforts to raise $300 million
to fund a new institute that he says could help reap massive financial benefits for Australia, as
well as produce more biomedical breakthroughs.

Dr Frazer says his vaccine, which is about to be made available to all schoolgirls under a Federal
Government program, could have delivered Australia a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars a
year, if this country had had the capacity to take his research to the next stage rather than
handing it over then to the international pharmaceutical industry. I spoke with Ian Frazer in
Brisbane.

Ian Frazer, awards might not yet be commonplace for you but they're certainly starting to stack up.
But of course, you personally won't get to measure the success of your vaccine for years to come,
will you? It's a very long pipeline.

DR IAN FRAZER: Yes, realistically, even if the vaccine were used worldwide tomorrow, it would be
another 50 years before the cervical cancer figures fell to the point where you could say the
vaccine had worked.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How does it feel to know that you've provided the breakthrough work that could save
250,000 lives a year around the world but that most of these people will continue to die, most of
that 250,000 a year will continue to die for the indefinite future, not just because of that long
pipeline but also because it's going it take time for individual countries to accept, particularly
the Third World, to accept that they should be doing it?

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, I see that as the most important agenda item now really, is to get this
vaccine used in the developing world where cervical cancer is such a big problem. The research that
we contributed to was important and we thought that was the hard bit when we were doing it, but now
I realise the most important thing is to get it used.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The World Health Organisation has taken the step of saying that this vaccine should
become a part of the suite of vaccines being distributed through the Third World and you've got the
Gates Foundation on side. But how big a step is it from there to one where you see this vaccine
actually being distributed through most of the world?

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, the World Health Organisation's contribution in recognising this as an
important vaccine is critical in all of this because it tends to determine government policy in the
countries that are making the decision about whether they should use the vaccine. Now, the big
challenge is to educate those governments as to what the vaccine can do and how they can best use
it, and also to make sure that the pharmaceutical industry follow through in their promise of
delivering the vaccine at cost to the developing world.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've used your fame to campaign for a stronger biotech industry in Australia and
to see to see this country reap greater rewards for its research breakthroughs. What is the
potential? We're still a small country.

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, we're a small country but we contribute well above our weight in terms of the
basic science and now also in terms of the science, where it's getting translated to the point
where it might actually be a product. But there's a gap in our industry here at the moment and it's
quite a big one, and that is that we can't actually make the products here for testing clinically.
We don't have the facilities that we need to get that done.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've estimated that had you been able to move to the next stage, once you'd
achieved your initial breakthrough with your vaccine, that had you been able to develop through the
next stage in Australia, that that would have meant to this country an extra $250 300-million a
year. Is that so?

DR IAN FRAZER: Yeah, that's right. We took the vaccine as far as we could in Australia, which is to
test it, if you like, on animals and show that it was safe and produces the right immune response,
and then licence the vaccine through CSL to Merck. And obviously, we get a return from the
intellectual property that developed but that return is small, indeed in comparison with the 30 per
cent of sales that we'd have got if we'd taken it through to the point where we'd shown in clinical
trials that the vaccine was effective. We wouldn't have had to go to the extent of proving for
licensing purposes just to show it worked in a small number of people. So, that would have needed
some product made in Australia and if we'd done that, then we would have got 30 per cent of the
billion-dollar-a-year sales that the vaccine's estimated to get.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So with the new institute that you are proposing, the Queensland Government has put
$100 million on the table and that's waiting there to be spent, but you need another $200 million.

DR IAN FRAZER: We're trying to develop a one-stop shop for testing products, which will include a
number of research institutes feeding products into the system and indeed, obviously products would
be fed in from round the country. But also then, this ability to manufacture under what's called
good manufacturing practice conditions, to produce a safe product and to test it to show that it's
safe through toxicology testing, and put it in bottles in what's called clean fill and finish and
then have it out there in small scale for testing in the hospitals round the country. We don't have
that anywhere in Australia at the moment.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And you see no reason why Australia can't have its own flourishing biopharmaceutical
industry, despite the fact that the giants are all offshore?

DR IAN FRAZER: We have all the talent here and we have the small biotech companies here. It may not
be that we end up with one Merck or Roche in Australia but if we're producing the products through
to the stage where they're of great value to American Roche, we'll get a lot more back into the
country as a return for that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what's your expectation that the Federal Government is going to kick in, in this
next Budget, because I would think given the politics in Australia at the moment, the Federal
Government would be quite interested in spending money in Queensland.

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, we've put a good business case to the current Federal Government for an
investment of $100 million in the project and we hope that that business case will be favourably
received in the Budget.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You're also working in the fields of Hep C virus. Tell me about that work.

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, Hepatitis C is the next vaccine we really need to prevent cancer. We have one
for Hepatitis B and now one for papillomavirus. Hepatitis C is the next-biggest problem in terms of
virus-caused cancer, responsible for about 5 per cent of cancer worldwide. It's proving a hard
vaccine to get but our basic research is aimed at getting the technology to prevent Hepatitis C
virus infection. And we've taken two different approaches to that: one is vaccine-based round
what's called polynuclear vaccines, DNA vaccines and builds if you like on our experience that
we've had in developing therapeutic vaccines for other viruses, and that's at animal testing stage
at the moment. The other in conjunction with a biotech company in Queensland - we've been involved
in looking at a product which alters our immune response to this virus, the Hepatitis C virus.
That's now in phase one clinical trials at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Having got the papillomavirus under your belt, does that actually give you a head
start into these other fields? Or is it a lottery?

DR IAN FRAZER: Well, it's always a lottery but having a bit of track record always helps because
you've kind of been through the problems before. And one of the biggest problems actually is to
recognise when you've got something useful, and once you've seen it once, you tend to recognise it
again. So that yes, we don't know whether our particular products will get there. We won't know
that until the trials are done but we see all right signs.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I know that medical research, scientific research can be an incredibly long haul
before those who are lucky enough and smart enough to make the breakthrough actually do achieve
things but is there a moment that you would pinpoint in your own long journey as a moment of
immense excitement to you?

DR IAN FRAZER: I think that everything that works in the lab is exciting because so much of it
fails. But clearly, as far as the vaccine was concerned, that moment in 1991 for my late colleague,
late Dr Jian Zhou and I, first looked at the virus like particles that are the technology that
underlie the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, that was really exciting because we knew when we
saw that, that we had the basis of a vaccine. If there was going to be a vaccine against this
disease, that was how it was going to be done.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And you still have a sadness today, don't you, that he is not here to continue that
journey with you?

DR IAN FRAZER: Yes, he really ought to be up in the limelight along with myself and obviously that
hasn't happened. But I take the opportunity whenever I can to acknowledge his contribution. And I
think at least in the scientific community, it's well understood that he and I were equal partners
in this game.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Does Australia have you for life?

DR IAN FRAZER: Absolutely, I am an Australian through and through these days.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Ian Frazer, thanks for talking with us.

DR IAN FRAZER: Thank you. Thank you, Kerry.

Qld scientists winning fire ant battle

Qld scientists winning fire ant battle

Broadcast: 17/04/2007

Reporter: Genevieve Hussey

Queensland scientists say they are winning the fight against the South American red fire ant and
have been so successful, other countries are looking to follow their lead.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: Scientists in a completely different field in Queensland have also forced other
countries to sit up and take notice. Six years ago, authorities began a desperate battle against a
destructive new pest that had invaded Australia, the South American red fire ant. In the US, the
fight to contain this invader is all but lost and fire ants cause many, many millions of dollars of
damage to agriculture every year. But Queensland scientists say they're winning the fight to
eradicate the pest and they've been so successful, other countries are looking to follow
Australia's lead. Genevieve Hussey reports.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: For the past six years, these men and women have been on the frontline in a
battle against a vicious and persistent invader. The South American red fire ant is a poisonous
introduced pest that has caused massive environmental and economic damage overseas.

CRAIG JENNINGS, SPECIALIST SERVICES, FIRE ANT CONTROL CENTRE: They just get into such large
numbers, that they eventually just out-compete other ant species. People in their backyards are
constantly bitten and you do get the anaphylactic shock reactions, you do get these nasty sores and
the pustules which come up from the bites.

DR ALAN ANDERSEN, ENTOMOLOGIST, CSIRO: If the fire ant in Queensland is left unmanaged, it can cost
us at least $ -billion over coming years.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Fire ants were first discovered in south east Queensland in 2001 but they had
clearly set up home in this country years before. Queensland's Department of Primary Industries
found almost 30,000 hectares of land were infested and the fire ants were spreading fast. No
country had ever been able to eradicate fire ants. The United States had already tried and failed
but Australian scientists thought it could be done.

DR ALAN ANDERSEN: There's never been a precedent anywhere in the world for a controlled operation
like this on this scale, so it was a very difficult task and it was mostly because the ant had been
there for many years before it was detected.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: A massive baiting and surveillance program began with 400 ant control officers
spreading bait at 100,000 properties across Brisbane. The hormone bait targeted the queen, the only
ant in the colony that can reproduce.

CAROLINE MAWDITT, TEAM LEADER, FIRE ANT CONTROL CENTRE: Basically, the object of this is that it
will attract the worker ants. They will feed this to the queen down in the nest and this will make
her infertile.

NEIL O'BRIEN, GENERAL MANAGER, FIRE ANT CONTROL CENTRE: We find them, we kill them. We find the
colony today, it'll be dead later on today. Then we apply a treatment regime of three treatments
within around 500 metres of that colony. Three treatments each year for two years and then for
another two years we do a program of surveillance to make sure the area is free of fire ants.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: A major public education campaign was also initiated, alerting the community to
the danger of fire ants. In six years, tens of thousands of ant samples have been sent to the lab
for testing. The other weapon at the control team's disposal has been a unique computer habitat
model, a program which uses environmental data to predict where the ants will be found.

CRAIG JENNINGS: Basically, came back and told us area where fire ants were most likely to be
compared, to where they wouldn't be.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: So, it enabled you to narrow down your search?

CRAIG JENNINGS: Absolutely.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Six years on, Queensland's ant control program is being hailed a major success.

NEIL O'BRIEN: Back in 2001, we estimated there were approximately 65,000 colonies of red imported
fire ant here in south east Queensland. To give you an idea of where we've come, back last
financial year we found 347 colonies and so far this financial year, we've found just over 100
colonies.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: So that's - you see that as a big success, obviously?

NEIL O'BRIEN: That's a massive success.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: So much so that overseas countries under threat from the pest have been
travelling to Australia to see what we've been doing right. Scientists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, New
Zealand and China have all been studying Australia's program.

NEIL O'BRIEN: We think we are one of the world leaders for the simple fact that no one has ever
eradicated fire ants in the world. We're the closest anyone has come.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: But success has come at a heavy price. While millions of dollars have already
been spent, fire ants still remain in isolated pockets around Brisbane. The ant control team says
at this stage, there's no time limit on its goal of total eradication and it maintains it's worth
every cent.

(to Neil O'Brien) How is it justified?

NEIL O'BRIEN: As of this current financial year, we will have spent $175 million eradicating fire
ants from Australia. Back at the beginning of the program, six years ago, there was a cost benefit
analysis conducted which indicated the cost to the Australian economy over 30 years would be $8.9
billion.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Does it concern you at all that maybe we can't eradicate them and we've just got
this ongoing expense of trying to control them forevermore?

NEIL O'BRIEN: I think we need to maintain our eye on the end prize, which is eradication.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: With ant control officers still treating 14,000 hectares of land, CSIRO ant
entomologist Alan Andersen warns against claiming success prematurely.

NEIL O'BRIEN: There have been some false hurrahs, if you like, of people thinking various pest
species have been eradicated. But I think it's just a message to us that we have to be increasingly
vigilant to build on the money that we've spent so well to date.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Queensland's ant control team remains convinced the job can be done but admits
fining Australia's last fire ant will be tough.

JENNY BIBO, FIRE ANT CONTROL CENTRE: Bit like the needle in the hay stack, I guess. It will be
difficult because they are single nests, they're not major infestations that we're finding now, so
we need everybody out helping us.

CRAIG JENNINGS: Within six years, we've achieved what nobody else has achieved. We're just into
that last stage. Now we've just got to go and get that last ant.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That will just leave the cane toad. Genevieve Hussey with that report.

That's it for tonight. We'll be back at the same time tomorrow. But for now goodnight.