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Queensland bureaucrats brawl over crazy ants.



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HON WARREN TRUSS MP MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY

AFFA01/101WT 1 May 2001

Queensland bureaucrats brawl over crazy ants

Serious questions have been raised about Queensland’s ability to manage any incursion of exotic pests after Premier Beattie was forced to intervene yesterday in an on-going squabble between State departments over the eradication of an infestation of crazy ants, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Warren Truss, said today.

Mr Truss said the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries attempted to shove responsibility for the problem off to the State’s Environment Protection Agency, causing a delay of several days in the management of eradication efforts.

Under constitutional arrangements, the States have primary responsibility for the management and clean up of any incursions of exotic pests.

"Who knows how far the crazy ants could have spread while the Queensland Ministers and their bureaucrats squabbled over who would handle the eradication. Finally, the Premier has become involved because he recognised an opportunity for a media stunt and because his two Ministers could not agree.

"Even then, his main interest was to find some way of getting the Commonwealth to pay for the eradication," Mr Truss said.

"The Queensland Department of Primary Industries attempted to shove the matter to the Queensland Environment Department on the basis that the crazy ants were more a threat to the environment than agriculture. This back and forth exchange continued all last week.

"In the meantime, AQIS, which had detected the crazy ants in the first place (not the Queensland authorities), took action to contain the situation and engage a contractor to treat the infestation.

"The arguing between Queensland bureaucrats is continuing with both the QDPI and the EPA still refusing to take any action on the ground in Cairns, despite the risk that the ants may have spread.

"This situation in Cairns, as well as the slow response to the fire ants incursion in southern Queensland, which may have been in the area for more than five years, raise serious doubts about the State Government’s ability to handle any pest incursions in Queensland.

"Would they be any better if we were dealing with foot and mouth or mad cow disease?

"Such a bungling between State departments is unacceptable if Queensland is to be able to fight any threats to its clean and green image."

Minister's office: Yvonne Best (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 415 772

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Last updated 1 May 2001

URL: http://www.affa.gov.au/ministers/truss/releases/00/0101wt.html Commonwealth of Australia 2000