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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3749

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (13:48): As this is the second last sitting day before Easter, I take this opportunity not only to wish members a safe, happy and meaningful Easter but to raise an important and re-emerging threat to our natural environment. Along with Easter eggs, the Easter bunny has become a commercial symbol of Easter. In an effort to raise public awareness and funds to support the fight against this unwanted and destructive pest, the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia, in association with the iconic Adelaide company Haigh's Chocolates, has promoted the Easter bilby as a replacement for the Easter bunny.

Within 70 years of their introduction to Australia, rabbits had colonised two-thirds of the continent. They have caused unimaginable environmental damage. Myxomatosis, introduced in the 1950s, gave us our first successful biological control and lifted profitability in the wool and meat industry by about $1 billion a year in current terms. Unfortunately, the rabbits have become increasingly resistant to the virus and in 1995 the calicivirus was released as our second biological control, reducing rabbits to a historically low level for over 10 years.

The agricultural benefits of calicivirus had been valued at over $2 billion, but numbers are rebuilding and the next tool of control must be found quickly. In the medium to long term, rabbits will decimate the Australian landscape, including local extinction of plant species, irreversible changes in vegetation across vast areas of Australia and a loss of fauna dependent on those vegetation communities. Members will find an eastern bilby, courtesy of the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia and Haigh's Chocolates, in their places. I ask them to enjoy and consider what they can do to help Australia with this four-legged pest.