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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3168

Mr HOLLIS —Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the spread of the noxious weed known as fire weed in New South Wales?

Mr Steedman —Not Paterson's curse?

Mr HOLLIS —It is not Paterson's curse I am concerned about this time but fire weed. What steps are being taken to control the spread of this weed?

Mr KERIN —The honourable member for Macarthur comes from the beautiful hills of Jamberoo. For a moment I was concerned that he might be talking about a local fire water. As you know, Mr Speaker, you have made representations to me about the problem caused by Chinese scrub. There seems to be a proliferation of weeds at present and many of those have been provoked by an ending of the drought. The problem of fire weed has been drawn to my attention. It is an introduced annual free-seeding plant that has appeared in epidemic proportions following the excellent rains that have fallen throughout eastern Australia as a result of the change in government. This weed is not as bad as Paterson's curse, which I understand Mr O'Keefe disowns, but it is a serious pest in pasture areas throughout eastern New South Wales by virtue of its being poisonous to cattle and horses and its ability to compete strongly with production pasture types.

There are only two methods at present available to control fire weed. They are chemical spraying, which of course is very expensive, and competition by other pasture species. With regard to the longer term solution-we are on to it-I understand that the New South Wales Government will be applying to the Australian weeds committee to have the fire weed declared a candidate for biological control. If that is successful we will ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to survey the weed in southern Africa for biological control organisms. I take this opportunity to say that, as honourable members will know, at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting in Port Moresby on 1 August the Agricultural Council took the decision that joint Commonwealth and State legislation would be introduced for biological control, not just for Paterson's curse but for all these weeds that are coming up. The Department of Health and the Department of Primary Industry have been working on that. A Cabinet submission will come forward and this matter will again be discussed at the next Agricultural Council meeting in February.