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Fire ant inquiry shows Labor failing and too slow to act: Littleproud

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The Hon. David Littleproud, Leader of The Nationals, Media Release, 18 April 2024

The Australian Labor Government has been warned to urgently review the current level of funding in order to eradicate red imported fire ants.

A report into findings of the red imported fire ants Senate inquiry shows more investigation into the current level of funding is needed, with ‘uninterrupted funding’ required to achieve eradication.

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said suggestions more funding is needed is extremely concerning. Mr Littleproud said The Nationals have been calling for extra funding since July last year and warned many times in 2023 that Labor’s $268 million over four years in federal funding to eradicate fire ants risked not being enough.

“The Response Plan in July said $592 million was required over the next four years to control the pest, including immediate funding for 2023-24,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Unfortunately, Labor didn’t commit to the funding until October, which led to unnecessary delays. The lack of action in funding also undermined previous work that had been done under the former Coalition Government to control fire ants.”

Mr Littleproud added it took The Nationals to call for a Senate inquiry into the matter for Labor to finally act and some of the revelations were startling.

“The whole country has been put at risk of fire ants because Labor has been too slow to act.

“The frightening thing is that if fire ants get up above the Great Dividing Range, it could potentially get into the Murray Darling Basin and that could effectively see the fire ants go right down to Adelaide. It would impact the whole country and have devastating consequences. Labor now needs to urgently respond to the inquiry and eradication must continue to be the focus.”

Red imported fire ants are expected to have a $2 billion per year impact on Australia’s economy if not kept under control and eventually eradicated, as well as reducing agricultural output by up to 40 per cent.

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