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Labor too slow to act as fire ants spread to Ballina

Fire ants have been discovered in Wardell, south of Ballina, New South Wales, after Labor
was too slow to act on its red imported fire ant response program.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the latest
infestation, 85 kilometres south of the Queensland border, is another sign that Labor has
lost control of eradicating the pest.
Mr Littleproud warned many times last year that Labor’s $268 million over four years in
federal funding to eradicate fire ants risked not being enough.
He said the latest discovery should trigger an urgent review of fire ant eradication funding.
“The whole country has been put at risk of fire ants because Labor was too slow to act,” Mr
Littleproud said.
“Ballina is one of the most popular tourism areas in the country – it’s no small issue that this
slice of paradise risks having its tourism title destroyed by fire ants if Labor doesn’t get on
top of this.
“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.
“The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program strategic review also estimated
that at least $200 to $300 million per year was required. Labor’s funding was needed
urgently in 2023, which put the time-critical response at risk.
“It has been obvious for some time the funding was not going to be enough. The lack of
action and the delays in funding undermined previous work that had been done under the
Coalition Government to control fire ants.”
The Ballina finding also comes just days after fire ants were spotted floating in floodwaters
around the Gold Coast and warnings that fire ants could spread further south after being
detected in Murwillumbah.
Mr Littleproud added it took The Nationals to call for a Senate inquiry into the matter for
Labor to finally act, but that was still too little, too late.
“The Invasive Species Council warned red imported fire ants were at risk of spreading
beyond current containment zones and that parks, school playgrounds and beaches have
been closing over summer due to fire ants.
“The Commonwealth should have been showing leadership on this issue but continued to
drag the chain. Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is nowhere to be seen on this.
“The Nationals have long been warning the spread of fire ants will cost our economy $2
billion annually and there could be more than 140,000 extra medical visits every year.
“Fire ants could also devastate wildlife and cut agricultural output by up to 40 per cent.
“Labor and Minister Watt must now explain how they allowed red imported fire ants to
spread to Ballina and immediately detail their plan to control the New South Wales invasion.
“We do not want to see this area go from ‘beautiful one day, fire ant Ballina’ the next.”

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