Ask anyone to sum up the Australian way of life and the word barbeque will almost certainly come up, and for good reason, the backyard barbie with friends and family has long been a mainstay of Aussie culture.
But in some parts of Queensland this staple of Australian life is under threat. Parts of Queensland are now infested with Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) which have disrupted all outdoor activities, farmland, and the natural environments.
It is no exaggeration to say that the backyard barbie could soon become a thing of the past.
How is this possible, you ask. The answer is simple – government failure. A 2021 review of the fire ant eradication program concluded it was grossly under-resourced and needed a new plan of attack. But governments have sat on this report for two years and still avoid a real commitment to eradication of this pest.
Governments, both state and federal, are failing Australians when it comes to eradicating ‘new’ pests, like fire ants, or to reducing the impacts of widely established pests like feral pigs.
And what is worse, they appear to be raising the white flag, surrendering the integrity of our biosecurity systems, be it for eradication, containment, or control of pest populations.
Failure to adequately resource and coordinate biosecurity programs seems to have become ‘business as usual’.
Without urgent commitment and actions from all levels of government, our biosecurity system will continue to degrade, increasing both the risk of new exotic pests and the impacts of established pests.
A major review of Australia’s biosecurity system in 2017 identified many risks, and corresponding changes, that our national system requires to be fit for purpose.
But there has been little evidence of these changes being implemented, apart from more documents stating the governments’ good intentions.
Agricultural industries will soon pay a new biosecurity tax, proceeds of which will go directly to Treasury coffers.
At best, these funds will be used to prop up the “business as usual” approach to our national biosecurity, which, as noted above, is far from adequate.
Unfortunately, the problems caused by many invasive pests and weeds are not well known or understood outside of regional farming communities. As a result, governments have not felt sufficiently pressured to provide the funding and resources needed to properly tackle these issues.
Enough is enough. It is time our state and federal governments fulfilled their duty to protect our homes, our businesses, or natural environment, and our way of life from ‘foreign’ invasion.
It is time biosecurity is taken seriously and given the resources, funding, expertise, and leadership required to not just slow the onslaught, but win the war against invasive species.