Budget Review 2011-12 Index

Budget 2011–12: Pests

Bill McCormick

Animal and Plant Pest and Disease Eradication Programs—meeting existing commitments

Australia has been subject to numerous incursions of plant and animal pests and pathogens that require eradication or control. The Commonwealth government has committed $15.4 million over two years in this Budget to meet existing cost-sharing commitments to state and territory governments and relevant industries relating to pest and disease eradication. The funding is aimed at the eradication of at least two plant diseases, four insect pests and five weeds. However, the funding levels will decrease from $12.6 million in 2010–11 to $2.8 million in 2011–2012, with no further funding provided.[1]

The lack of funding in the forward estimates may be linked to the conclusion by authorities that it is not technically feasible to eradicate either myrtle rust, eight months after the pest was first detected in Australia, or the Asian honey bee (after four years of eradication and control effort). Authorities are still attempting to eradicate chestnut blight that was first discovered in, and is still limited to, the Ovens Valley in Victoria in September 2010.[2] In a post-Budget speech, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry stated:

The funding is for existing agreements only and doesn’t prevent the Government from entering into new commitments to combat other incursions, should they occur.

The funding I have announced today demonstrates that the Federal Government is pulling its weight in the mutual obligation of eradicating and managing pests that have passed the border. Under the established cost sharing obligations funding is borne by Federal, State and territory governments and by industry. Overall efforts into pest eradication and management are measured by the strength of all players acting together.[3]

Four of the weeds and one of the insects referred to in Budget Paper No. 2 are listed as part of key threatening processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC).[4] Two of the other insect species are ‘tramp ants’(ant species that come to Australia through a variety of transport means, for example in cargo, and successfully colonise new areas). These are subject to a Threat Abatement Plan under the EPBC Act.[5]

The decision that it is not technically feasible to eradicate the Asian honeybee has been challenged by many in the bee-keeping industry. It was reported that Queensland was the only state that wanted to continue the eradication program. According to Dr Max Whitten, Chairman of the Wheen Foundation, the implications of non-eradication could be devastating, possibly even leading to the ‘elimination of feral European honey bee colonies in Australia, damaging commercial and amateur bee-keeping.’[6] The honey industry claimed that the Federal government wanted them to contribute $1 million to continue the eradication program.[7] The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said that this does not mean that control activities will cease.[8] On 31 March 2011, the Senate requested that the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests meet again to reconsider the feasibility of eradicating the Asian honey bee but the Committee could not reach consensus about whether this species could be eradicated.[9] The eradication program is being continued.

The response to 31 March 2011 included an eradication program to detect and destroy any Asian honey bee swarms and nests, the introduction of movement restrictions controlling managed bees and beekeeping equipment and a notification system so all hives reported could be destroyed.[10]

Yellow crazy ants on Christmas Island—continuation of control efforts

Yellow crazy ants are an invasive species that many island communities around the world have unsuccessfully attempted to eradicate. On Christmas Island the species has affected the forest ecosystem and is listed as a ‘Key Threatening Process’ under the EPBC Act.[11] Yellow crazy ants were accidentally introduced to Christmas Island sometime between 1915 and 1934. They have no natural predators on the island, have a high reproductive rate and form super-colonies with up to 300 queens and millions of ants.[12]

The yellow crazy ant super-colonies, first discovered in1989, only occur on Christmas Island and, at their greatest extent, affected 25 per cent of the island’s forest area. [13] These super-colonies pose the greatest threat to the island’s biodiversity. The huge numbers of crazy ants kill and displace the island’s many species of crabs, including the red crabs that are of fundamental importance to the ecology of the island’s forests. [14]

According to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, on the Christmas Island National Park website, ‘populations of other ground and canopy dwelling animals, such as reptiles and other leaf litter fauna have also decreased’.[15]

A major baiting campaign focussing on super-colonies occurred in 2009. It covered 784 hectares, and reduced crazy ant densities in the targeted area by 99 per cent.  The $4 million to be provided over four years is for research into biological control of the pest. The cost will be met from within the existing resourcing of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.[16]

[1].          Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 86, viewed 16 May 2011,

[2].          Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), Eradication of Chestnut blight supported by the National Management Group, communiqué, 10 December 2010, AQIS website, viewed 16 May 2011,

[3].          J  Ludwig ( Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry), Post Budget Speech to Crop-Life, Canberra, transcript, 12 May 2011, viewed 19 May 2011,

[4].          Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), ‘Listed Key Threatening processes’, DSEWPC website, viewed 17 May 2011,

[5].          Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), Threat abatement plan to reduce the impacts of tramp ants on biodiversity in Australia and its territories, DEH, Canberra, 2006, viewed18 May 2011,

[6].          M Whitten, ‘Invader menacing our $80 m honey industry must be wiped out’, Canberra Times, 2 March 2011, p. 19, viewed 17 May 2011,

[7].          R Beeby, ‘Beekeepers stung by Govt’s stance’, Canberra Times, 3 March 2011, p. 4, viewed 17 May 2011,

[8].          C Jay, ‘Inaction on alien bee to hurt farmers’, Australian Financial Review,11 March 2011, p. 52, viewed 18 May 2011, http://parlinfo/parlInfo/download/media/pressclp/

[9].          Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), ‘The Asian honeybee in Australia’, DAFF website, viewed 17 May 2011,

[10].        Ibid.

[11].        Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), ‘Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity following invasion by Yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepsis gracilipes) on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean’, DSEWPC website, viewed 17 May 2011,

[12].        Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), ‘Yellow crazy ants‘, DSEWPC website, viewed 17 May 2011,

[13].        Ibid.

[14].        Ibid.

[15].        Ibid.

[16].        Budget paper no. 2, op cit., p. 314.