Who’s funding fire ant eradication?

In May 2016, the independent review of the red fire ant eradication program recommended that the program’s funding be enhanced from the current $18 million each year to $38 million each year.

So who will be paying to deliver this $38 million per year program for the 10 years needed to eradicate red fire ants from Australia?

In short, all governments of Australia will be paying. Funding will continue to be based on a national agreement where 50% is provided by the federal government with the balance of funding provided by each state and territory according to their population.

Determining state and territory government contributions

Normally each state and territory’s contribution would further depend on how each state would benefit from the program, based on the predicted uncontrolled spread of the invasive species in question. Those states that would ultimately end up with more of their state impacted by the particular pest or disease would pay proportionally more. However, for red fire ants ABARES climate modelling (see figure 1 below) predicts that between 99 and 100% of each mainland state and territory is susceptible to fire ants, while about 80% of Tasmania is likely to be affected. Tasmania thus pays a little less on a per capita basis.

Table 1 below shows the amount currently paid by each government and the amount proposed under the enhanced program.


Table 1: Respective government contributions to the national red fire ant eradication program, current (2016-17) and proposed under the enhanced $38 million per year eradication program.

Government % share1 Current2 $ Proposed $
Federal 50.0%  7,500,000  19,000,000
NSW 16.9%  2,535,000  6,422,000
Vic 12.4%  1,860,000  4,712,000
Qld 9.4%  1,410,000  3,572,000
WA 4.9%  735,000  1,862,000
SA 3.9%  585,000  1,482,000
Tas 1.2%  180,000  456,000
ACT 0.8%  120,000  304,000
NT 0.5%  75,000  190,000
Qld extra2  3,000,000  –
Total 100.0%  18,000,000  38,000,000


  1. Source: Standing Council of Primary Industries 3 May 2013 meeting resolution Annex B table 1. In 2017 the Invasive Species Council was informed that the % breakdown has been slightly modified for the program after July 2017 but has not received any figures.
  2. Allocations for 2016-17 per government based on $15 million expenditure.
  3. Queensland government contributed between $3M and $5.9M in additional funds each year from 2010-11 to 2015-16. Source: Magee, B. et. al. 2016. Independent review of the national red imported fire ant eradication program.


Figure 1: Indication of areas in Australia suitable for red fire ants based on climate potential. 10 indicates a close match. Map produced by ABARES in 2008 for the national red fire ant eradication program.

Figure 1: Indication of areas in Australia suitable for red fire ants based on climate potential. 10 indicates a close match. Map produced by ABARES in 2008 for the national red fire ant eradication program.

Spending over the last six years was supplemented by an additional $23.7 million from Queensland (20-40% on top of each year’s $15 million eradication budget) in recognition of the importance of eradication to their state and to encourage other states to fund for multi-year periods. For some years, Queensland was the largest funding contributor.

Western Australia stopped contributing to the eradication program for three years prior to 2017 due to their concerns about the running of the program and the belief that they could keep red fire ants from reaching their state.

Eradication spending as a proportion of biosecurity budgets

The Invasive Species Council has undertaken further analysis to compare each state’s contribution as a proportion of their current yearly agriculture expenditure. Where a government’s biosecurity expenditure could be determined, this percentage was also provided.

For South Australia, the enhanced red fire ant eradication program would make up 4.9% of their biosecurity budget or this year, followed by Queensland (3.2%) and the federal government (2.8%).

As a proportion of each government’s entire agriculture expenditure this year, the enhanced eradication funding would make up on average 1.2% of total expenditure, with the federal government (1.9%), Western Australia (1.6%) and Victoria (1.3%) exceeding the average.  Table 2 below provides a full breakdown of these percentages.

Table 2: Proposed enhanced red fire ant eradication ($38m/year) as a proportion of government agriculture and biosecurity budgeted spending for 2016-17.


Proposed $000

Total agriculture  budget 2016-17 $000


Biosecurity budget 2016-17 $000































































  • All governments except ACT fund red fire ant eradication and other biosecurity activities from their agriculture portfolios.
  • n/a – figures not readily available.
  • Sourced from State budget papers and advice received from departmental officers.


The eradication of red fire ants is a truly national program, funding by all governments based on each government’s capacity to pay and the extent that the fire ant will infest that state in the longer term.

All Australian’s should be rightly concerned about the prospect of fire ants directly impacting their lives – whether it is making their backyards and picnic areas unusable, impacting their business, or damaging the environment they value. We should therefore be demanding that our state or territory government and the federal government allocate the needed funds to do the job of eradicating the ants.


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2 Responses to “Who’s funding fire ant eradication?”

  1. The panel of the ‘independent review’ released in May 2016 acknowledged the ‘generous contribution of time and support’ from all Biosecurity Queensland managers involved in the fire ant program and acknowledged the work of the modellers from Monash Uni.

    The terms of reference for the review asked for modelling of the cost-benefit of ALL options for a future fire ant program: eradication, containment and/or management.

    The modellers from Monash were selected only so their findings would be consistent with the findings of other work they had provided Biosecurity Queensland on contract.

    The Monash modellers admitted that they could not, in fact, model the south-east Queensland fire ant program and could only provide guidance and not the optimal approach. The Monash modellers considered ONLY an eradication option, and only one based on the continuing use of the failed remote-sensing surveillance technology or not.

    The Monash modellers could do no better than recommend the same amount of money again ($380m is close to the $400m spent over the last 15 years), for another 10 years, with even less scrutiny than now, so that Biosecurity Queensland managers can continue with the same programs that have seen the fire ant infestation in south-east Queensland blow out from 40,000ha in 2002 to over 400,000ha in 2016.

    We have to hope that the Agriculture Ministers agree to fund a future fire ant eradication program, but we have to hope that the Ministers base their decision sound data.


  1. Fire ant eradication: inching towards approval one state at a time - Invasive Species Council - 11 April, 2017

    […] of the eradication program. Funding is based on a per-capita formula (see our Feral Herald blog Who’s Funding Fire Ant Eradication). All nine governments must come to a unanimous decision and one reluctant state can threaten the […]