Australia’s defences against harmful invasive species need massive overhaul

Media Release |

A Senate inquiry into stopping new invasive species from causing severe environmental damage in Australia will be told tomorrow the country’s defences are failing and need a massive overhaul.

“Australia is one of the countries most badly damaged by invasive species,” CEO of the Invasive Species Council, Andrew Cox, said today. 

“More than half of the 100 listed world’s worst invasive species can be found in Australia.

“We have one of the highest rates of extinction and decline of species in the world, with widespread degradation and displacement of native species caused by introduced species.

“More than two-thirds of Australia’s nationally-listed threatened species are imperilled by invasive plants, animals or pathogens.”

The Senate inquiry into preventing new invasive species impacting on the environment will be seeking answers during its first Canberra hearings on Friday.  

“The inquiry has already revealed a regular pattern of new invasive species arriving in Australia and escaping into the bush, causing severe environmental damage,” Mr Cox said.
“The Federal Government claims Australia benefits from a ‘strong biosecurity system’ and that the country is ‘free of many pests and diseases common elsewhere’. 

“Yet we know this is not the case when it comes to protecting Australia’s natural environment from new invasive species, with evidence already revealing examples of poor management of biosecurity risks harming the environment. 

“There is almost no contingency planning for high priority environmental risks and quarantine systems are failing, as shown by repeated incursions of invasive tramp ants such as yellow crazy ants and red imported fire ants.”

At the hearings will be the Community and Public Sector Union, which surveyed 300 of its members and found that nearly ‘three quarters (71.3%) of CPSU members said that current biosecurity arrangements were inadequate or really inadequate to prevent the entry and establishment of invasive species’. 

Also giving evidence will be the Wet Tropics Management Authority, which said in its submission: ‘While Australia has developed contingency plans for major agricultural pests, we still need a similar set of contingency plans to defend against environmental pests, weeds and diseases.’

In its submission to the inquiry the Plant Biosecurity CRC warned, ‘Current resourcing of biosecurity RD&E [research, development and extension] is low and presents a risk to the long-term effectiveness of Australia’s biosecurity shield.’

Also giving evidence is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is concerned about the spread of marine invaders from ballast water and biofouling.

Giving evidence at the Canberra hearing on Friday 31 October will be:

  • Community and Public Sector Union
  • Plant Biosecurity CRC
  • Invasive Animals CRC
  • Wet Tropics Management Authority
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of the Environment
  • Plant Health Australia
  • Animal Health Australia

More info

For more information contact Andrew Cox on 0438 588 040

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