Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Biological Control Amendment Bill 2016; Second Reading
In dealing with the organisms and defining what we mean in the regulations pursuant to the various acts involved, previous members speaking on the Biological Control Amendment Bill 2016 have all talked about the problems of introduced species, and I have the unenviable task of representing in this place two of the worst fatalities to the Australian environment. Get a map of North Queensland's midwest plains, where you could drive for some 600 kilometres and just watch rolling, rich black soil plains as far as the eye can see, on either side of the road. The sun map of Queensland says that across this area are the best natural grasslands in Australia. The map does not now say that, because seven million hectares, an area the size of Tasmania, has been heavily infested with the prickly acacia tree. And I think we are now ready: the minister could take cognisance of the fact that although we have had a lot of fighting about how to go about eradicating this plant we now have it right, and the time to strike upon this pestilence is now.
The most endangered species in Australia—except for Australian farmers and railway workers!—is the Julia Creek dunnart. It is a pretty little fellow, a bit like a miniature kangaroo, if you like. It is a carnivore, and it eats insects. The insects lived on the Flinders and Mitchell grasses, the natural grasses for this area, which are excellent grasses for cattle, sheep, kangaroos or whatever. But the grasses have been replaced with the prickly acacia tree, which has no leaves on it for most of the year. It shoots a bit of green leaf, after the wet season, and then that's it; it lies dormant and is just a big mass of prickles for the rest of the year, so there is nothing for the insects to live on. The grass does not grow under these trees. So the insect is gone, and of course they are the food for the dunnart, so it is rapidly racing towards extinction.
And I cannot help but mention the colossal damage done by the green movement in this country. I took my grandchildren to the museum in Brisbane, where they had the most endangered species in Australia, and, quite rightly, it was the dunnart. It said that the danger to the dunnart was because of hard-hoofed animals 'pugging down the ground'. For a good laugh, it would be hard to beat this one. The ground is on all the geographical maps as vertisol soil—cracking clays. For 600 kilometres in the latter part of the year, if the ground is cracked open, down to a depth of two feet, it just cracks. And we have no less an institution than the Queensland Museum—it obviously got this information from some other ratbag organisation—saying that it is the pugging down of the ground that is destroying the habitat for the Julia Creek dunnart. Vertisol soils, which to a layman are cracking clays, by very definition cannot 'pug down'. This is all very funny, but it gives some dimension to how science in Australia has been raped and pillaged by the green movement in this country. If you go back 30 years, I think a lot of people like myself would probably have been regarded as a bit green, but never did we see or envisage the sort of extremism and antiscience that has set in. These are people for whom, if it does not fit in with their view of where Australia should be going, then it is wrong. They cannot see scientific reality, and here was a classic case of it.
The toads: I find that the only efficient way to dispatch with toads—my son bashes them on the head with a golf club or something like that, because they poison one of his dogs, continuously—is with an air rifle. That is the quintessential implement for removing a toad—nice, clean, quick, and away it goes. My wife has run around with plastic bags, and has poured disinfectant, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things, and that is not where we want to go here at all.
I think the most important, serious issue that continuously vexes us all over Australia—from the botanical gardens in Melbourne to the street of Cairns in Far North Queensland, but my home town of Charters Towers is one of the places that has been most devastated—is flying foxes. In Charters Towers some 50,000 of them harbour fairly regularly in a beautiful park that was on the best-selling Christmas card in Australia one year—the old Boer War memorial band rotunda in the middle of the park, with magnificent trees, some of them 130 or 140 years old, some of them towering up some 100 feet. They are all destroyed, all gone. No-one is game to set foot in the park, because the ground is covered by the flying foxes' droppings, and they are in the trees, so they can drop their droppings on you while you are walking around. And these animals are carrying the most terrifying diseases. The Nipah disease in the Malaysian isthmus is an Ebola-like disease. Around 250 people contracted the disease and 116 died of the disease. Those bats—flying foxes—from there carried the disease south into Indonesia, and Indonesian bats carried them south into Australia. So let's start with Nipah.
The SARS virus, which reportedly killed some 200 people in eastern Asia, is also carried by flying foxes. In some cases they are the delivering vector; in other cases they are the originating vector, but this we are absolutely certain of: the bats carry a lyssavirus. Every person who has ever contracted lyssavirus in Australia has died. The 60 Minutes program showed the agonising death of a little boy on an island where there are still bats. I hope and pray that someday somebody comes along and pursues the Minister for Health in the Queensland government and sues them personally under the criminal clauses of the negligence common laws of Australia. I have never been a person who has advocated putting people in jail, but when you know that this danger is there and you can remove it, and you do absolutely nothing, then you are responsible. I have no hesitation in saying to the Minister for Health in Queensland, whoever it might be: when people contract this disease it is your responsibility to remove those flying foxes from population centres. It is so simple. People in Charters Towers had terrible trouble and they kept their lawnmower running underneath the trees for two or three days. And God bless them, because we now know that is one sure way of getting rid of them. Put a radio in the tree and turn it on full volume. In the case of Charters Towers park, put radios in the trees. The beautiful centre of our town has been completely destroyed. Trees, some of them 150 years old, are completely destroyed. I would be very loath to allow children to run around in that park. In the days of my youth, we used to play football on it barefoot.
I will go through the diseases. Firstly, there is lyssavirus, which is a rabies type disease. Everyone who has got it has died. There is the hendra virus—it would appear that two out of every six people who have contracted the hendra virus have died. They tested 119 bats—most of the bats were ones that had fallen out of the trees or had been involved in an incident with human beings—and 16 of them tested positive for lyssavirus. In other words, they had had lyssavirus or, at that moment, still had the disease in their systems—a disease that is very transferable to human beings. So, you have hendra and lyssavirus and you have leptospirosis. I rang up one of the doctors—I think it is probably best if I do not mention the town—and, reading between the lines, I said, 'This looks like leptospirosis.' He said, 'The doctor diagnosed it as flu, and the symptoms were almost identical.' I said, 'Is that two?' and he said, 'No, it is three deaths in the last 15 months that I would have diagnosed as leptospirosis. They were not my patients, but if they were I am certain I would have diagnosed it as leptospirosis and they would be alive today.' I do not think it is an exaggeration to say we are probably losing five to 10 people every year in North Queensland from either (a) leptospirosis or (b) doctors misdiagnosing. I am not blaming the doctors, because it is very difficult to separate one from the other. Everyone comes in with a bout of flu. Are we going to test them for leptospirosis? Probably we should—I am just saying it is another disease. Salmonella is another disease, and in the countries just north of us they have Nipah, which killed 116 people in one outbreak, and SARS, which killed over 200 people in the last outbreak. All of them are being carried by this fairly dirty animal.
I am part of a family that have lived in North Queensland for 150 years or more—I am dark and come from Cloncurry, and I often claim that I have First Australians somewhere in the family tree—and we have no memory of flying foxes being in these numbers. I have been on the planet for going on to three-quarters of a century, and I have never, ever seen the proliferation of flying foxes such as is taking place today. I have heard the pathetic ravings of the green brigade. They will say, 'We have invaded their habitat.' In the days when these towns were little tiny hamlets of 100 people, there were no flying foxes. You would not see a flying fox in a million years in a place like Charters Towers. Its natural condition is very barren and arid. You will not find any self-respecting flying fox in the old, ubiquitous ironbark trees—that is for certain—or in the bloodwood trees. These are the local, natural species. You will not even find them in a black wattle tree. But you will find them in the mango trees and the fruit trees in your backyard and in the beautiful myriad of other trees that we grow for their beauty and their flowering. We human beings, homo sapiens, were the species that created a paradise there, and it is the flying foxes that have invaded that paradise. For the First Australians, the boomerang is actually an instrument shaped particularly for taking out a flying fox, but I do not have time tonight to go into that. (Time expired)