HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[9.44 pm]: I rise tonight on an issue of great concern to the constituents in the Mining and Pastoral electorate. I refer to the developing threat to our environment and in many respects to our way of life posed by the silent and largely unheralded invasion of our state by the army of cane toads. As honourable members would be aware, the cane toad was introduced to Queensland as a biological control agent in 1935. It was supposed to resolve problems with the cane beetle, which it did not actually manage to do. For a long time the cane toad was referred to as the Queensland cane toad, until it decided to cross the border into the Northern Territory and just became the ordinary cane toad. It has no natural predator, and it multiplies in vast numbers as it marches across northern Australia.

Those of us in this corner of the chamber are often labelled “nimby”—not in my backyard. Having seen what I have seen recently in the Kimberley, I suggest that nimby might be “not in my backyard yet”. I recently went out with Toad Busters in the Kimberley and in an hour we caught over 500 cane toads just south of Kununurra. They are moving at an incredible rate. In dissecting the animals, it became apparent that each female cane toad has in the region of 30 000 eggs. They are evolving, they are getting bigger and they are actually expanding at a huge rate. While the cane toad is in the Kimberley, it does not seem to worry us; from a Perth-centric point of view it is not here yet. But I would suggest that if these beasts end up marching along Bayview Terrace, Claremont in the Minister for Environment’s Nedlands electorate, or indeed—heaven forbid!—end up being in the Premier’s Cottesloe electorate, we would be getting a lot more concerned about the issue.

Again I want to point people to my website, which shows the filmed capture of over 500 cane toads in under an hour. I have to take my hat off to Toad Busters, a marvellous group of people in the Kimberley from a range of walks of life who dedicate hours every night and every week to the eradication of tens of thousands of cane toads in that area. What I am concerned about is that we have a strategy that takes us up to 2019, I think, but beyond then the strategy falls over. The other problem is what we are going to do at the expiry of that 2019 cane toad strategy. We already know that there has been a significant reduction in funding by this state government for Toad Busters, and indeed for the Stop the Toad program, which is now completely unfunded. The community in the Kununurra area is prepared to do the job. This government and the community here in Perth should be doing all they can to assist financially to help expand the programs in the Kimberley and indeed to help the community there, which almost to a man—and a woman for that matter—is wholly focused on eradicating cane toads. When I was out there, there were young Aboriginal boys, older Aboriginal women, young girls from the school, pastoralists—all sorts of people—getting involved in that program. But they need our help. Our help in most cases will have to be some sort of financial budgetary help to enable some of the scientific programs they are putting in place with the French and, I think, the Swedish who are coming over to work on biological control.

We really do need this government’s assistance in trying to restrict the movement and, indeed, stop the advancement of the cane toad which, as I say, at the moment has got past Kununurra. Once it gets into the Kimberley it will have an immense effect on the pastoral industry and on the broader environment right across the pristine Kimberley. It will not stop there. If we look at the projections for where the cane toad can travel, it will end up here in Perth. Members have seen these things. Their ability to breed is enormous and their numbers become enormous. We will not know what has hit us. Dogs in our yards will suffer; anything that predates, licks or touches these animals will die. We are currently losing Johnson’s crocodiles to them. Nothing is safe; all sorts of animals, including pythons are dying through interaction with cane toads. We must do something. It is our state’s responsibility. They are here and we need to do something about them now. I hope the government and the opposition will go to the next election with some promises on the eradication of these pests.

Go to top