False caper (Euphorbia terracina)
False caper (Euphorbia terracina)
© John Virtue
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Recent letter sent to The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Australian Minister for Agriculture (June 2014)

Dear Minister

The Council of Australasian Weed Societies (CAWS) is deeply concerned about proposals in the 2014-15 Federal budget that have serious implications for weed research and policy in Australia.

CAWS is an independent body with an interest in weeds and their management. The council consists of delegates from weed societies from every state of Australia and the Plant Protection Society of New Zealand.

We are concerned about the decision to reduce budgets for scientific research, which have already been in serious decline.

The Federal Budget included cuts to the budgets of CSIRO ($111M), Australian Research Council ($75M) and the dropping of the latest round of CRC proposals ($80M). The reduction in research funding is likely to have long-term implications for the ability to conduct critical weed research in Australia and work on biological control agents for weeds, work that is essential in mitigating and controlling weeds across Australia.

There is an urgent need to re-establish a body similar to the Australian Weed Management CRC that was closed in 2008 and the uncertainty over the future of CRCs will prevent the work underway to re-establish this body.

We also ask you to reconsider the decision to abolish the intergovernmental Australian Weeds Committee and by merging its functions into those of the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC). There needs to be a dedicated body to take a national approach to weed policy through collaboration of state, territory and federal governments. This is particularly important given that the Australian Weeds Strategy 2007 is out of date and presently under review. The Australian Weeds Committee is inexpensive and has very different roles to the NBC.

Australian agriculture and the environment are at serious risk from the growing threat of weeds. Weeds cost Australian agriculture an estimated $4 billion each year while invasive species such as weeds are second only to habitat loss as a current threat to biodiversity. Increased herbicide resistance and also the recent deregistration of several useful herbicides has increased the cost of weed control in many situations, and also increased the importance of weed research and the development of biological controls to solve weed problems.

In summary, we ask that you:

Yours sincerely
Dr Kerry C. Harrington
Secretary, CAWS

(Click here to see the response from the Minister of Agriculture to this letter).