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Ant staffers 'indifferent'

A PROGRAM to eradicate fire ants was doomed to fail because it relied on field staff with no motivation to unearth new infestations, a former team leader claims.

Ron Nash (pictured) spent years working for the State Government's fire ant program, at times supervising up to 80 field staff.

He said that hiring the long-term unemployed to search for the pest at the peak of the crisis proved ``virtually devastating to the program''.

``The Government hired people who were virtually unemployable,'' Mr Nash said. ``At least 60-75 per cent of the young people hadn't worked before (and) weren't interested in working.''

Enthusiastic field workers struggled with motivation after more than a year of searching without finding a single nest, sources said.

Former senior government policy officer on fire ants, whistleblower Pam Swepson, said widespread aerial baiting had been recommended as the best chance of stopping fire ants but had been rejected by the State Government amid concerns of a public backlash, leaving the job to field workers.

A government source told The Sunday Mail the limited aerial baiting that was conducted sparked dozens of public complaints and a more extensive program would have triggered a mass outcry over the perceived health risks.

Last week the LNP pledged an independent review of the fire ant eradication program should it win office.

Biosecurity Queensland control centre deputy director Craig Jennings said a rapid recruitment and selection process was required to fill more than 500 positions in the early stages of the fire ant program, but said the workforce had proven dedicated and effective.

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