891 ABC Adelaide, Matthew Abraham and David Bevan
02 May 2016
SUBJECT: The use of herpes virus to eradicate carp
Matthew Abraham: This does sound like almost a scene from some sort of horror movie. It could also if it’s not handled properly be one of the great cock-ups. I’m sure it will be handled correctly because they’re going to give themselves enough time. But you introduced a herpes virus that just targets carp and as David said they make up 80 to 90 per cent of most of the living things in our river systems in Australia.
David Bevan: Which is appalling.
Matthew Abraham: But that is enormous amount of a living creature.
David Bevan: But the minister responsible for this is our very own Christopher Pyne from South Australia. Have a listen to this interview we just recorded during AM. He’s very confident nothing can go wrong.
Matthew Abraham: Christopher Pyne, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, welcome to 891 Breakfast.
Christopher Pyne: Good morning. It’s great to be with you.
Matthew Abraham: It’s been called carpageddon [sic]. The release of this herpes virus that specifically targets carp and is deadly. It is one of the- I suppose in terms of the scope of the budget quite a small amount of money, around $15 million, but it will unleash this virus into the River Murray will it not Chris Pyne?
Christopher Pyne: It’s a very dramatic and terrific announcement for the waterways of the Murray Dowling and right around Australia. We estimate that 80 to 90 per cent of the biomass in the river systems are European carp, they have taken over, a real pest in the river and this virus when I discovered from the CSIRO that they felt that they’d finished their research on it and were certain that it would do no harm to any other living creature, I said well let’s get it out there and get rid of the carp because it will make a big difference to river communities, and not only the environment as well and the economy, $500 million a year we expect it will be worth in economic activity and we should get rid of these disgusting introduced pests. They hurt our native fish life and we don’t like it.
David Bevan: When will the virus be introduced?
Christopher Pyne: By the end of 2018. So we want to spend some time consulting river communities so that they understand what’s going to happen. There’ll be a hell of a lot of dead fish in the river very quickly.
David Bevan: That was the next question, yeah, because one report on the weekend said that most of them would die off within 24 hours, is that right?
Christopher Pyne: Well it won’t quite be 24 hours. The virus takes about a week to work. So during the week the fish doesn’t know that they’ve got anything wrong with them and then suddenly within 24 hours they’re dead, so that might be the confusion. And they will die in huge numbers very quickly. So we have to set up the arrangements for the collection of the fish. We don’t want to just leave the fish in the river which would be pretty unattractive and also quite unsafe really for a whole lot of reasons.
Matthew Abraham: It would be a disaster.
Christopher Pyne: Yeah it would be quite unsafe for a whole lot of reasons. So we need to set up the arrangements to remove the fish and then dispose of the fish. We’re either going to turn them into fertiliser or pet food maybe or dig enormous holes and put them in there and then keep filling in while they settle down and disappear, so there’s quite a bit of work to do, but the decision’s been made, the $15 million has been allocated to ensure that the herpes virus can be released and we’ll get rid of these noxious pests.
Matthew Abraham: 2018’s a while away though isn’t it?
Christopher Pyne: Well this is half way through 2016. We think it will be- it will take us that long. The environmentalists want to make sure that it’s not going to do damage to the environment and I think that’s perfectly fair. The people who use the river want to make sure it’s not going to damage their commercial interests or their entertainment on the river if you’re a tourist facility et cetera, so we’ve got to make sure that it’s set up. The worst thing would be for people to be unhappy about getting rid of the European carp. I want them to be happy.
David Bevan: Are you going to do it along the entire length of the Murray Darling system…
Christopher Pyne: Oh yes.
David Bevan: …all at once?
Christopher Pyne: We’re going to get rid of them all.
David Bevan: All at the same time?
Christopher Pyne: Well it will be spread pretty quickly. It spreads fish to fish but also spreads through the water and then once the fish is deceased it disappears within about two or three days. So it’s quite a fascinating process really. And while we will release it across Australia, we’ll probably do it in a slow release though, it won’t be like all at once at the same time, I imagine it’d be done in spot to spot but it will spread quickly like the [indistinct] virus did in myxomatosis.
David Bevan: Yeah, because if you say the carp equates to 80 to 90 per cent of the river system’s biomass which is extraordinary…
Christopher Pyne: It is.
David Bevan: …that would just be, what, millions of tonnes.
Christopher Pyne: Yeah it could be. We estimate between 500,000 and two million tonnes of carp in the Murray Darling Basin and they won’t all die on the same day of course David…
David Bevan: No.
Christopher Pyne: …and we won’t…
David Bevan: But you’re saying it will happen fairly quickly. That’s why I asked you will you be releasing it along the length of the river or will you give yourself time to manage this?
Christopher Pyne: I think we’ll give ourselves time to manage it. And also remember it’s a 30 year program, so we estimate that 95 per cent of all the carp will be destroyed over 30 years. A lot will die very quickly and then it’s possible that the carp- because they’re tricky buggers, they might develop a natural antidote to the herpes virus so therefore we’ll have to keep changing it and keep being smarter than the European carp which could take some time.
Matthew Abraham: Exactly. We see happen with rabbits that they do…
Christopher Pyne: That’s right.
Matthew Abraham: …develop a biological resistance those that survive.
Christopher Pyne: Absolutely, so we need [indistinct]. Some will survive of course beca8use just naturally they will and we’ll need to keep monitoring it and keep catching them and [indistinct].
Matthew Abraham: So in Adelaide we’ll be drinking that’s had a herpes virus introduced into it?
Christopher Pyne: Yes. Well the herpes virus can’t- the herpes virus cannot be transferred to anybody other than the European carp.
Matthew Abraham: Okay.
Christopher Pyne: The water is treated out of the Murray so I’m treating your question flippantly because [indistinct]…
Matthew Abraham: No, no it’s not a flippant question, I mean we don’t want to re-enact an episode of the The Simpsons do we. I mean in other words we’re 100 per cent sure that this herpes virus is specific to carp, cannot be transmitted to any other creature?
Christopher Pyne: Absolutely, 100 per cent certain, and of course Murray water is treated as well before it’s drunk so there’s absolutely no possibility at all that the herpes virus can do any damage to anything other than a European carp. And it’s been closely research by the CSIRO and the CRC for this area for several years and I’m absolutely confident beyond doubt that this is a full proof way of removing the European carp and doing no damage to anyone else.
Matthew Abraham: How long has the CSIRO been sitting on this or did they just finish the results and provide it to you a few weeks ago or have they been sitting on it for a few years, how long have they had it?
Christopher Pyne: I think they’ve been working on it for sort of four or five years. The herpes virus in carp first appeared in Israel in 1998, but it is an Indonesian strain of the virus. And I think the Israelis were working on it, and then the CSIRO’s been working on it, and they presented it to me a few months ago. I think the only reason why they hadn’t been able to do anything about it before was because nobody had allocated them the money, but as soon as they came to see me, I guess as a South Australian, they know we’re very focused on the Murray, and I instantaneously thought we’ve got to get this thing out there and get rid of the carp.
Matthew Abraham: Okay, Chris Pyne, just finally, I know you’re about to meet the Prime Minister, although he’s usually running late, so you shouldn’t worry about it. But Chris Pyne here on 891 Breakfast the Budget, Scott Morrison’s first Budget, can you explain; the Budget will be handed down, and then we’re told pretty quickly the Prime Minister will be taking us to the polls, correct?
Christopher Pyne: Well of course the Senate’s knocked back the Australian Building and Construction Commission bills and the Registered Organisations Commission bills twice, so they’re not interested in productivity in the building and construction industry, which means the only course open to the Government is to have a double dissolution to pass those bills.
Matthew Abraham: And possibly by Friday it will be announced?
Christopher Pyne: Well 2 July is obviously shaping up as the day when the election will be held.
Matthew Abraham: Okay, so what’s the status of the budget? Because that won’t be passed in time for the announcement of the election will it? So does the Budget really just amount to a statement of economic intent?
Christopher Pyne: Ah no, not really. So the supply bills will be passed, which means that the machinery of Government will continue throughout the election and beyond, and the budget bills will be introduced, and start being debated in the House of Representatives. Should an election be called they will form the bills that will pass in the new Parliament in whenever that might meet.
Matthew Abraham: So changes to superannuation for instance, and tax rates, would they have to wait until after the election?
Christopher Pyne: No. So if there are dates set for say 1 July for the beginning of new Government programs, as has often been the case in the past with other legislation and bills, particularly around taxation, or changes to the tax act. And those measures begin on the date intended, and if the legislation can be passed later, and people assume that it will be passed because it forms part of the budget.
Matthew Abraham: Although if it’s not passed because you don’t have the numbers in the Senate and you have a recalcitrant Senate again, that leaves people’s super plans in limbo correct?
Christopher Pyne: Ah no not really, because the... it’s only ever happened once before that I can remember that the Senate has not passed a budget measure which was to do with the changes to the alcopops tax.
Matthew Abraham: But you may not win the election.
Christopher Pyne: Well Matthew there’s absolutely no reason to start raising red herrings about...
Matthew Abraham: Well no, no, if people are trying to plan their super- if people are trying to plan their super and make decisions, you may have people listening who may be making decisions on self-managed super funds, and it may just be one shoe left hanging until the end of the election result. If you don’t win Labor won’t be passing your Budget will it?
Christopher Pyne: The Budget will be tomorrow night; you’ll have to wait until the Budget tomorrow night to see what the measures might be.
Matthew Abraham: Okay. Chris Pyne thank you.
Christopher Pyne: It’s a pleasure.
Matthew Abraham: Member for Sturt and Industry Minister Chris Pyne.