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Senate Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (ABARES)

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Lee Rhiannon 19 Nov 2013

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences

Senator RHIANNON: Just continuing about the Australian Feral Camel Management Project, I understand that Ninti One published the report estimating the feral camel population at $1 million.

Senator Abetz: One million head, not dollars.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, sorry—one million animals. Then that is the company that is paid $19 million to cull the feral animals. Do you see that there is a conflict of interest there?

Mr Talbot : I think the costs for the project were around $16.6 million. They were reduced from $19 million.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for the new figure, but the question was that you have a company that makes an estimation on the numbers, and then the contract is awarded on the basis of that figure to the very company that has made the estimation.

Mr Talbot : I would have to take that on notice, because I do not know the exact details of how the contract was originally negotiated.

Dr Grimes : It does sound like a matter for careful consideration and taking a proper answer on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, if you could take it on notice, thank you. Were you aware of any warnings made by organisations such as the Ngaanyatjarra Camel Company about the overstating of the feral camel problem?

Mr Talbot : I would have to take that on notice, because I would really have to check with other departmental officers. I am certainly not aware.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice whether any organisations, including the one that I have mentioned, raised concerns about an overstating of the figures. Mr Tucker, you made an earlier comment that these figures were not an estimate by the government, but surely you agree that the whole basis of this program is you accepting those figures from the Australian Feral Camel Management Project. So you may not have made the estimations but you have accepted the figures as the premise for going ahead with this work.

Dr Grimes : Again, I think we are now going into levels of detail that it would probably be best for us to take on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: I heard you say that the costs were about $40 a head, and for the non-commercial I think you said they were $25 to $40 a head. I would have to revise that, because I have the final cost here as $15 million for the culling of 140,000 camels. That comes in at $103 per camel. So isn't the figure of $40 a head that you are giving based on the inflated figure of the number of camels to be culled, not the actual number that were culled?

Mr Talbot : I will have to take that on notice in terms of doing the maths. Also, I have a subnote here that, where there were very small culls, it could be up to $120 per head.

Senator RHIANNON: That is even higher than my figure.

Mr Talbot : So I will take that away and do the maths on that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. This is my final question: the managing director of Ninti One has publicly called for an ongoing feral camel management project. Would you consider giving Ninti One an ongoing contract to manage feral camels? Are they in the race?

Senator Abetz: They have camel races in the Northern Territory, don't they?

Senator RHIANNON: I do not think it is a good thing to joke about, Senator Abetz. Your fingers are on this as well now.

Senator Abetz: Well, if we did not joke about it I think we would cry.

Senator RHIANNON: You cannot just keep blaming the old government. So, I did ask a question, and it has not been answered.


Dr Grimes : As Mr Talbot indicated, there are still processes to be followed. They have not been completed. I think it is appropriate for those processes to be completed first, and then we can have a full accounting.

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