Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges
That the Senate—
(a) recognises that Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges provide vital skills to graduates, and contribute to the viability of the Queensland agricultural sector as a whole, which employs over 57,000 people in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries and was worth over $19 billion to the State's economy in 2017-18;
(b) notes that the flagship Longreach and Emerald Training Colleges are being shut down after operating for more than 50 years, have helped thousands of graduates to achieve rewarding careers over this time, and that, between the two colleges, they employ over 100 staff;
(c) further notes that the Queensland Labor Government is responsible for the decision to close training colleges;
(d) calls on the Queensland Labor Government to reconsider its decision to close the Longreach and Emerald Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges; and
(e) condemns the Queensland Labor Government for turning its back on $245 million in Federal funding from the Skilling Australians Fund, which would have created 50,000 new apprenticeships in Queensland over the next four years.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
The iconic Longreach and Emerald training colleges are an important component in the Queensland agricultural sector. These colleges have operated for more than 50 years and seen multiple generations of students graduate from them. The colleges are vital to numerous rural and regional communities. I understand that meetings have taken place between the state Labor government and stakeholders. However, there has been no official announcement that these colleges will remain open. The state Labor government needs to publicly reverse the decision to close the training colleges and give certainty to an agricultural sector hit by flood, fire and drought.
This is a blatant political attack by the coalition on a considered decision made by the state government, a decision based on an independent review where 70 stakeholders were consulted, including the local Queensland Liberal National member, Lachlan Millar. This is from a government that has withdrawn funding from Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia, funding that Labor will return. This is from a government that has cut more than $3 billion from vocational education and skills and has stood by while apprentice numbers have dropped by 140,000. This is from a coalition that has failed to create a viable vocational education and training policy after being in government for five years. Instead, they have stood by while TAFE campuses and courses in regional and rural Australia have been closing, course fees have escalated and enrolments have plummeted.
The Greens always have and always will stand for publicly owned and operated and publicly funded vocational training colleges and TAFEs. The two major parties have used vocational training and TAFE as a political football for way too long. We have had enough. Through their bipartisan commitment to so-called contestability funding, public TAFE has been gutted. The closure of these two colleges by the Queensland Labor government should be condemned.
I had an amendment to remove the point about the Skilling Australians Fund, a point which only serves to muddy the waters. Unfortunately, this was not agreed to. This motion says these colleges are being closed because the Queensland government refused the Skilling Australians Fund. These colleges aren't being closed because they refused the fund; rather, the Queensland government has failed to properly plan and attract students to the Emerald and Longreach agriculture colleges. They need to be rebuilt, not torn down.