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$6.8m Loss Puts Question
Mark Over Future Of Ag Colleges

Filed under Latest News, Rural

Multi-million dollar losses have put the future for agricultural students under a cloud(photo: Australian Agricultural College Corporation)

August 23, 2012

The State Government says it is committed to working with peak farm bodies, TAFE and the Education Department to ensure the delivery of effective training for students wanting to pursue careers in agriculture.

However it has not ruled out the possible closure of some of the State’s loss-making agricultural colleges.

A review by Ernst & Young of the Australian Agriculture College Corporation (AACC) – a State Government-owned corporation – has found it could lose up to $6.8 million this financial year.

The AACC operates the Dalby Training Centre which has both work-based and school-based trainees and operates two training farms.

Executive Director Tony Rayner said today the College welcomed the report from Ernst & Young and “looks forward to working with Minister McVeigh to ensure sustainable agricultural training”.

Mr McVeigh said the review, commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, found AACC is in a dire financial situation.

“AACC hasn’t operated profitably since it was formed in 2005 and would run out of money by the end of this (calendar) year,” he said.

“Management and financial reporting has been appalling.

“This is another damning example of the Bligh Labor government’s gross financial mismanagement.

“On Tim Mulherin’s watch the ag colleges have been on a course to ruin for seven years. They’ve been run-down and neglected while running costs have spiralled out of control.”

Mr McVeigh said Ernst & Young had found that AACC’s financial management practices were extremely poor and operating costs were out of control.

He said record-keeping was extremely poor and management had failed to properly audit its campuses for workplace health and safety compliance.

“Agricultural training must continue throughout Queensland in a cost-effective and realistic manner to deliver what industry needs,” Mr McVeigh said.

“In the current climate where every dollar has to be wisely spent, there’s a need for a full review of where we need to go to match the needs of the next generation of skilled agricultural workers.”

He said the State Government was committed to working with peak farm bodies, TAFE and the Education Department to ensure the delivery of effective training for those pursuing careers in agriculture.

“In the coming weeks and months I will be meeting and consulting with industry, community and education leaders to discuss all options for our ag colleges,” he said.

“Agriculture is one of our four economic pillars, and we’ll work with industry to ensure the most effective allocation of funding for ag skills training.”

AACC was formed in 2005 when the Australian College of Tropical Agriculture (incorporating Burdekin Agricultural College and Mareeba Environmental College), Dalby Agricultural College, Emerald Agricultural College and Longreach Pastoral College joined forces.

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