December 5, 2018
A State Government decision to close Queensland’s remaining agricultural colleges at the end of 2019 has drawn an angry response from Opposition leader Deb Frecklington.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the two remaining Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC) – in Longreach and Emerald – would be axed after a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.
Mr Furner said declining enrolments at both colleges had been a factor in the decision.
Mrs Frecklington said she thought it was astonishing a $23 billion industry that supports 300,000 Queensland jobs would not have a single training college left in the State.
“More than 100 people are set to lose their jobs when the colleges at Emerald and Longreach close, and a generation of young country people will lose valuable opportunities to forge careers in farming,” Mrs Frecklington said on Wednesday.
“Labor has now closed ag colleges in Burdekin, Dalby, Longreach and Emerald.
“This year Queenslanders everywhere came together to support farmers battling the drought but Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn’t give a damn about the bush.
“Her government is just piling on more misery for drought-stricken communities.
“Our ag colleges were once the best in the Australia but Labor have been deliberately running them down.”
Mrs Frecklington said the government had axed local control of the colleges and rejected scholarship plans put forward by the industry.
“The colleges have been bound up in red tape and run incompetently from Brisbane, and now Labor has finally succeeded in killing them off,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“But while our ag colleges are being axed, colleges in other States like NSW, Victoria and Western Australia are booming.”
Shadow Agriculture Minister Tony Perrett said the closure of the colleges was a tragedy.
“You would think closing these colleges would be the last thing on the Premier’s mind, given rural Queensland has the highest unemployment rate in Australia and a chronic skills shortage,” Mr Perrett said.
“We should be doing more to encourage young Queenslanders to stay in the regions, learn a skill and get a decent job.
“My heart also goes out to all of the QATC staff going who are now facing an uncertain future right before Christmas.”
Ms Frecklington said the Coaldrake Review which recommended the closures was an exercise in privatisation by stealth.
“The answer isn’t closure, the answer is making sure the model is right for student needs in the 21st century,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“Today’s decision is on the back of the axed School to Industry Partnership Program and Labor’s anti-farmer vegetation laws.
“Labor is betraying the bush and Mark Furner is now officially Australia’s worst Agriculture Minister.”
LNP Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar said the news was a devastating blow to the Longreach and Emerald communities.
“Closing these colleges is more proof that Labor does not rule for the regions and doesn’t care about struggling rural communities,” Mr Millar said.
“These communities will be devastated by this decision and I urge them to fight this with me.”