THE Queensland Resources Council has added its powerful voice to keeping Queensland’s agricultural training colleges at Longreach and Emerald operating.
QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said strong commodity prices, which were delivering record returns through existing royalty taxes, meant the Palaszczuk Government could invest in a plan to ensure the long-term future of the colleges.
Resources royalty taxes are forecast to contribute $4.45 billion to this year’s state budget.
“Agriculture and mining are our state’s two primary industries. Each sector plays an important role in Queensland’s economy and its character,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“We work hand-in-hand with the agriculture sector through shared access to land and shared returns to landholders. Returns from the resources sector help sustain rural and regional communities when times are tough, including during the recent drought.”
QRC’s vocal support follows AgForce demanding that the colleges be handed back to industry if government was unable to successfully manage the facilities.
AgForce president Georgie Somerset said the colleges were unique, irreplaceable assets.
“AgForce's plan is to overhaul these institutions and the services they offer to form the backbone of a comprehensive, future-looking rural research and education system that offers benefits beyond agriculture,” Ms Somerset said.
“These well-equipped colleges, with their unique locations and infrastructure, offer opportunities to support profitable and sustainable agriculture in areas like carbon-neutral farming, drought mitigation, flora and fauna conservation, reef preservation and increased indigenous and female participation."
The Palaszczuk government announced last week that the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges would be closed at the end of 2019, despite not consulting with key community groups including AgForce and the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association.
The announcement of the closures is the latest is long line of clashes between rural industry and Palaszczuk government, including the management of national parks and its controversial vegetation management laws.
Mr Macfarlane said a strong agricultural skills base helped strengthen rural communities, which in turn benefited the entire regional economy including sectors like resources, small business and tourism.
“Investments in agriculture, just like investments in resources, benefit all Queenslanders and help put our state on a strong footing for the future,” he said.
Mr Macfarlane is no stranger to rural industry. The former Boondooma farmer was the high profile president of the Queensland Grain Growers Association in the 1990s, before entering parliament as the federal member for Groom.