Laid on table.
Ordered that report be printed.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
I begin by thanking the committee staff for their work. Kerryn Riseley oversaw the conduct of the inquiry.
Anita Madden, the research officer, researched and wrote the extensive and highly readable report that we have before the house this morning. Stephanie Dodds and Natalie Tyler provided administrative assistance and support to the committee. It is a similar team to the one we had for the previous committee report, although Natalie has now moved on to assist another committee. It is a committee staff group that I applaud in every sense. They make the work of the committee members so much easier. The committee members are: the chair, David Southwick, the member for Caulfield in the Assembly; Peter Crisp, the member for Mildura in the Assembly; Nazih Elasmar, a member of this place; and Elizabeth Miller, the member for Bentleigh in the Assembly.
I also draw the house’s attention to the statements the chair has made in his report, and I thank him for the generous comments he directed towards me. The committee would also like to thank all the people who participated in the inquiry.
We received over 100 submissions, and there were 14 full days of inquiry hearings. Some of those hearings were held here in Melbourne, but many were also in regional Victoria. We had the opportunity to visit the agricultural campuses of Dookie, Longerenong and Glenormiston. We also went to New Zealand, and that visit was jam-packed. It was probably five days of appointments in two and a half days. I think the taxpayer would feel very comfortable that he or she got value as a result of the heavy schedule the staff set for us.
In terms of the content of this report, it has been clear for some time that there are skill shortages in the agricultural sector. That is across a whole range of agricultural occupations and industries within the agricultural workforce. As we found out, there are pockets that are almost withering on the vine, so to speak. There is an enormous need for more graduates in the agribusiness area. We know that people who are undertaking university degrees are snaffled up before they can even graduate, the need is so high in that area.
The recommendations aim to increase agricultural education and training in all sectors to ensure that available training meets the needs of both the students and the agricultural sector. We are also calling for those in the sector to build an aspirational base, so that agricultural careers are considered to be the cream of the crop, not at the level they are considered to be at the moment. We are seeking the development of a nationally coordinated promotional campaign to lift the image of agriculture in the community.
It would be remiss of me not to mention TAFE. The timing of the committee’s hearing of evidence from stakeholders coincided with the budget, which really did not allow us to examine how the government’s budget cuts were going to affect agricultural education in this sector. I have always been a strong advocate of the TAFE sector, and clearly there were some failings in what occurred.
I have made sure that I have questions on notice in this house in respect of the Gordon Institute of TAFE, the University of Ballarat TAFE and the South West Institute of TAFE concerning agricultural courses and their enrolments in the last calendar year, this year and next year.
I finish by saying I have recently received an email from a teacher in Colac who has relayed to me that he is quite concerned that he has students who are very annoyed that they cannot complete their certificate III in agriculture and dairy production. Their certificate II at Gordon TAFE this year is almost complete, but they have been told that they cannot finish their course next year. They have nothing, because they are based in Colac and they cannot do anything in Geelong or Colac. They do not know how they are going to finish their course. I hope this information feeds into the recommendations that the stakeholders will be looking at over the coming weeks when they review this report. On that basis, I commend the report to the house.