The Premier says a re-elected Labor government will invest $1.2 million in shearer training, in what he says is the biggest boost in nearly 30 years.
Mr Andrews announced a package of measures, aimed at the agricultural sector, at a farm near Ararat.
“We have a shortage of qualified shearers,” Mr Andrews said.
“It’s one of those areas where government can step in and make a profound contribution to dealing with that shortage, through training.
“This is the biggest boost to shearing education and training in 20 or 30 years, perhaps even longer.”
Mr Andrews said the amount of wool being produced, due to high prices and demand, was part of the issue.
“This is pretty hard work, you have to be trained, and we will always need younger people, coming through.”
He said the training courses would be up and running by 2020.
“It’s hard work, yes, but particularly rewarding work,” Mr Andrews said.
He said it was likely to be a 12-month course but would take a little while to set up, as the government was coming from “a standing start.”
“We need a bit of time to get the course built.”
He said he wouldn’t rule out making it free, but said there were already seven non-paying agricultural courses on offer, through TAFE.
The package also included plans for a $6 million upgrade to Victoria’s agricultural colleges, Longerenong, Dookie and Glenormiston.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said the plan was part of investing in the next generation, whether that be through specific TAFE qualifications, or skills, for shearers, or for students, at Glenormiston, Longerenong, or Dookie.
“Student accommodation is the difference between whether they get to go to university, or whether they don’t,” Ms Pulford said.
She said continued funding of $500,000 for the Young Farmers Scholarship would also provide access to training, for many who might not be able to attend college.
Mr Andrews said he had visited all three colleges.
“It’s fair to say some of them are a little bit tired, so if we can give them the boost they need, that means regional students, across a district, can get the training and education they need to build a working life, without having to travel a long, long way away,” he said.
The government also flagged a $3 million investment to improve farm health and safety, including dedicated funding for farmer health and safety officers, to be employed by the Victorian Farmers Federation.
Ms Pulford said the high level of farm fatalities and injuries was not good enough.
“Victorian farmers represent three per cent of the state’s workforce, but more than 50 pc of the fatalities,” she said.
What this means is lives lost, families destroyed, livelihoods impacted by injury, it’s just not good enough.
“We can ensure they are led by farmers, who know what’s best.”
Mr Andrews also flagged an inquiry into the council rating system.
“It will look, with some focus, at a number of different issues, but one of them will be farm rates and how they are struck each year,” Mr Andrews said.
“That can be very difficult for farms, which have a notional asset, but that can be very difficult, in a particular year, if prices, or total volume of production is low.”
Mr Andrews said he would seek advice from government departments on the length of the review.
“It needs to be done in a timely manner, and we would look to having it done, at the beginning of one rating year, and having it finished before the end of that, so you could strike new rates, and a much better formula, the following year,” he said.
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