As pre-poll pledges hit the headlines daily, the shearing industry is in spotlight with a re-elected Labor government promising $1.2 million in shearer training.
In what Premier Daniel Andrews says is the biggest investment in the industry in 30 years, the pledge is to create a new 12-month shearing courses available at TAFE by 2020, as well as spend $6 million on student accommodation at Longerenong agricultural campuses at Glenormiston and Dookie.
Mr Andrews made the announcement on Tuesday at Don and Goldie Rowe’s property, 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.”
With Victoria exported $1.8 billion of wool in last financial year, Mr Andrews said the Certificate III in shearing qualification would help grow the industry by creating new jobs and attracting more qualified shearers.
“If our agricultural sector is going well, every single Victorian benefits,” he said.
He said he wouldn’t rule out making it fee free, but said there were already seven non-paying agricultural courses on offer, through the TAFE system.
Mr Andrews visited Longerenong college and said the accommodation facilities were “tired”.
“If we can give them the boost they need, that means regional students can get the training and education they need to build a working life, without having to travel a long, long way away.” he said.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said the plan was part of investing in the next generation.
“We need to ensure we have more people entering the sector with the training they need,” Ms Pulford said.
“Student accommodation is the difference between whether they get to go to university, or whether they don’t.”
She said continued funding of $500,000 for the Young Farmers Scholarship would also provide access to training for many students who would otherwise not be able to attend college.
The government also flagged a $3 million investment to improve farm health and safety, and promised an inquiry into the council rating system.
“We would look to having it done at the beginning of one rating year and finishing it before the end of the year,” Mr Andrews said.
But on Wednesday, National Party state leader Peter Walsh slammed the “fair” rates announcement, and said “city-centric Labor just don’t seem to understand the pressure farmers are under with rates”.
"(Labor) won’t apply a category-based rates cap, meaning no relief for farmers who’ve already faced skyrocketing rates rises this year,” he said.
If elected, the Coalition government pledged an independent review into farm rates in Victoria and to cap to all rating categories. The National Party also announced spending of more than $30 million over four years in telecommunications, targeting mobile phone blackspots.
“There are too many places across our State where communications services aren’t up to scratch,” Mr Walsh said.
Victoria Votes investigation p7