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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3392

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (12:36): I thank the member for Murray for bringing to the House this motion on the important role that agriculture plays in the Australian economy. I believe that it highlights what the Australian government is already doing to encourage young people to be involved in ag business as a career and to get people to invest in ag businesses.

Agriculture, of course, is a big part of Australia's history. For many decades, wool has been grown. A bit down the track after early settlement, in the 1800s, it proved to be easy to put wool onto ships and get it back to the mills of England. Further down the track, we got the reefer boats that could take frozen meat, and that market grew as well.

In my electorate of Lyons, in Tasmania, agriculture plays a big part in my constituents' lives. Tasmania has 68,300 square kilometres of land, and one-third of this is committed to agriculture. Tasmania's mild climate, clean water—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:37 to 13:16

Mr ADAMS: Before the suspension I was talking about the need for agricultural skill base in Australia and I was talking about Tasmania having a lot of great water and establishing the water advantage for Tasmania, with about 10 per cent of the amount of water that falls on Australia falling in Tasmania on about 1½ per cent of the landmass. The opportunities to use this is quite good, but we need high-tech agriculture, in irrigation technology, to take advantage of those opportunities.

In relation to the skill base, up at Smithton this government is establishing an agTAS trade college. That will provide great opportunities for young people in that region and other regions to get a skill base in this area. To encourage young people into agriculture we certainly need to have modern work practices and management needs to be modern in the way that they deal with young people. We know that young people want to have a continuing pathway into learning and they want to continue to be well aware of health and safety issues. So those things need to be high on the agenda.

The next generation certainly will not work like the old shepherds of Tasmania that I knew as a boy around the estates where I grew up—and those in the families referred to by Gwen Hardstaff in her book Cider gums and currawongs—working 12 hours a day, riding horses in weather, as those old guys did. So we need to be modern in the way that we look at it. Down in Tasmania the University of Tasmania have a great ag science facility which enables students to study agriculture, but we certainly do need to work on modern and innovative ways to assist the farming communities to deal with climate change and carbon capture and the latest direction in which farms are going. We need modern management techniques to make sure that people have the opportunity to move forward.

In my area the number of contractor workers in the ag area is growing, but they certainly need a skill base. In the poppy industry we have certificate I and II right through to the trades area. Of course, degree levels are very high in that industry—working in the process sector of the poppy industry. And they are always crying out for plumbers and electricians around the pivot areas and making sure that people are capable and competent to be able to keep those areas going. High-tech farming, with a high-level skill base, is what we will see in the future, and it needs to be recognised that the skill base in agriculture is growing. We certainly need to have that direction into the future.