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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2142

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (21:56): I would like to continue on from a speech I made earlier in the week about the Australian Year of the Farmer. The year was set up to celebrate the hard work of everybody involved in producing, processing, handling and selling products from the 136,000 farms across the country. Australian farmers and the industries that support them generate more than $405 billion each year, or 27 per cent of our GDP.

My particular interest in Tasmania recently has been with the development of irrigation schemes, which have helped us to carry out more intensive farming and to be more productive in farming while making better and sustainable use of the land. What we hope to do is add value to everything we do with some very intensive horticulture as well. Of course with this comes the need to find skilled labour to ensure that we can continue to make strides in developing smart farms and opportunities in enterprise. I believe that this has started to be addressed just recently, with the announcement of $4.25 million to build AgriTas Trade College, located in Smithton, Tasmania. It will allow many young people to train in Tasmania and study in an environment where they are already familiar with the conditions. Hopefully, we will have opportunities in other parts of the state to link in to this trade college.

I would like to add that Tasmania has a number of farm schools in rural areas which are ideally placed to give youngsters from farming areas the chance of a career path into a trade college. Up to now, many have had to go out of the state to get any practical agricultural qualifications at a trade level. If we can eventually link high schools with trade colleges, it will start giving the family farm a chance to survive through new generations. The need for education in farming, and the skills base that is needed, is showing up all the time. With the entry of the National Broadband Network and the schools renewal program under the BER, we have managed to bring the technology in schools up to a level that will be able to relate to tertiary education and provide pathways into work that includes operating GPS equipment for controlled traffic farming and specialised planting and harvesting equipment. This is all because we are modernising the telecommunication systems of our country. It will also allow new irrigation systems where you can use computerised watering systems to deliver exact amounts of water and fertiliser to different crops.

A little while ago we in the former House Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources undertook an inquiry into agriculture, producing a report entitled Farming the future: the role of government in assisting Australian farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In it farmers were recognised for their enterprising ability when given opportunities. In fact, we heard of many innovative projects being undertaken that were dealing with such things as climate change, carbon capture, new forms of soil enrichment methods, no-till farming, computerised management systems and now, of course, carbon farming.

Soon farms will become highly mechanised—in many areas much more so than in years ago. Some of them will be operated just by sitting in front of the computer. But it is still a demanding career, especially where animals are involved, and of course you need a lot of skill and knowledge about breeding stock and general husbandry. When I go to country shows around Tasmania, I often see farm schools entering their stock and doing very well. It is sometimes pretty hard to interest young people in getting involved in this industry, and I feel these farm schools are doing very well in encouraging kids in it. I have just been involved in helping one of my poultry clubs get involved in that area. I believe this is a great opportunity for Tasmania and I commend the Year of the Farmer.