Mitchell Howe is unsure of what he will do next after the announcement the Emerald Agricultural College would close.
Mitchell Howe is unsure of what he will do next after the announcement the Emerald Agricultural College would close. Contributed

Gympie political leaders condemn ag college closures

GYMPIE region politicians have condemned the decision to close Qld's last two agricultural colleges as "callous” and "tragic”.

Nanango MP and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, Gympie MP and Shadow Agricultural Minister Tony Perrett and Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien were united in their reaction.

OPINION: Closure of Queensland's last two ag colleges is a shameful kick in the guts

The Longreach and Emerald Colleges will be closed next year because of dwindling enrolment numbers, but the State Government has been accused of intentionally killing the colleges off by refusing scholarship plans, removing local control and binding them up in red tape.

"Labor has now closed ag colleges in Burdekin, Dalby, Longreach and Emerald,” Ms Frecklington said.

"Our ag colleges were once the best in the Australia but Labor have been deliberately running them down. Labor axed local control of the colleges and they have refused scholarship plans put forward by the industry. The colleges have been bound up in red-tape and run incompetently from Brisbane. Now Labor has finally succeeded in killing them off. 

"But while our ag colleges are being axed, colleges are booming in other states like New South Wales, Victoria and WA.”

Mr Perrett said closure of the colleges was a tragedy.

"You would think closing these colleges would be the last thing on Annastacia Palaszczuk's mind given rural Queensland has the highest unemployment rate in Australia and a chronic skills shortage,” he said.

"We should be doing more to encourage young Queenslanders to stay in the regions, learn a skill and get a decent job.

"My heart also goes out to all of the QATC staff going who are now facing an uncertain future right before Christmas.”

Ms Frecklington said the Coaldrake Report was an exercise in privatisation by stealth.

"The answer isn't closure, the answer is making sure the model is right for student needs in the 21st century,” she said.

"Today's decision is on the back of the axed School to Industry Partnership Program and Labor's anti-farmer vegetation laws.

"Labor is betraying the bush and Mark Furner is now officially Australia's worst Agriculture Minister.”

LNP Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar said the news was a devastating blow to the Longreach and Emerald communities.

"Closing these colleges is more proof that Labor does not rule for the regions and doesn't care about struggling rural communities,” Mr Millar said.

"These communities will be devastated by this decision and I urge them to fight this with me.”  

Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien has joined the regional chorus of condemnation, saying the decision proved the State Government did not care about the regions and cared even less about farmers and preparing the next generation of farmers for life on the land.

"Queensland Labor is hell bent on out-greening the Greens,” Mr O'Brien said.

"They don't understand that the food we eat, the milk we drink, and the fibre for our clothes all comes from farmers in the regions.

"Agriculture colleges play a vital role in training farmers in best practice to care for their land, animals and crops.

"Labor's decision to shut down these colleges, just like its vegetation management laws, is yet another stab in heart of regional Queensland.

"Annastacia Palaszczuk dresses up in RMs and dons an Akubra whenever she ventures north of the Pine Rivers.

"She might think she looks the part but everyone in the regions know that she lacks authenticity, credibility and sincerity when it comes to caring about the future of farmers.”