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Greens fear TAFE proposals will hurt access for low income students

Posted by Jim on September 21, 2012

The Queensland Greens have expressed alarm at proposals by the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce to slash the number of TAFE colleges by almost one-half.

Spokesperson, Dr Jim McDonald, said that the performance of the Newman Government in slashing services to communities rang alarm bells for everyone associated with the Vocational and Education Training [VET] sector.

He said that The Greens welcome the objective of adding 10,000 apprentices to the VET sector and increased participation in training for relevant industry skills.

But the Taskforce also recommended corporatising the TAFE sector by setting up a ‘parent entity’ run on commercial principles and downsizing the number of campuses by 46%. That will see the integration of VET into many communities disappear.

Proposals to close down campuses and amalgamate institutions will distance the TAFE system and Vocational and Education Training from the communities they serve especially in regional Queensland,” he said.

Dr McDonald said it is inevitable that the scale of closures proposed will reduce regional student accessibility and, along with the Newman Government’s many other cuts to State service in Queensland communities, further disadvantage young adults from lower income families.

We fear that the Newman Government will raise student fees to pay for the high costs of investing in industry training.

Responding to industry demand requires a high level of investment in updating training for TAFE staff and capital equipment. Meeting workforce demand in industry and the need for timely implementation of new skills programs for new and emerging technologies is costly and Queensland investment in training lags behind all but one State.

The Greens call upon Mr Newman and Mr Langbroek to guarantee that TAFE student fees will not rise to cover institutional costs. Increased fees will further exclude students from low income families.

In the context of the Premier’s rejection of State contributions to the Arts and culture in our communities and his attacks on community programs, The Greens also fear that the LNP Government will slash creative industries programs, including the arts, in the TAFE colleges.

Mr Newman and Mr Langbroek must guarantee the retention of the arts in TAFE programs.”

The Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Interim Report targets a reduction of campuses in the Fraser Coast and Sunshine Coast from 13 to 8. That can only reduce access within the region and it will affect young people from lower income families the worst.

For the Sunshine Coast, this means questions are raised about the Arts courses at the Noosa campus especially in the light of the Newman Government’s aversion to State funding of the Arts. It also raises questions of what courses might be axed at the Nambour campus. And Newman is not averse to axing frontline staff. So how many TAFE teachers are going to be sacked in this process, which Minister Langbroek and the Premier have indicated they favour?

There is no doubt that a review of TAFE has been necessary but it really needed to deal with the best way of providing relevant courses and maintaining teachers’ trade and professional relevance in a time of changing technologies. TAFE has always had a problem nationally in lagging rather than keeping up with technological developments.

Source: Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Interim Report, http://training.qld.gov.au/resources/industry/pdf/interim-report-qld-skills-training-taskforce.pdf

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Noosa Greens Candidate dissects LNP policy on de-amalgamation and finds a “Yes Minister” policy designed to fail

Posted by Jim on January 24, 2012

Jim McDonald, the Noosa Greens Candidate for Noosa writes to the Noosa News about de-amalgamation:

I’d like to thank Bob Ansett for pointing out what the LNP’s website says about Noosa’s de-amalgamation because what the LNP spokesperson for Local Government, Gympie MP, David Gibson, says and doesn’t say on that website is quite different from the LNP’s actual policy.

As The Greens candidate for Noosa, I have called for a referendum to establish the ratepayers’ wishes as the primary step in giving the Noosa community the local government it really wants. This is a community-focussed process of decision-making and the role of the Government will be then to facilitate – through community consultation – any changes resulting from the community’s response.

The LNP proposal is for “an advisory poll of voters in any proposed new Local Government boundary” after a Queensland Boundaries Commissioner has prepared their “preferred options” for any changes after he or she has considered submissions from the community.

These are important differences that need to be understood by all the groups involved. The LNP offers the Noosa community an “advisory” role in a poll. The policy does not indicate what kind of poll that might be. The Greens have called for a local  referendum – let the community decide on deamalgamation not some appointed Commissioner fiddling with boundaries, “advised” by the community.

This “advisory poll” is something quite different from Mr Newman’s and Mr Gibson’s undertaking that “residents living within the proposed new council area will, by a simple majority, vote whether or not they wish to establish a new Noosa Shire Council”.

In designating a role for a Commissioner to make the decision on whether Noosa is to get the Council it wants, the LNP has developed a process that pushes the community to the side. LNP policy also will load the cost of a new Noosa Council on the residents: “ratepayers of any proposed new local authority would bear the full costs of any de-amalgamation.”

The Greens position is that if the community decides on separation the cost should be borne by the Government since it was the Queensland Government that forced amalgamation on us in the first place.

The Commissioner’s process of decision-making looks very like a “Yes Minister” scenario. I say that because the LNP policy includes the critical statement of principle: “The LNP has made it clear that its preference is for Queensland’s Councils to remain as  currently constituted to avoid any further disruption and cost for local communities.” With that statement goes any confidence that accommodating the electorate’s interests is anything more than a sop to the community’s wishes.

As a Noosa resident who favours de-amalgamation, I’m rather disappointed that Friends of Noosa and the Alliance find the LNP position so attractive since any close examination of the LNP policy shows that Campbell Newman and David Gibson have made an offer that is designed to fail the wishes of the Noosa community, and the LNP cannot be trusted to carry out their wishes.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate
Noosa
13 January 2012

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Standing up for the Noosa Biosphere means standing up for the Sandy Straits Biosphere

Posted by Jim on January 17, 2012

Noosa will need a strong, articulate presence on all issues in the State Parliament in the next few years if its present status as an example to the rest of Australia of balance between sustainable development and environmental protection, and the principles of the Noosa Biosphere, is to be maintained.

The international status of the Noosa Biosphere is at threat when the LNP and Labor are silent about the destruction of biosphere principals in Noosa’s companion region, the Great Sandy Biosphere. Labor encourages coal mining and gas extraction in Noosa’s adjacent Biosphere while the LNP MPs in Noosa, Gympie and the Federal Electorate [Wide Bay] sit back silently supporting coal and gas in the Mary Valley and along the reaches of the Mary River.

The same coal resources that are found along the Mary River, and are to be developed by Tiaro Coal, extend down into the Sunshine Coast. Already exploratory drilling has occurred at Wolvi, just to the north of the Noosa Biosphere boundary

If Government and Opposition representatives cannot open their mouths against coalmining and coal seam gas [CSG] in and about our region, how can they be trusted on the Noosa Biosphere? The LNP will say anything on policies and then protect their real policy positions with back door clauses.

The LNP and Labor are no better than each other in sharing policies on CSG to encourage and provide infrastructure to the CSG extraction industry when all around the world governments are imposing moratoriums to study the blatantly obvious negative impacts on the resources farmers and householders use.

The sitting member and the out-of-town Labor candidate are in no position to stand up and protect Noosa’s hard won environmental heritage, which provides the platform for so many tourist jobs in Noosa and the hinterland, because their parties have determined to support the industries which will do most to destroy what the Biosphere stands for.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate
Noosa

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Mary Valley faces new coal threat

Posted by Jim on May 18, 2011

An alert Maryborough member has drawn attention to the announcement of a new coal exploration permit in the Mary Valley, 25 kilometres south of Maryborough, east of the Bruce Highway, by Scorpion Energy Pty Ltd. Scorpion Energy was established only 18 months ago and presently only has a one page web presence without any content.

The continued allocation of coal exploration permits in the Mary Valley by the Queensland Government shows scant regard for the environmental values of the Mary Valley – values which the Federal Government endorsed when it refused the Bligh Government’s planned dam at Traveston. This is the sixth exploration permit in the Mary Valley that the Queensland Minister for mining has issued.

The National Party opposed Traveston Dam and supported the environmental arguments against its construction. Why are Warren Truss, the Nationals’ Federal member for Wide Bay and David Gibson, the LNP State member for Gympie, silent on coal mining and coal seam gas, which Tiaro Coal Corporation plans to develop along Munna Creek, which will do vast damage to the ecology of the Mary River and the Mary Valley? Are the Nationals and LNP compromised by their links with the coal industry?

The silence of the Nationals is a true indication of how committed to the environmental values of the Mary Valley they really are.

Bob Brown

Greens leader, Bob Brown, supporting the community in opposing Traveston Dam.

Photo by Arkin Mackay, www.stoppress.com.au,
reproduced with permission

Jim McDonald, Wide Bay Greens Spokesperson, 18 May 2011

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The Mary Valley: A deadly lack of vision on all sides

Posted by Jim on September 21, 2010

I refer to the independent member for Nicklin Peter Wellington’s comments published in the Noosa News, Tuesday, 21 September about developing the Mary Valley as a food bowl.

Mr Wellington is picking up rather belatedly on one of the issues I raised during the Federal election campaign back in May.  But Mr Wellington, like most politicians, fails to address the key issues and only scratches at the populist elements of the issue.  What is needed is the immediate cooperation of farmers, agricultural scientists, ecologists, climate scientists, the food industry, economists, the regional communities and the State and Federal Governments to plan out a future for the the Mary Valley.  And set a date on it for implementation in the next 18 months.  Instead land lies in the hands of the State Government, which is only interested in offloading it.

But the future of the Mary Valley must be considered as a matter of urgent national and regional interest as part of an holistic approach to the triple challenges of climate change, population growth and food security.  This makes the Government’s food cropping survey somewhat redundant for the region.  Action is needed now.  In the region.

There is a deadly lack of vision on all sides as the State Labor Government and the LNP continue to show ineptitude on all three of these highest priority challenges.

There is a deadly lack of vision on all sides as the State Labor Government and the LNP continue to show ineptitude on all three of these highest priority challenges.

The Mary Valley should become a model for efficient food production. Food distribution should be reformed by changing the inefficient supply chain practices of the large supermarkets. The primary market for Mary Valley should be the Burnett, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and Wide Bay regions supplied directly from the Mary Valley, with the surplus exported to the rest of Australia and overseas.

In the face of the failure of the State Labor Government, the LNP at both State and Federal levels in the region are ineffectual on addressing climate change, population and food security.  They also remain silent on the prospect of coalmining along the Mary River.

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Electorate, 21 September 2010
Published Noosa News 24 September 2010

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Greens support Kin Kin residents’ objections to quarry

Posted by Jim on June 30, 2010

In 2007, Anna Bligh, then Minister for Infrastructure refused an application for the development of a $400 million tourism development in the village of Kin Kin.  Not only did she say that the project was in conflict with the SEQ regional plan, which allows for smaller tourism businesses such as farm stays and Bed and Breakfast establishments, but she also pointed out, “The region just doesn’t have the infrastrucure to support a development of this size.”

The Kin Kin district doesn’t have the infrastructure for up to 40 trucks a day carrying up to 42 tonnes of rock on the roads either.  Kin Kin is notorious for the narrow winding roads that lead to the town.  Roads in and out of Kin Kin will become a death trap.

Today I visited this quiet little corner and saw Sunshine Coast Regional Council surveyors marking out the road leading from the quarry to the Kin Kin – Wolvi Road for an upgrade.  There is nothing in the Main Roads budget for improving the roads. And, this is despite the Council and Kin Kin residents about to face each other in court.

Wahpunga Creek flows off a ridge, past the quarry, and eventually into Kin Kin Creek, which in turn flows into the Noosa River.  The Department of Environment doesn’t call this a stream!

Walpinga Creek

Wahpunga Creek: Qld Dep't of Environment & Resource Management says this is not a creek! Photo Jim McDonald

When it rains, it is quite clear from the next photograph that the stream suffers from quarry run-off.  This flows eventually through to  Kin Kin Creek and Noosa River.  This case is an example of tricksy, bureaucratic nonsense emanating from Departments whose function is to protect the environment, but whose arbitrary decisions are ultimately harmful to residents and the environment.  This is what the quarry did to the Wahpunga Creek after rain:

Wahpunga Creek with quarry run-off

Wahpunga Creek downstream from quarry after rain; clear surface water flowing from neighbour's property Photo Maree Glasby

By the way, the road being surveyed, Sheppersons Lane, is part of the Noosa Trail Network!

There are some complicated issues about the legality of the quarry, which has been a small part-time quarry for years.  But, the central issue is that accessibility issues have the seeds of tragedy in them if this small quarry is upscaled. Meanwhile, the lessee forges ahead.

Kin Kin Quarry

Drilling proceeds for expanding Kin Kin Quarry, 30 June 2010 Photo Jim McDonald

The Greens support the Kin Kin community, which has been working hard to prevent their roads being overrun by large trucks that have no place in their small hamlet.  Your Wide Bay candidate, Jim McDonald, called on the LNP Opposition spokesperson on the environment, the Hon Glen Elmes, to get moving on the issue.  This needs real action to prevent a disastrous result for Kin Kin and district residents.

Jim McDonald, Greens Candidate, Wide Bay, 30 June 2010

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