Thursday, May 25, 2017

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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Greens ready for March election

Posted by Jim on January 25, 2012

The Greens candidate for Noosa, Dr Jim McDonald welcomed the announcement for an election date by Premier Anna Bligh, this morning.

Dr McDonald said that the LNP and Labor leaders had descended to a schoolyard level of debate on the election date.

“I have no doubt that the decision will be controversial concerning the decision to push back the Council elections, but people have been confused between coverage of State and local government elections.

“The Greens policy supports fixed terms and the adoption of that principle will take away the demeaning argy bargy that we have seen this week between Campbell Newman and Anna Bligh.

“However, the biggest problem we face in Queensland is that no party once in government seriously commits to any long term action planning.

“People often say to me that The Greens can never win government so it is a wasted vote. But voting for The Greens is a vote for the future. We must leave behind the dysfunctional ratbaggery that has characterised the Queensland Parliament and deal with long term issues beyond the three-year electoral cycle instead of short-term, populist programs.

“If I am elected to the Parliament for Noosa I can focus my contribution in representing Noosa on the solutions requiring long-term strategy and action, such as a commitment to the infrastructure planning and programs necessary to prepare for the effects of climate change in the region and economic prosperity for Noosa in the post-carbon economy.

“This is not something you ever hear from Mr Elmes or the Young Labor candidate from Brisbane.

“Because I am not constrained by the vested interests that support Labor and the LNP, my focus will be on the benefits for the whole of the electorate and the region rather than select groups and the coal and gas industries.”

Dr McDonald said, “The Noosa and Hinterland Greens Branch are organised and ready for the long campaign.”

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate Noosa
Media Release, 25 January 2012

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An open letter to Drew Hutton facing court for trying to protect our land

Posted by Jim on August 22, 2011

Good luck on Thursday, Drew.

There is no doubt about the immorality of CSG extraction and coalmining on productive land and in people’s homes, but the laws are not geared towards what is best for Australia’s food security, nor what is best for the aquifers and the Great Artesian Basin, nor for the atmosphere as methane leaks, nor for the destruction of family lives and the peace of communities. On these grounds alone you have an absolute reasonable excuse.

The work you have done for the farmers and communities of the Darling Downs is sowing seeds across the country sustained by your’s and the farmers’ courage to stand up against multi-nationals and Australian companies out for a fast buck whatever the damage they do.

Drew, you should be proud of what you have achieved for all of us in bringing the pernicious industrialisation of our land and its resources to the public consciousness. I am!

Jim McDonald
Wide Bay Greens Spokesperson

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State and Federal Governments betray Australia on food security

Posted by Jim on January 20, 2011

The Federal and State Governments are betraying Australia’s interests by allowing large scale buyouts of top quality agricultural land in this country, according to the Greens Spokesperson for Noosa and Wide Bay , Dr Jim McDonald.

He said it was already happening on the Sunshine Coast. Dr McDonald was commenting on a report in the Noosa News [18 January 2011] on a multi-national corporation’s purchase of the Yalanga property near Kin Kin by Nexis Holdings, increasing its holdings on the Sunshine Coast to 2,140 hectares. Nexis bought up 500 hectares in two macadamia farms on the Coast early last year.

Dr McDonald said, “Under present foreign acquisition rules, foreign companies are buying up large tracts of land in anticipation of the effects of climate change on world food production. If that continues, Australia will not only become the world’s quarry, but will have lost control of its food production to foreign interests.

In the past few years, the Federal Government has sat on its thumbs while corporations owned by foreign governments have bought prime land as part of their food security strategy. Under current rules Nexis has no obligation to submit its purchase of Yalanga to the Foreign Investment Review Board for a reported $25 million because it is under the FIRB limit of $231 million. Yet the Nexis purchase is part of a strategy to buy up half a billion dollars worth of land in Northern NSW and Queensland.”

He said that the Nexis announcement on Yalanga, which is only a few kilometres from Boreen Point, left its future intentions unclear. Nexis does not have an agricultural base and recently bought up 50 percent equity in a limestone quarry in NSW for prefabricated concrete building panels.

It is an outrage against the nation that there is presently no Federal strategy to protect the best agricultural land from foreign control and no cohesive food security strategy as a hedge against climate change. At the same time, the Queensland Government allows mining and coal seam gas exploration to degrade our best land.

Examples of foreign government controlled corporations buying up agricultural land include Hassad Food, which is part of the Qatar Government’s Investment Authority. Hassad Food last year bought up 165,000 hectares of a group of NSW grazing properties and is buying properties on a global scale as a direct part of Qatar’s strategy of building food security against future pressures on food production.

In another case, Shenhua Watermark Coal Pty Ltd, has bought up prime farmland for open cut coal mining on the Liverpool Plains in NSW. Shenhua is a subsidiary of the China Shenhua Energy Company, which is 68% owned by the Chinese Government.

State and Federal Governments also betray our region by failing to produce a strategy for food security in South-East Queensland. Government-owned farmland in the Mary Valley lies fallow and there is no thought given to developing the region in a post carbon economy.

South Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, has introduced a private members bill to require FIRB scrutiny of foreign purchase of land over 5 hectares. Dr McDonald said this required all significant foreign purchases to be scrutinised. He said a failure to develop a food security strategy would leave open the possibility of FIRB rubber-stamping the sale of land, which should be reserved first for feeding Australia’s growing population let alone Australian companies exporting the surplus to the rest of the world.

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, Media Release, 18 January 2011

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Greens support Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal

Posted by Jim on January 11, 2011

Greens leader, Sen. Bob Brown, has written to Greens members urging them to contribute to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal:

Dear friend,

The tragic loss of life in the Queensland floods, as well as the shocking images of besieged cities, evacuated suburbs, homes and cars swept away and farms ruined, leaves us luckier Australians asking how we can help.

Please join with me in giving to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal by clicking here.

Whatever you do, don’t delay, the need is now.

Thank you for your generosity,

Bob Brown

(on behalf of the Australian Greens)

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, 11 January 2011

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Queensland Coal COSTS the Queensland Taxpayer

Posted by Jim on December 20, 2010

The 2010-2011 Queensland State Budget projects $2.8 billion in royalties from coalmining [Queensland budget paper 2, 2010] for the current financial year.  But coal infrastructure costs borne by the taxpayer are huge.  The development of the Bowen Abbott Point Coal Terminal alone will cost the Queensland taxpayer $1.8-1.9 billion  [Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Minerals and energy, “Major development projects – April 2010 listing”].

Overall, the Queensland Government has committed over the next three financial years $5.7 billion in coal infrastructure development in terminals and rail – this does not include costs presumably covered by the new owners of sold off State assets [Sourcewatch: ABARE April 2010 major projects list].  In addition the State is committed in 2010-2011 to spend $400 million on power station upgrades.

The cost of coal to the State over three years based on an assumption of an average of $3 billion in coal royalties and taxpayer-funded expenditure on coal: a LOSS of around half a billion dollars.  These estimates do not include the State’s contribution to Coal Seam Gas or coal exploration!

The nett loss to the state Treasury does not include social costs, road maintenance costs, road closure costs, the cost of fractured communities, loss of agricultural productivity, the cost to the health system, the cost of high water usage, the irreversable damage to aquifers and water quality, irreversable landscape damage, the damage to heritage, the effect of coal transportation on the amenity of passenger rail, the lost opportunities to invest in renewable energy resources, the catch-up costs that will be incurred in a post-carbon economy, etc, etc, etc.  And now, ongoing revenue earners – the rail system and the ports – have been sold off for a one-off profit.  Would YOU run a business like that?  Especially when you have accountability to the taxpayers?

Coal is has a toxic effect on the state economy.

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, 20/12/10

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Coal cartel will ruin the future of Queensland’s rail system

Posted by Jim on August 12, 2010

The Queensland Government’s proposed sale of Queensland’s railways to the coal industry will be the death knell for passenger rail services in regional Queensland, says Jim McDonald, the Greens’ candidate for Wide Bay.

“High speed rail for both freight and passenger services should be an essential element in State Government climate change and population planning. A coal cartel will ruin the future of our rail system if Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser get their way.

“The Brisbane – Cairns route needs a rapid rail system as much as the Melbourne – Brisbane corridor, especially for the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay, to service a rapidly growing population and take trucks and passengers off the Bruce Highway.

“Federal and State Governments need to take serious steps to develop a standard gauge system in Queensland that will deliver frequent, rapid passenger and freight services to Maryborough, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast. Queensland lags the rest of the world in efficient rail transport because of the limitations of its narrow gauge rail system.

“The State Government should investigate selling off part of the rail easements to private interests to fund modernisation of the rail services that belong to the Queensland taxpayer. Instead, under Ms Bligh’s and Mr Fraser’s plan, passenger timetables will be affected by the coal industry’s priorities.

“The Government’s focus should be on fast rail, which will be an economic boon to the region in a low carbon future. A fast train plan could provide hundreds of jobs in Maryborough and Gympie if the State Government had a commitment to regional development and ensured that the rolling stock continued to be manufactured in Maryborough, instead of exporting the industry to China.

“High speed access to South-East Queensland markets will do as much to stimulate local industries and small business as the National Broadband Network.”

Dr McDonald said that the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese should include South-East Queensland and EDI Rail in the feasibility study for high speed rail.

“This is what the Greens mean by green jobs. Rail will always be more efficient and less polluting than motor vehicles. And it would provide jobs in the region. We need to think beyond existing frameworks. A high speed rail system would form a significant component of a low carbon economy in the region.”

Jim McDonald, Media Release, 12 August 2010

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Kin Kin Quarry: What Anna Bligh said on Kin Kin development

Posted by Jim on August 2, 2010

Proposals to allow the expansion of the Kin Kin quarry raise issues about its suitability in the Kin Kin district.  The following are comments made by the former Minister for Infrastructure and now Premier about the Titanium tourist project, which are relevant to the quarry:

“I need to be satisfied the proposed size and location is consistent with the intent of the SEQ Regional Plan.

“The site includes good quality agricultural land and areas of significant biodiversity value – the very areas the SEQ Regional Plan was established to protect.

“The Regional Plan is our safeguard to ensure growth in SEQ is managed in a sensible fashion. It protects more than 80 per cent of the region from urban development while providing for better land use, environmental protection, improved connections between homes and infrastructure and sustainable use of resources such as water and energy.”

“Ms Bligh said her decision followed a rigorous assessment process by the State Government and Noosa Shire Council. The development application has been the subject of deliberation by numerous agencies since it was lodged in November 2005….”

[Noosa Shire Council] refused the application, citing reasons including that the application was in conflict with their own planning scheme….
[Ministerial Media Statement, 18 April 2007]

Ms Bligh said in Parliament last year:

“No wonder the expert planning advice I received as part of the call-in said that ‘the proposed development would introduce inappropriate levels of development’ and that ‘the site has significant biodiversity values’ and ‘there is no overriding public interest to justify the conversion of this land to non-rural development’.”

As State departments dither on the quarry, why are not the same principles being applied by the the Council and State Government on this issue?

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Greens Queensland campaign launch – a photo report

Posted by Jim on July 26, 2010

I attended the Queensland launch of the Greens campaign in a crowded function room at The Summit Restaurant at Mt Coot-tha on Sunday with Campaign Manager Bob Borsellino.  The Green’s candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, also welcomed supporters and members.  She was followed by the Green’s Senate lead candidate Larissa Waters.

Crowd building up at Greens Queensland campaign launch

The launch was welcomed to country by elder, Maroochy, who performed a stunning welcome song.

Maroochy explaining the significance of her welcome song

Bob Brown electrified the room by addressing the issues of the campaign and outlining the contribution to government made by the Greens in the life of the last Parliament.  In a nice reference to the leaders debate, which locked out the Leader of the Greens, he said that in the case of the Labor and Liberal leaders, “three’s a crowd”.  He illustrated the failure of Labor’s environmental policy by referring to Julia Gillard’s summit on the environment as a phonebook strategy towards climate change.

Senator Bob Brown addressing the Launch crowd

He was upbeat about the chances of having Larissa Waters elected as the first Greens Senator from Queensland.  Later I met Bob Brown briefly after his media conference and we talked about coalmines.

Meeting Bob Brown after the launch of the Greens campaign in Queensland

All the candidates present were introduced to the audience and afterwards we posed for a group photo with Larissa Waters and Bob Brown.

Queensland House of Representative candidates pose with Bob Brown and Larissa Waters

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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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