Transcript - Radio Interview - ABC Upper Hunter - Wednesday 25 July 2018

SUBJECTS: Funding for agriculture education in schools

MIKE PRITCHARD: Well the Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon is pushing for the Government to reintroduce $75,000 that they have taken away from the Primary Industries Foundation, a Foundation that the Labor Party established in 2009. This was hoped and has had some success in introducing curriculum into schools especially in the metropolitan areas on agriculture explaining a little more about where there food comes from. He Is hoping the Federal Government will reintroduce the $75,000 stripped away in the budget.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: There is no doubt that younger people are disconnected from our regions and from food production. Sadly as I indicated in my recent opinion piece, something like 75 per cent of kids didn’t identify bananas and other food products as farming products. In other words some kids seem to think milk is something that comes from a carton rather than something that comes from a cow. So we need to get young people, particularly in our capital cities where most of the consumption takes place, more engaged and to give them a better understanding about how our food is produced. More importantly we want young people thinking about agriculture and agribusiness as a career and until we do that we are going to continue to face labour shortages in horticulture in particular but as farming goes up that technology curve, and it is becoming more sophisticated, and we want it to become more sophisticated, we want the best working in it and we are not going to attract young people to agriculture ad agribusiness if they don’t understand it and they don’t believe there are real fulfilling jobs there.

PRITCHARD: At the moment we seem to be relying on farmers and those wanting to get into agriculture from overseas.

FITZGIBBON: Exactly we are relying too heavily on foreign labour both in the lower skilled jobs and in the higher skilled jobs. If Australia’s agriculture is going to be successful in the future and we are going to meet and fulfil our aspirations we need to have a big embrace of technology, we need to lift productivity and to do that we need the smartest kids thinking about agriculture and agribusiness as a career. I think it’s fair to say as I said in my piece that young people know what lawyers do, they know what school teachers do and they know what engineers do and they sort of know the career path is to get there. Which university course to do and which TAFE course to but in agriculture and agribusiness they don’t seem to have a good picture and until they do, they won’t choose agriculture. Until we start teaching them in our schools more about agriculture well, we certainly won’t turn that around.

PRITCHARD: So without the $75,000 and the credibility that goes with Government support of this program where else do they get their funding and how successful is it going to be in the future?

FITZGIBBON: Well I certainly won’t give up on the foundation and I know they are determined to survive but it’s very, very disappointing that a Commonwealth Government with a huge budget couldn’t continue to find $75,000 a year. I’m hopeful they are going to be okay but it’s going to be very, very hard if the foundation folds that will be a great loss to Australian agriculture and a great loss to I think our school children who I think will enjoy and benefit from a stronger education in agriculture.

PRITCHARD: What measure have you got of success of the program so far to find out how they are introducing more of these programs into schools?

FITZGIBBON: The take up rate from schools themselves Mike, I don’t remember the number but there has been an exponential growth in the number of schools throughout the country making contact with the foundation through its website.

PRITCHARD: Good news with so many people getting involved more but they do need that $75,000.

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