Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:02): My adjournment matter this evening is for Minister Tierney, and the action I seek—well, it is almost an invitation really, Minister—is for her to accompany me and my Reason coalition colleague, Ali Cupper, the member for Mildura, to SuniTAFE Smart Farm to see how the proposed $10 million investment in the facility will greatly enhance the operations.
I had the pleasure of visiting SuniTAFE Smart Farm last week, and it is located just outside the Mildura CBD. It is 31 hectares, and it is an incredible collaboration between a TAFE and the industries in the area. It is really enticing for students, but there are only five small classrooms there. They are currently relocatable portables, and they have got some shedding and glass propagation houses. But this is a place that is investigating new technologies. We are seeing that one of the first farm robots will be implemented up there. They are using drones. They are doing such incredible work. What they are doing is collaborating so closely with the industry up there about what that industry wants, and because they are using new technologies the students are loving it. They are really enjoying it.
It means that SuniTAFE has been at the forefront of a number of local research projects, which includes a collaboration with one of my pet issues, the Australian Primary Hemp company. It has been interesting to investigate how this really formidable crop can be used in different parts of Victoria. They are at the forefront of this. There are very few trials like this happening in Australia anywhere, and certainly meeting with the farmers there they were looking at this crop and the different ways that they could use it as a rotational crop or even as a cover crop. They also grow almonds, olives, avocados, wine and table grapes, and citrus, and this is all done in consultation with the industry stakeholders.
The action I am seeking is for the minister to visit SuniTAFE, because they do want to expand these operations. They have shown me what they would like to do, and it really would be tremendous for small business and the industry in Mildura, as well as the over 150 students that are already utilising the sustainable, manageable, accessible rural technology, which is the SMART approach. Will the minister tour the facility and meet with the staff to discuss the incredible opportunities the farm provides?
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Adjournment matter 2/2/21
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (18:22): The fact of the matter is that we have had 16 adjournment matters raised this evening, covering a wide range of topics to say the least. There was one that was specifically directed to me from Ms Patten, and I wish to deal with that now.
I did notice in local newspaper reports that Ms Patten had visited the SuniTAFE farm in recent times with the local member, Ali Cupper, so I was not surprised to actually receive an adjournment matter in respect to the SuniTAFE farm facility. I have actually been there several times. It is a fantastic facility and one that is much loved by the local community.
I know that this government has already allocated at least $1.9 million towards the farm in terms of technology and Innovation works. This is being put to good use. I have been taken around the farm several times. I have been on the tractors and various other equipment, and it is incredibly impressive to see how one can farm using the most up-to-date technology.
So I applaud those that are supporting the SuniTAFE farm. We also of course had the Victorian skills commissioner, when he was doing his regional workforce development plan, spend a lot of time with local industry—the agricultural and horticultural industry—and the SuniTAFE farm was very much part and parcel of all of that.
And of course a lot of work that was done in that project has also been undertaken at the farm, and the continuing partnerships that are there are holding that region in good stead.
I also wish to indicate that I know a lot of good work was done through parliamentary committees on medicinal cannabis. I know that the then Minister for Agriculture, Jac Symes, had many a conversation with Ali Cupper in respect of what may or may not happen in relation to her electorate in respect of that form of agriculture. I am sure that the new minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, will be well and truly interested and wanting to get up to see the farm at SuniTAFE and offer her support as well.
I also draw the house’s attention to the fact that in the state’s December budget there was a significant allocation to agriculture for very many of the projects that are being suggested by a range of organisations, particularly in the training and skills area. In fact there is $30 million that is available, so I would encourage people to continue to put their case forward. So, again, this government is well aware of the great work that the SuniTAFE farm does.
We will continue to see what we can do to ensure that that farm continues to prosper and provide a sound training and skills facility for the local people, and indeed continues to encourage young people in the local region to stay in the region and pick up the skills that they need to support the fantastic agricultural and horticultural industry that surrounds the Mildura region.