IN TOWN: The Greens senator Larissa Waters addresses the party faithful in Rockhampton last night
IN TOWN: The Greens senator Larissa Waters addresses the party faithful in Rockhampton last night Christine McKee

The Greens launch policy of free TAFE and uni education

THE GREENS have education in their sights coming into the next election with a policy to fully fund state schools and reintroduce free TAFE and undergraduate degrees.

Greens' senator, Larissa Waters was in Rockhampton yesterday to talk about her party's education policy and plans to fund the $18 billion strategy.

"Teachers are having to dip into their own pockets to fund textbooks and other supplies and often kids are going to school without breakfast," she said.

"In some public schools, students are being taught in 20-year-old classrooms full of asbestos."

The Greens' plan would reverse "tax perks handed out by Coalition government to very wealthy".

Senator Waters said they don't need the support and the money would be reinvested to fully fund public schools.

"University and TAFE students often graduate saddled with mountains of debt...we think, because we're a wealthy nation, we should be providing free education again,"s he said.

"Education is an investment in individuals and the strength of our economy going forward.

"Fossil fuel subsidies could be used to give free undergraduate study."

The Greens' policy has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $18 billion over four years and would be paid for by diverting those fossil fuel subsidies.

The policy platform says $20.5 billion would be invested over the next decade.

It's a policy that LNP senator, Matt Canavan says doesn't add up.

"My understanding is the policy is to offer free education on the back of taxes in the mining sector, a sector they don't support," he said.

"The Greens also have a policy to shut down the coal mining industry.

"They don't want any coal mines in Australia, so how can you finance a policy based on a tax on an industry that you don't want to see exist?

"The taxes you'd raise from a coal mining industry that is shut down is zero, so you'd have no means to pay for this policy."

Senator Canavan described the policy platform as an "incoherent mess" designed to create disruption and eek out a few votes.

"That's not a surprise given they're not really in it to form government.

"You can't fund a policy on the back of an industry you don't support, which is what The Greens are trying to do here.

"The numbers don't add up, it's all for show. I don't think TAFE will be free under any government any time soon.

"What we have is very generous income contingent loans - it's bipartisan policy and a good way young Australians have access to education without upfront costs.

"Then they are asked to pay it back when they have higher than average incomes and that's only fair."

From education to jobs and Senator Waters said Queenslanders need jobs, "real jobs, not fake ones" with choice, stability and the ability to see them through the boom bust economy.

"People don't want a job in a mine per se, they just want a job," she said.

"We need to examine the structure of our economy, we need to acknowledge that it's changing globally, that the products we have sold in the past the world is wanting them less and less.

"If we don't prepare ourselves for that transition then the economic shock waves will be even worse.

"We need to base our decisions on how quickly we transition our economy to new job-rich clean energy on the science, and the science is saying we have to move as quickly as we possibly can."

With the biggest solar farms creating a couple of hundred jobs in construction and a handful of jobs in operation, it's not likely to replace the job-creation potential of mining and resources.

Senator Waters had no clear direction for the future of a Central Queensland economy beyond coal, but said the people needed to have a say in creating new industries to replace old ones when the world decides to go fully renewable.

She also said Rookwood Weir was not needed.

"There are other water supply options like existing available, unused flow in the Fitzroy or spare capacity in Paradise Dam via a pipeline to Awoonga," she said.

"There are also modern farming techniques which require less water, however it's an open secret that the water wouldn't be for farming but for industry and Gladstone industry just doesn't have the demand for additional water."

With the largest solar farms needing a couple of hundred people in construction and a handful of people to operate them, they would never fill the employment gap but Senator Waters says "we need to make decision about the sort of industries we need to support".

"We all need to eat food, but we can all get energy from clean, renewable energy," she said.

"We do need jobs and the community needs to have an input. We're not operating in isolation here. We need to look at global trends."