Fears the Launceston-based Australian Maritime College could be relegated to a secondary training facility continue to be raised in Tasmania.
Plans announced by the federal government on Friday for a Maritime Technical College in Adelaide has lead to confusion about the AMC’s roles as a world-renown maritime institution.
Tasmania Labor Senator Helen Polley said the decision to spend $25 million to establish the Australian Maritime Technical College was “nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to secure government seats.”
“This is a blatant example of pork barrelling to save the Government’s South Australian Seats and Minister Christopher Pyne,” she said.
“At the last election Malcolm Turnbull spent almost $2 million to keep bottoms in seats in the federal Parliament, but it did not work in Tasmania with a loss in Bass, Braddon and Lyons.
“This is a duplication of the internationally renowned AMC in Launceston which has always had bipartisan support.”
Senator Polley said it was a slap in the face to Australia’s Maritime Institute which had thousands of dollars put into it to develop its capacity to deliver world-leading research and training.
“The AMC will now be forced to compete for international students, teaching jobs and funding,” she said.
A University of Tasmania spokesperson said the Australian Maritime College had strong capabilities and a track record delivering high-quality training and world-leading research.
“These are capabilities with clear defence applications, but can also provide a platform upon which future regional advanced manufacturing industries can be built for the North and North-West of the state,” the spokesperson said.
“We are not clear about what is being proposed in South Australia and we are waiting to understand what impact it might have on the Australian Maritime College.”
Liberal Senator for Tasmania David Bushby said the announcement instead presented opportunities for the AMC.
“Due to the scale of the workforce training challenge, the work of the MTC will have to be national in scope and will require a national approach to education and training,” he said.
“It will need to work with, rather than compete with, existing institutions like the Australian Maritime College. The MTC will provide the coordination and funding to match those interested in a career in naval shipbuilding with appropriate training.”
Senator Busby said the South Australian college would act as a coordination hub using existing education and training providers across Australia to provide tailored courses in the key shipbuilding competencies.
“The government remains committed to the world class education that is provided by the Australian Maritime College and this announcement can only assist to further develop its activities as the College plays to its world class strengths and competencies,” said Senator Bushby.
“I intend to work closely with the Australian Maritime College to ensure those opportunities are maximised for the benefit of Tasmanians, particularly those in the north of the state.”
Premier Will Hodgman said the state government was alert but not alarmed by the federal announcement.
“This is something that I have raised with the federal minister directly … they are very clear and assurances have been received that it will not threaten activities at the AMC here in Tasmania,” he said.
“As the Tasmanian government we will ensure that the AMC’s role will be protected.”
Deputy Labor Leader Michelle O’Byrne said staff at the Maritime college, education leaders and the community in general was shocked by the decision.
“We've got the raw end of a political decision and the Prime Minister needs to ensure the AMC in Launceston is not left worse off,” she said.
Independent Tasmania Senator Jacqui Lambie said training was already available for seafarers through the AMC and before new colleges are opened certainty over the future of the industry was needed.
“To secure a future for the AMC, we also need to secure Defence contracts, establishing the MTC does not complement the AMC as the Liberal Government has stated, it will create direct competition for funding,” Senator Lambie said.