Thursday 22 June 2006



Mr FINCH (Statement) - Mr President, if you do not use it you lose it. This is just as true for facilities and institutions as it is for parts of the human body. I am talking about the Australian Maritime College's campus at Beauty Point in my electorate of Rosevears and the continuing uncertainty about its future. When a small State like Tasmania wins a national institution such as the Maritime College, as it did 25 years ago, it cannot rest on its laurels. It must continually fight to keep it, it must continually work to make sure that it stays relevant, it must fight off competitors and must use it to its capacity. If it does not, it loses it. Now I am not suggesting that the loss of the Beauty Point School of Fisheries is imminent, Mr President. However, I would like to detail how continued uncertainty over the school is affecting the institution itself and the community, which partly depends on having such centres amongst it.
The Beauty Point campus was set up 25 years ago to deliver programs in fisheries and ecology, marine resource management and vessel operations. It is near the waterfront where the fisheries' vessel, Bluefin, and the maritime training ship, Wyuna, have spent much of their time. The school of fisheries, its students and the staff soon became part of the local community and they were a boost for the local economy. Its residential building in Bagot Street includes a swimming pool and gym and presently accommodates 30 students. However, the plan now is to strip the Beauty Point campus of all but its shipping operations and short course work. Longer degree courses are to be moved to the main AMC campus at Newnham and that is as many as 80 per cent of the students. The reason given by the AMC interim president, Professor Peter Boyce, is to improve the educational experience of students. Now the AMC and the University of Tasmania are involved in the final stages of the merger, reportedly to obtain extra funding from Canberra. However, there is some unease about that proposal.
I quote from a letter to the Examiner from Leonard Colquhoun in Launceston on 2 December last year. It says:
'Smaller professional-focused institutes tend to lose their sense of individual purpose when taken over by larger, more amorphous ones … there should be " deep concern that this will mean the loss of the AMC's identity as … an international maritime shipping training institution"…
"The … moves away from the basic concept of a maritime college … a very much hands-on training institution."…
Tasmania doesn't have a surplus of nation-leading institutions: why submerge one that we do have?'
Mr President, it would seem that some of Mr Colquhoun's fears are coming to pass even before a merger is finalised. However, while I am concerned about the future of the national institution in Tasmania, I am more concerned about the future of its second campus which has become so much a part of the community in my electorate of Rosevears. Professor Boyce has said that Bagot Street accommodation wing and the swimming pool and gym, which are open to the public, will not be closed. The West Tamar Council contributes $10 000 a year to help maintain these facilities, one-tenth of what the AMC says is their real cost.
An additional concern is the impact on the morale of the community shaken by the events at Beaconsfield, if a highly regarded national institution in their midst is run down because of tertiary education politics. If there is a lesson to be learned from the debate about the Beauty Point School of Fisheries it is this: if you have an important institution and an important asset, use it or lose it.