Program 1.12: Rural programs
The objective of this program is to support eligible primary producers and small rural businesses with targeted assistance to manage adjustment pressures and remain viable in the long term.
Review of performance
This review addresses the deliverables identified in the 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statements. Table 13 and Table 14 summarise the extent to which we achieved deliverables and met key performance indicators with a specific target.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Program funds grants to state and regional organisations to provide free financial counselling to eligible primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses in financial hardship.
The program provides access to financial information and options and referrals to other sources of government, industry and professional assistance. Rural financial counsellors use an Enterprise Action Plan to assist clients to plan, devise strategies and set timelines for action to improve their financial circumstances, manage the impact of climate variability and achieve long-term sustainability.
The program is mainly funded by the Australian Government, in partnership with state governments. There are 14 RFCS service providers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. These organisations employ more than 90 rural financial counsellors across the country.
During 2011–12, the RFCS provided financial counselling services to 7553 clients and continued to help clients to access support through Australian Government Exceptional Circumstances assistance (see Program 1.11) and other forms of government assistance. Counsellors also provided case management support to more than 1027 clients accessing the Climate Change Adjustment and Transitional Income Support programs (see Program 1.1).
Rural financial counsellors helped primary producers respond to the impacts of significant floods in 2011–12, particularly in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. This continued the strong support provided to farmers and other small rural businesses throughout the drought.
As part of the Australian Government's assistance measures for live cattle exporters, RFCS South Australia received additional funding to provide on-site rural financial counselling services to Northern Territory primary producers and small rural businesses in financial hardship as a result of the temporary suspension of the live export cattle trade to Indonesia.
Live animal exports—domestic assistance measures
The government implemented a number of programs to assist individuals and businesses directly impacted by the temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia, including:
- an Income Recovery Subsidy, comprising up to 13 weeks of income support for individuals
- a Business Assistance Package comprising a Business Assistance Payment of $5000 and a Business Hardship Payment of up to $20 000
- a Subsidised Interest Rate scheme providing a subsidy of up to $36 000 over two years on new business lending
- grants of up $5500 for pastoralists to obtain financial advice.
The assistance measures were designed to target those significantly exposed to the trade and therefore less able to diversify their income to lessen the impact of the temporary suspension. Approximately 800 individuals and businesses received support in 2011–12. Payments will continue until June 2014 for recipients of the subsidised interest rate.
Deliverables and key performance indicators
|Through the Rural Financial Counselling Service Program provide funds to service providers||14 service providers||Met|
|Performance: We funded 14 service providers.|
|Provide the Income Recovery Subsidy to eligible applicants||22 a||Met|
|Performance: The subsidy was provided to 23 eligible applicants. b|
|Provide the Business Assistance Payment to eligible applicants||779 a||Met|
|Performance:The payment was provided to 780 eligible applicants. b|
|Provide the Business Hardship Payment to eligible applicants||435 a||Met|
|Performance:The payment was provided to 440 applicants. b|
|Provide Subsidised Interest Rate payments to eligible applicants||210 c||Not met|
|Performance:The final uptake was below initial projections. Payments were provided to 85 eligible applicants.|
a This is the actual number of approved recipients as noted on page 44 of the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2011–12. b Final uptake confirmed by the delivery agency (Department of Human Services) after all programs finalised. c Applications closed on 10 February 2012. Payments will be made to recipients for up to two years (2011–12 and 2012–13).
|Key performance indicator||2011–12 target||Achievement|
|Third parties deliver the services and acquit the funds in accordance with the relevant governance documentation||100%||Met||Met||Met|
|Performance: 100% of funds fully acquitted.|
|Third parties deliver services specified in the governance documentation||100%||Met||Met||Met|
|Performance: The services provided were consistent with the obligations spelt out in the Rural Financial Counselling Service Deeds of Grant.|
|Minister/parliamentary secretary and executive satisfied with the quality and timeliness of policy advice and support||High level of satisfaction achieved||Met||–||–|
|Performance: DAFF provided policy advice and support to the minister and parliamentary secretary. This advice has been received with a high level of satisfaction. This is a new indicator.|
|Eligible applicants have access to cash flow to assist with the impacts of the temporary suspension of the live cattle export trade to Indonesia||100%||Met||–||–|
|Performance: The program provided support to approximately 800 individuals and businesses in 2011–12.
This is a new indicator.
Outlook for 2012–13
Improved seasonal conditions in eastern Australia, reflected in the expiry of all Exceptional Circumstances declarations, will continue to provide positive opportunities for many farmers.
For those who experience ongoing financial hardship, RFCS counsellors will continue to play a supporting role. The tools and assistance they offer will help these farmers make appropriate decisions and capitalise on the improved seasonal conditions and commodity prices.
The RFCS will continue to assist recipients of household income support. Recipients of the Transitional Farm Family Payment will work with their local counsellor to assess their situation and develop an action plan that is tailored to their circumstances.