Program 1.12: Rural programs
- support eligible primary producers and small rural businesses with targeted assistance to manage adjustment pressures and remain viable in the long term.
The Australian Government funds the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) in partnership with state governments. The program funded grants to state and regional organisations to provide free financial counselling to eligible primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses in financial hardship. The RFCS also provided financial information and referrals to other sources of assistance.
DAFF also administered a number of programs to assist individuals and businesses directly affected by the temporary suspension in 2011 of live cattle exports to Indonesia.
More information is available at live exports.
Key performance indicators
|Key performance indicator||2012–13 target||Performance|
|Work with the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers to acquit the funds in accordance with the relevant agreed governance documentation||100% of funds acquitted||Met||Met||Met|
|Provide effective support across rural Australia through the RFCS program||Support 14 service providers b||Met||N/A||Met|
|Work with the RFCS providers to provide the services specified in the agreed governance documentation||100% of services provided||Met||Met||Met|
|Eligible applicants have access to cash flow to assist with the impacts of the temporary suspension of the live cattle export trade to Indonesia||75 c||Met||Met||–|
|Scientific and economic research|
|Underpinning research, advice, forecasts, projects, products and data services are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality||85% a||Met||–||–|
a New performance indicator. b DAFF reported this indicator as a deliverable in 2011–12. cThis is the number of recipients. Applications closed on 10 February 2012. Payments will be made to recipients for up to two years. Numbers reported are not aggregated across financial years.
Improving counselling services
We commissioned a performance audit of the 14 RFCS providers to evaluate their corporate governance, financial management and service delivery frameworks. Overall, the audit outcomes were positive and found that the RFCS providers were well equipped to deliver their services. It also found a significant improvement in governance, financial management and service delivery arrangements since the last audit in 2007–08.
Most service providers were assessed as performing at a ‘medium’ level or above, meaning the audit had few or no major concerns about their corporate governance, financial management or service delivery. Most findings related to corporate governance issues. We are continuing to work with the RFCS providers to ensure all matters raised by the audit are addressed.
Supporting Northern Territory farmers
In December 2012, the Australian and Northern Territory governments agreed to fund a trial to extend the RFCS program into the Northern Territory. We provided $50 000 to the South Australian RFCS to deliver financial counselling services in the Northern Territory for two weeks every three months. The expanded service began in March 2013 and will be reviewed after 12 months.
Assisting the live cattle industry
In June 2011, a number of programs were established to assist individuals and businesses directly affected by the temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia. This included the Subsidised Interest Rate Scheme, which subsidised the interest on new and extended commercial loans to the value of $300 000. We continued to work with the Department Human Services to deliver the scheme, with about 75 businesses receiving $630 000 of support in 2012–13.
Supporting farmers in debt
An initiative was announced in April 2013 to strengthen the financial resilience of farmers struggling with high levels of debt. Farm Finance included short-term assistance in the form of concessional loans for productivity enhancement projects or debt restructuring. It also increased the non-primary production income threshold for Farm Management Deposits from $65 000 to $100 000 and allows for the consolidation of existing accounts. Other measures are funding for 17 additional full-time RFCS counsellors and establishing a nationally consistent approach to farm debt mediation.
Recovering from Queensland’s floods
In February 2013, as part of the 2013 Queensland Flood Support Package, a one-off funding boost of $750 000 was allocated to the two Queensland RFCS providers. These funds are helping rural financial counsellors assist primary producers and small rural businesses to develop flood recovery plans and manage the effects of flood damage. We worked with these providers to ensure this funding translated into new counselling resources.