The Opposition welcomes the Abbott Government’s commitment to reject the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Review recommendation of a split funding model (recommendation 8) which could have cost some services up to 20 per cent of their funding.
Labor also welcomes the rejection of the RFCS Review recommendation of a mandated single service provider model for each State, which would have been a failure to recognise the different needs of different regions.
Unfortunately, while rejecting recommendation 8, Minister Joyce made no commitment to the maintenance of overall funding.
Indeed we seek clarification on the Minister’s pronouncement that:
“We will also offer the 14 current service providers an extension of their current contracts to 31 December 2015 to allow the Government time to implement some of the changes recommended by NRAC in a considered manner ahead of the next funding round” [JOYCE - MEDIA RELEASE- 25 FEBRUARY 2015]
We fear this could be code for funding cuts in the May Budget.
Our RFCSs have been under pressure in recent months with their funding rounds coming to end and the RFCS Review outstanding. The Minister’s statement will only extend that concern and uncertainty.
Labor seeks a commitment that further implementation of the Review’s recommendations will not be used as an excuse to cut RFCS funding in the coming Budget.
The RFCS is too important to our farmers and rural communities and its providers deserve certainty. The Minster must immediately provide an assurance RFCS funding will not be cut.