A collective shudder is running through Australias rural areas following the announcement that the Government will review the Rural Financial Counsellors program.
In recognition of the drought and other market issues facing the farm sector, as Minister I announced in July last year 17 additional full-time counsellors. This was gratefully welcomed by farmers and rural communities around Australia.
This is the worst possible time to be placing doubt over the service and it follows the Governments failure to deliver on a key aspect of its drought relief package.
The review certainly was not talked about prior to the election and will be a surprise to farmers and rural communities more generally adding to the uncertainty that the Government may adopt the recommendation by the Commission of Audit, that rural financial counsellors be abolished.
The review will also be another surprise for State governments, which partner with the Commonwealth to deliver these important services.
Barnaby Joyce suggests he can do nothing in agriculture until the completion of his White Paper yet when it comes to threats and cuts, there appears to be no need for delay.
The review of the Rural Counselling program at this time is cruel and insensitive and follows a range of new taxes and cuts which will particularly hit rural communities.