Bills Digest No. 11  1998-99 Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 1998


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Endnotes
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

 

Passage History

Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 1998

Date Introduced: 2 July 1998

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Primary Industries and Energy

Commencement: The amendments outlined in this Digest commence on Royal Assent.

 

Purpose

To introduce the Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis).

 

Background

The major amendments proposed by the Bill give effect to the Government's decision, announced in it's September 1997 rural policy package titled Agriculture - Advancing Australia (AAA), to introduce the Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis).

As stated in the AAA package, the FarmBis program is intended to:

... provide a framework for promoting a positive approach to change across the farm sector. It will assist all those involved in the farm business, including employees, to build on their existing skills and improve farm business profitability and sustainability.(1)

As stated by the Minister in the Second Reading Speech to the Bill, the objectives of FarmBis are threefold:

  • first, to increase farmer participation in learning activities which will enhance the profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of their business
  • secondly, to develop greater acceptance of the benefits of continuous learning and skills development, and its relevance to the changing management needs of a competitive farm sector, and
  • finally, to enhance farmers capacity to identify and access appropriate learning activities, and over time, influence more flexible delivery of such activities.

Assistance under FarmBis program is intended to be provided through direct financial contributions towards the cost of programs and training activities in which farmers participate. The activities supported are intended to include skills development, farm business and financial planning and advice, farm performance benchmarking, quality assurance, marketing, risk management, rural leadership development and natural resource management.(2)

FarmBis is to consist of two components, that is, a Federal and State based component. The Minister in the Second Reading Speech states that:

It is anticipated that the majority of FarmBis funds will be allocated through the State based component to fund State/industry/community agreed priorities in relation to training and education within their regional communities and the rural sector. A partnership agreement between the Commonwealth and each State will set out the requirements for program objectives, performance, monitoring, funding and other obligations.

A total of $50 million has been allocated over three years by the Commonwealth to fund FarmBis.

The Government's rural policy package has invoked a mixed response from farmers. However, it appears that the bulk of the nation's farmers support the package. In respect to FarmBis, it is reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of 21 July 1998 that

The farmers particularly applauded the element of the plan soon to be launched - the Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis).

A more cautionary reaction to FarmBis has come from the Victorian Farmers Federation. It is reported in The Age of 15 September 1997 that:

The Victorian Farmers Federation's policy director, Mr Clay Manners, welcomes most aspects of the package, but is concerned about plans to replace the Rural Adjustment Scheme with the 12-month FarmBis education and skills training course.

The adjustment scheme had helped farmers when no other help was available and its cancellation would leave a gap.

'Farmers will be very sceptical about education and training being seen as the panacea,' Mr Manners says.

 

Main Provisions

Amendments to the Rural Adjustment Act 1992

Item 9 of Schedule 1 of the Bill inserts a new Part 4 (proposed sections 22AA-22AG), dealing with the Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis), in the Rural Adjustment Act 1992 (the Principal Act).

Proposed section 22AA provides the Minister with power to enter into an agreement with an individual for the Commonwealth to make them a grant relating to the FarmBis. A grant is subject to such terms and conditions as the Minister determines and must contain provisions relating to:

  • performance requirements
  • outcomes/targets
  • performance indicators
  • review and evaluation.

Payments are to be made out of money appropriated by the Parliament.

Proposed sections 22AB and 22AC provide the Minister with power to delegate his/her power under proposed section 22AA and makes an amount repayable by a person under an agreement a debt due by them to the Commonwealth.

Proposed section 22AD provides that the Commonwealth may enter into an agreement with a State/Territory relating to FarmBis. Proposed sections 22AE and 22AF deal with FarmBis payments to a State/Territory. Commonwealth payments to a State/Territory under an agreement relating to FarmBis may be made on terms and conditions contained in an agreement and must, unless the Minister determines otherwise, contain provisions relating to:

  • performance requirements
  • outcomes/targets
  • performance indicators
  • review and evaluation.

Payments made under an agreement are to be provided on the basis that the Commonwealth and a State/Territory each contribute 50% of the assistance provided under a scheme of support relating to FarmBis, except where the Commonwealth and a State/Territory jointly determine otherwise. Payments are to be made out of money appropriated by the Parliament.

Proposed section 22AG makes an amount repayable by a State/Territory under an agreement a debt due by them to the Commonwealth.

 

Endnotes

1. Department of Primary Industries & Energy, Agriculture - Advancing Australia.

2. Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Media Release, 14 September 1997.

 

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland
26 August 1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1998

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998.

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