WAFarmers welcomes the release of the National Rural Advisory Council’s (NRAC) review into the Rural Financial Counselling Service program (RFCS), particularly the key recommendation to the Federal government that the service should continue.
WAFarmers has a close working relationship with RFCS WA and has advocated at both State and Federal levels for both the continuation of the program and increased levels of funding, President Dale Park said.
“The report highlights the excellent work RFCS continues to carry out, which is particularly commendable given the tough periods rural areas have faced in the past few years,” Mr Park said.
“The WA program was, and to some degree, still is, underfunded relative to other states, so while it is disappointing to note a suggested overall cut by 20 per cent, it is extremely pleasing to see the report recommend a more equitable funding arrangement.”
Mr Park said the recommendation for 80 per cent of baseline funding to be allocated based on farm numbers in each state was pleasing given WAFarmers had long advocated this position and it put WA on equal footing with other states.
The report recommends the remaining 20 per cent of national funding be reserved for contestable allocation and it has been suggested Queensland and NSW receive priority allocation in such cases.
“Such an arrangement ignores the fact that Western Australia has large numbers of farmers in the Northern Agricultural Region and the Eastern Wheatbelt suffering, and one good year does not fix these problems,” Mr Park said.
“These farmers require RFCS services for up to two years afterwards to help restructure their businesses and better prepare them for the future.”
RFCS has more than 500 clients in Western Australia and needs more funding in the short term, not less, Mr Park said.
“The recommended baseline funding is actually less than what the service currently has available, so it should be a priority to allocate additional funding as soon as possible to give existing counsellors, and most importantly their clients, continuity and certainty,” he said.
All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Leslee Hall on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].