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Thursday, 26 November 1998
Page: 728

Mr VAILE (Trade) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to make a number of amendments to the Rural Adjustment Act 1992 to allow the introduction of the Farm Business Improvement Program, known as FarmBis. In the context of the 1997-98 budget, the government announced its intention to wind up the Rural Adjustment Scheme, following the findings of the McColl report. The government decided to replace the Rural Adjustment Scheme with a new program that would provide a positive framework for helping farmers improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their businesses by improving their management skills.

This new program, the Farm Business Improvement Program, FarmBis, was announced in September 1997 as part of the Agriculture—Advancing Australia package. It will assist all those involved in the management of the farm business to build on their skills and improve the performance of the farm business.

Assistance under FarmBis will be provided by way of direct financial contribution towards the cost of training activities. Activities supported will include, but not be limited to, skill development, farm business and financial planning and advice, farm performance benchmarking, quality assurance, risk management, marketing and natural resource management.

Consultations undertaken with farmer and training organisations in the development of the program highlighted training delivery barriers unique to farm businesses. FarmBis will promote continuous learning by making training more accessible to those managing farm businesses. By making the funds available largely for farmers' participation in activities of their choosing, there will be a strong incentive for training providers—whether they are from state agencies or private industry—to meet the needs of those farmers.

The focus of the program is on partnerships. State agencies, industry, local farmer and community groups will contribute to meeting the training needs of farmers. In addition, local coordinators will take primary responsibility for the further skill development of farmers in their area wanting to undertake activities under the FarmBis framework.

Program funds will be allocated between a state component and a national component. The state component will provide for training priorities within a state as determined by state planning groups. The Commonwealth and the state will provide funding for the state component on a fifty-fifty basis.

The national component will cover cross-border projects and national industry initiatives. The recently announced national pig industry initiative and the chicken meat benchmarking study are examples. This component will also operate through partnership arrangements between the Commonwealth and others—for instance, industry or community groups.

States and territories have agreed to participate as partners in FarmBis. Agreement was reached on the program framework at the February 1998 meeting of the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, or ARMCANZ. The Commonwealth has negotiated agreements with Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the funding, administration and operation of the state component of FarmBis in each jurisdiction. It is anticipated Tasmania and New South Wales will sign agreements late in 1998, with Queensland signing their agreement early in 1999. FarmBis will operate for three years from the 1998-99 financial year. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Swan) adjourned.