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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1296

Senator DENMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. On previous occasions, the minister has advised the Senate that a number of access programs in rural communities were undergoing evaluation to ensure that they were meeting their objectives and not duplicating any other government programs. Will the minister advise the Senate as to the outcomes of those evaluations?

Senator COLLINS —As the honourable senator said quite correctly, over the course of the past year the government has undertaken evaluations of the rural access program, the rural counselling program, the countrylink program and the business advice for rural areas program. These evaluations were undertaken to determine whether the programs were meeting a genuine need in rural communities and to ensure that the government's money was being spent effectively. They were part of an ongoing evaluation process designed to ensure that government programs were meeting their objectives.

  All evaluations concluded that the programs were worth while and provided much needed services in rural communities. Copies of the evaluation reports are available from the Department of Primary Industries and Energy on the countrylink toll-free line, 008 026 222. The evaluations recommended that funding for all programs should be continued beyond 1993-94. The government has provided over $29 million over the next three years for these programs.

  I am pleased to announce that I have just approved the latest round of funding for the rural access program, telecentres and the rural counselling program totalling nearly $1.7 million. This funding supports 105 community based projects through the rural access program, including an injury prevention project in Queensland, the Woolworks `95 design awards and exhibition in Western Australia, and a placement enhancement officer in the Hunter Valley aimed at increasing the number of apprentices in employment.

  I have also approved funding for four new rural counselling services and additional resources for three existing services. New services have been provided in Goulburn in Victoria, Brewarrina in New South Wales, St George in Queensland and Flinders in South Australia. Additional counsellors are being funded in Casino in New South Wales, Charleville in Queensland and Mudgee in New South Wales. Six new telecentres will be funded, providing improved access to modern information and telecommunications technologies. The telecentre program is designed to improve employment prospects and assist in the delivery of services such as education and training. The new telecentres will be located in Camperdown, Heathcote, the Otways and Cavendish in Victoria, Lake Grace in Western Australia and Young in New South Wales.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.