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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2084

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (3:28 PM) —Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the chair to add to an answer.

The SPEAKER —The minister may proceed.

Mr TRUSS —Yesterday the member for Calare asked me a question about the Central West Rural Financial Counselling Service, and I undertook to obtain additional information. I informed the House yesterday that the federal budget had committed $23.3 million for funding to continue the Rural Financial Counselling Service. After the budget, Senator Troeth, who takes responsibility for these issues, immediately made a one-year extension offer for funding to the existing rural financial counsellors in Australia, while arrangements were being made for a longer-term agreement to cover 2005 to 2008.

The Central West Rural Financial Counselling Service has already finalised its funding agreement and has received its forward payment for July to October 2004. There is nothing in the central west service's 2004-05 budget and funding agreement that indicates that it is at any risk of closure by 2005, and my department has not been made aware of any concerns about the future viability of that service. Indeed, the central west service received a funding increase from the federal government for the 2002-04 period. In addition, it received a one-off $25,000 grant from the New South Wales government to cover special drought measures. It has also managed to obtain well above average local community input. In fact, it raised about $95,000 locally to support its service, which is well above the average.

Unfortunately, the member for Calare is not here today, but he has issued a press release which I think incorrectly suggests that that service is at risk of closure. I want to assure the House that the service has received not only a continuation of its funding but also increased funding in the last period.