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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7809

Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (09:38): Thank you, Senator Brown. I will do my very best to answer the myriad of questions that you asked in that one long question. As I said to you yesterday, I wasn't aware of the consultations, but overnight I took it upon myself to avail myself of information relating to the consultation process that has been undertaken to date, particularly in relation to the areas that you were talking about: outsourcing and rural financial counselling services.

I can advise you that, in the period from 9 July to 10 August this year, the department engaged with a number of representatives of the banking sector and current concessional loan delivery agencies to gain a greater understanding of the market as well as the risks and opportunities in the service delivery area. As part of this process, they also met with a number of agencies that relate to the delivery of these financial assets to the community. They included the ANZ, Rural Bank, Rural Finance, Rabobank, Efic, the Commonwealth Bank, the National Bank, the Australian Bankers' Association, the New South Wales Rural Assistance Authority, the Department of State Growth in Tasmania, the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority, the Department of Primary Industries and Regions in South Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in Western Australia.

In relation to the determination about the specifics of the operation, you asked about outsourcing and the opportunity for existing providers to be able to work as service providers and service delivery providers for the Regional Investment Corporation. Whilst some preliminary discussions have occurred around the broader issues of the delivery of the services of the RIC, the government believes it is appropriate that the details of that are a matter for the RIC board, once it is established, and so the detailed answers to the questions that you have asked are not available at this stage. However, I think it is reasonable to say that the RIC board will be given a level of scope to be able to make sure that they are delivering the services to the farming community of Australia in the most efficient and effective way. If they determine that that is using service providers that are currently in the marketplace, and I am sure they will, then that is obviously a matter of which they are able to avail themselves.