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Regional outputs and programs

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Regional, rural and remote Australia accounts for over one third of the population and two thirds of Australia's export income. Our national prosperity depends significantly on the strength of our regions, now and into the future.

In recent times, ongoing population shifts, drought, floods and fire have presented major challenges to regional communities. Partnership is the key to helping these communities face their challenges and take opportunities to further develop and grow.

Our Role

We lead portfolio agencies in helping the Australian Government achieve 'greater recognition and development opportunities for local, regional and territory communities'. Other agencies and governments which contribute to this outcome include:

  • the National Capital Authority
  • state governments
    • the Western Australian (WA) government also provides a number of services to the Indian Ocean Territories (IOTs) on our behalf
  • the governments of the Australian Captial Territory (ACT), Northern Territory (NT) and Norfolk Island, and
  • more than 700 local governments including 90 indigenous councils.

Private and not-for-profit bodies also contribute to this outcome.

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Our contribution

We are funded to deliver a range of regional outputs and programmes. This chapter reports on these outputs and programmes. It:

  • sets out the annual financial and other targets published in documents such as our 2003-04 Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS)
  • explains our actual results in 2003-04 and compares them with previous years' results where applicable
  • discusses factors that may be affecting or are likely to affect our results, such as our relationship with the stakeholders identified above, and
  • summarises progress towards achievement of the indicators nominated for each output and programme using the following ratings
    fully achieved mostly achieved partly achieved not achieved

As part of delivering our outputs and programmes, we work towards specific priorities. In 2003-04, five of our top 20 priorities related to regional services. Our performance against these priorities is reported in Chapter 1. Our priorities for 2004-05 are listed in Chapter 2.

Table 5.1 - Regional outputs and programmes in 2003-04

Budget a 2003-04$000 Actual2003-04$000 Variance b
Progress
See also page
Output 2.1 - Regional development policy advice
8 390
14 308
70.5%
105
Administered programmes - nil
Output 2.2 - Regional development programmes
23 791
19 351
18.7%
108
Administered programmes
Regional Partnerships
90 944
78 457
13.7%
111
Sustainable Regions
20 865
20 889
0.1%
113
Construction of the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum
725
-
100.0%
116
Output 2.3 - Services to territories
88 082
108 071
22.7%
117
Administered programmes
Payments to the ACT
- assistance for water and sewerage services
8 873
8 873
-
122
- compensation for the effects of National Capital Influence on the costs of providing municipal services
22 067
22 067
-
122
Output 2.4 - Services to local government
3 292
3 357
2.0%
123
Administered programmes
Local Government Financial Assistance Grants
1 508 436
1 508 436
-
127
Output 2.5 - Natural disaster mitigation and relief arrangements
5 181
3 492
32.6%
128
Administered programmes
Disaster Mitigation
5 500
5 472
0.5%
130
Regional Flood Mitigation
9 900
4 747
52.1%
131
National Aerial Firefighting
5 500
5 500
-
132
Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements
135 000
46 936
65.2%
133
Assistance for ACT Softwood Sawmills
1 000
1 000
-
132
Bushfire appeals and other ex-gratia relief
-
10
n/a
n/a
n/a
Output 2.6 - Regional research and data
2 360
1 831
22.4%
134
Administered programmes
Regional and Rural Research Info and Data
68
67
1.5%
135
Regional and Rural Development Grants
160
171
6.9%
135
Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal
650
524
19.4%
136
Total price of departmental outputs
131 096
150 410
14.7%
Less receipts from independent sources
9 206
15 257
65.7%
Net price to government for outputs(appropriation)
121 890
135 153
10.9%
Total cost of administered programmes
1 809 688
1 703 149
5.9%
Plus other costs including depreciation
696
979
40.7%
Total administered operating expenses
1 810 384
1 704 128
5.9%
Less administered revenues
43 213
57 106
32.2%
Net cost to government of administered activities
1 767 171
1 647 022
6.8%
Average Staffing Level (ASL)c
421.8
444.6
5.4%

a The budget is the revised budget published in our 2003-04 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.
b The variance is the change in our 2003-04 actuals over our revised 2003-04 budget.
c The average staffing level includes 115 staff based in the IOTs. From 1 July 2004 services to the IOTs will be reclassified from departmental to administered.

Table 5.2 - Trends in regional development policy advice

2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05 est
Price of output
$12.8m
$9.3m
$14.3m
$5.8m

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Regional development policy advice

(Policy and Research Group, Programmes Group)

Description
Performance indicators
Progress
The department provides policy advice and other services to its ministers in relation to:
  • regional communities and their development
  • effective governance, economic and social development of Australian territories
  • local governments, including advice on local government financing.
Effectiveness:
  • improvement in cooperative work and action across agencies
  • improved understanding and communication of regional issues nationally
  • ministers and ministers' offices are satisfied with the quality of policy advice and legislation development, and the department meets standards for policy advice, legislation and ministerial services.
Price: $8.4m (down from $11.8m at Budget)

Report on performance

We work with many other agencies to improve the way regional issues are understood, communicated and addressed. For example, in 2003-04, we:

  • participated in the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Issues which has taken on a broader role since the government decided to adopt a whole-of-government approach to delivering programmes and services to Australia's indigenous peoples
  • sponsored one of eight Council of Australian Governments (COAG) trials of a 'whole of government' approach to delivering services to indigenous communities in the East Kimberley, WA
  • supported the Regional Women's Advisory Council to host three significant events in Gippsland, Armidale and Alice Springs
  • met with various groups to progress the National Water Initiative and other important reforms to the way we manage natural resources, and
  • worked with other agencies to develop a draft National Regional Evaluation Framework for assessing the impact of government programmes in regional Australia.

We provide advice and other services to our ministers in anticipation of these being needed, or as required by them. In 2003-04, we continued to achieve more than 90 per cent satisfaction with the briefs and correspondence we prepared. In doing so, we supported our ministers and executive to:

  • exercise powers and meet their responsibilities under more than 40 pieces of portfolio legislation on local government, territories and regional development
  • appoint people to key positions in the National Capital Authority, the IOTs, Norfolk Island and the NT
  • chair and participate in key forums, including the new Regional Development Council (RDC), which met for the first time on 30 July 2003
  • participate in negotiation of key agreements including two water reform agreements endorsed at the COAG meeting on 25 June 2004
  • represent the Australian Government on official visits to Norfolk Island in September and October 2003 and in March 2004
  • make submissions and respond to relevant inquiries e.g. by the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories and by the House of Representatives Select Inquiry into the Recent Bushfires, and
  • respond to representations from other ministers, members of parliament and constituents on related issues.

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result for 2003-04 was $14.3 million.

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Regional development programmes

(Programmes Group)

Description
Performance indicators
Progress
The department administers regional programmes and grants for communities, which includes:
  • working with local consultative/advisory structures to enable communities to build on capabilities and opportunities within their regions
  • working with other agencies across all spheres of government in the delivery of non-grant programmes and activities to communities.
Effectiveness:
  • regional partnerships between government, communities and the private sector are strengthened
  • stakeholders are satisfied with programmes
  • administration of programmes is in accordance with legislation, government policy, and departmental standards.
Price: $23.8m (up from $19.9m at Budget)

Report on performance

We encourage regional communities to plan for their own development and consult with them about how we can help them grow and diversify. In 2003-04 our regional offices worked:

  • with a national network of 56 Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) to deliver the new Regional Partnerships Programme
  • with eight locally appointed advisory committees and executive officers to deliver the Sustainable Regional Programme, and
  • to distribute information on other Australian Government grants programmes - we also publish this information online at www.grantslink.gov.au/

We encourage other agencies to work with committees to improve regional outcomes. Examples of initiatives involving ACCs in 2003-4 included small business, tourism, sugar industry reform, national food industry strategy, and indigenous employment.

We provide the Commonwealth Regional Information Service (CRIS), so people do not need to know the structure of government to find out what help is available. In 2003-04, we:

  • mailed an information booklet to 2.7 million households and distributed 45 000 copies of the more detailed Australian Government directory
  • fielded 14 per cent more hits on our website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au/ and handled the equivalent of four and a half thousand hits a day, and
  • handled an average of 450 calls a week to our free hotline 1800 026 222, including a total of 1750 calls about the new Regional Partnerships Programme.

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result for 2003-04 was $19.4 million. This result reflects factors including self-imposed expenditure restraint under the Work out/Work up plan as well as lower than expected demand for programmes in the first part of the year. We expect the price to rise in 2004-05 as programme activity expands.

Table 5.3 - Trends in regional programmes

2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05est
Departmental activities
Total price of output
$36.9m
$28.0m
$19.4m
$30.0m
Commonwealth Regional Info Service
Website hits a
0.7 million hits
1.4 million hits
1.6 million hits
Subject to communitydemand
Calls to hotline 1800 026 222
31 908 calls
38 519 calls
23 241 calls
Stands at community venues
360
not reported
> 340
a Our website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au/ was only launched in January 2002
Regional Partnerships Programme b
b As this programme was only launched on 26 June 2003, the historical data shown here relates to the nine programmes that it replaced and includes expenses incurred by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations before the transfer of some programmes to us in late 2001.
Regional Partnership projects
Applications received
1 308
954
736
New projects approved
685
533
266
Rural Transaction Centres (RTCs)
New sites approved
34
67
74
Sites approved to date
not reportedc
164
239
Sites operating at 30 June
52
80
115
RTCs with electronic point of sale (personal banking service)
New sites approved
98
21
33
Sites approved to date
not reported c
119
141
Sites operating at 30 June
98
101
130
140+ sites
Total cost of programme
$91.4m
$73.7m
$78.5m
$90.8m
c An aggregate total of 202 RTCs and RTCs with personal banking services had been approved as at 30 June 2002.
Sustainable Regions Programme
New projects approved
n/a
72
86
Total cost of programme
$0.4m
$6.2m
$20.9m
$32.5m
Total regional programmes administered
Number of programmes
10
11
3
3
Total cost of programmes d
$91.7m
$80.0m
$99.3m
$124.0m

d Includes cost of legacy and/or minor programmes such as the Bert Hinkler museum.

Administered programme - Regional Partnerships (Programmes Group)
Description
Performance indicators
Progress

This programme makes it easier for people to access funding for local projects. There is one programme, one set of guidelines and one application form.

It brings together nine previously separate programmes: Regional Solutions, Regional Assistance, Rural Transaction Centres and specifically targeted structural adjustment initiatives for Wide Bay-Burnett, Namoi Valley, Weipa and the South West Forests region of WA.

Effectiveness: communities have improved growth and opportunities, access to services, support for planning and assistance in structural adjustment Quality: clients are satisfied with the programme

Quantity: number and geographic spread of grants approved

Location: regional, rural and remote Australia

Cost: $90.9m (down from $99.1m at Budget)

We work with 56 ACCs throughout Australia to identify and support projects that will benefit regional communities. Because every region is unique, the proposals put to us vary considerably in their size and scope. Some of the projects funded in 2003-04 were:

  • a 40-place long day child care centre in Launceston, which will provide child care for migrant children while their parents attend English and other classes ($0.2 million)
  • work to improve water quality in the Great Lakes district of NSW and to restore Wallis Lake as one of NSW's primary oyster farming regions ($0.4 million)
  • a eucalyptus oil distillation plant in Narrogin, WA which will trial oil distillation from mallee trees using waste heat from a co-located bio-energy plant ($0.4 million)
  • a new mobile phone system for Christmas Island to replace the existing analogue system ($2.5 million), with Telstra to contribute another $0.8 million, and
  • some operating costs of the newly established heritage railway from Beaudesert to Bethania in Queensland 1.

We revise programme budgets several times each year in response to actual demand for funds. Our final result, $78.4 million, was less than expected but still more than was spent under the nine previous programmes in 2002-03. For every $1 spent on projects, other sources have contributed an average of $3.

We expect competition for programme funds to increase as communities and ACCs gear up, and as significant adjustment issues emerge in connection with necessary water reforms. This trend may also change the type and location of new project proposals and approvals.

1 As mentioned in previous annual reports, the Beaudesert railway was set up with a $5 million Federation Fund grant.

Figure 5A - Regional Partnerships project approvals in 2003-04

Figure 5A - Regional Partnerships project approvals in 2003-04

The new model of programme administration, which builds on the lessons learnt from previous programmes, has been well received. The standardised funding agreement, which was developed under the More Accessible Government initiative, sets out grant recipients' and our responsibilities in plain English. A client satisfaction survey will be conducted in 2004-05, to provide a more formal assessment of the programme's quality.

The programme has also been expanded at a cost of $77.6 million over four years from 2004-05. This extra funding includes $72.5 million over four years, some of which will address issues raised in the report Regional Business - A Plan for Action.

For more information about this programme, visit www.regionalpartnerships.gov.au

Administered programme - Sustainable Regions (Programmes Group)
Description
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme supports communities in specific regions to deal with major economic, social and/or environmental change.

The specific regions are: Campbelltown-Camden, Far North East New South Wales, Gippsland, the Atherton Tablelands, Wide Bay Burnett, Playford-Salisbury, the Kimberley, and North West and West Coast Tasmania.
Effectiveness:
  • regional partnerships between government, communities and private sector are strengthened in targeted regions
  • increased opportunities in targeted regions.
Quality: stakeholders are satisfied with the programme

Quantity: number and geographic spread of grants approved

Location: regional, rural and remote Australia

Cost: $20.9m (down from $26.4m at Budget)

We are working with communities in eight regions as profiled in figure 5B. We support an advisory committee in each region to build partnerships with other governments, business and communities. Up to $12 million is available to each region over the life of the programme, except for the Atherton Tablelands which has up to $18 million and Wide Bay Burnett which has up to $8 million 2.

2 Another $4 million had been set aside for projects in Wide Bay Burnett under a previous structural adjustment package (see Regional Partnerships Programme).

Table 5.4 - Trends in Sustainable Regions funding

2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
Total to date
Campbelltown-Camden NSW
$0.0m
$0.5m
$2.1m
$2.6m
Far North East NSW
$0.0m
$1.1m
$2.8m
$3.9m
Gippsland Victoria
$0.0m
$1.6m
$3.0m
$4.6m
Atherton Tablelands Qld
$0.0m
$1.4m
$4.0m
$5.4m
Wide Bay Burnett Qld
$0.0m
$0.1m
$2.7m
$2.8m
Playford-Salisbury SA
$0.0m
$0.2m
$1.4m
$1.6m
Kimberley WA
$0.0m
$1.0m
$3.6m
$4.6m
North West and West Coast Tasmania
$0.0m
$0.2m
$1.3m
$1.5m
Other
$0.4m
$0.0m
$0.0m
$0.4m
Total cost of programme
$0.4m
$6.2m
$20.9m
$27.5m

Since the programme began in 2001, we have committed over $53 million to 158 projects. These projects have attracted another $162 million from private sector and other partners. This equates to a $3 benefit for every $1 of Australian Government funding, although the actual amount varies between projects and regions. Some of the projects approved in 2003-04 included:

  • The Derby Airport Runway Upgrade - now completed, this project has prevented significant economic loss to the Derby region and provided a platform for sustainable growth in tourism, business, mining and health ($660 000, amount matched by the WA Government, plus $300 000 from the Shire of Derby West Kimberley).
  • The Salt Cake Pits project in Gippsland - this project has made it possible for sodium sulphate to be produced locally by purchasing factory equipment and infrastructure and has created two full-time jobs ($50 000 supported by $183 386 from Environmental Resources Australia).
  • Macarthur Youth Commitment - this project is supporting young people at risk of leaving school, or who have already dropped out, to complete year 12, undertake an equivalent training qualification or obtain full-time employment linked to training ($904 620).
  • Type Certification of Jabiru Aircraft and Engines - this two-year project aims to create 40 jobs across the Wide Bay Burnett region by enabling commercial production of Jabiru Kit aircraft and engines, following type certification ($480 000, amount matched by proponent).
  • The City of Playford, Adams Creek/Edinburgh Parks Flood mitigation and Stormwater Reuse - this project will build a water storage and recovery system to help manage floods, allow water re-use, beautify the area and reduce reliance on the River Murray ($1.32 million plus $3.04 million in partner contributions).

We revise programme budgets several times each year in light of the total funds that may be required. Our final result for 2003-04 was $20.9 million. We expect demand for funds to grow further in 2004-05 as more projects are approved.

For more information about this programme, visit www.sustainableregions.gov.au

Figure 5B - Profile of the eight regions targeted under Sustainable Regions a

Figure 5B - Profile of the eight regions targeted under Sustainable Regions

Administered programme - Construction of the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum (Programmes Group)
Description
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme was established to construct the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum in Bundaberg, Queensland. Effectiveness: increased economic activity in the Bundaberg region

Location: Bundaberg, Queensland

Cost: $0.7m (down from $1.2m at Budget)

We are working with the Bundaberg City Council to construct the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum in Bundaberg. The museum will help boost the regional economy through tourism. It will also provide a focus for future local and national aviation events.

At the end of 2002-03, we had signed a deed of agreement with the council committing $1.5 million to the project over two years. We paid $50 000 from these funds towards a detailed concept and business plan for the project.

The council delivered agreed planning documents in November 2003. However, after considering several construction options, council decided to ask the Australian and state governments to increase funding for the project. The Australian Government has recently announced it will increase its contribution to $4 million.

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Untitled Document

Services to territories

 

(Programmes Group)

 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
The department manages Commonwealth interests in the self-governing territories and provides federal and state equivalent services to the non self-governing territories. Key activities include:
  • providing governance regimes, services and programmes
  • collecting general taxes, levies, fees and loan repayments, both departmental in nature and on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Effectiveness:
  • the extent to which equivalent mainland service standards for non self-governing territories are achieved
  • Commonwealth interests in selfgoverning territories are managed
  • programme administration and service delivery is in accordance with legislation, government policy and departmental standards
  • revenue collected and reported in accordance with legislation and departmental standards
Price: $88.1m (down from $89.6m at Budget)

Report on performance

Ten territories help make up the nation of Australia and are home to more than half a million Australians. Each territory operates in a different geographical, historical and social context and their forms of governance reflect these differing situations (see table 5.5).

Services to non self-governing territories

We provide a range of services to the residents of non self-governing territories in the absence of a state government. Our services include education and health. We provide services directly, through the private sector or through nearby state governments, and are working to ensure these meet the standards enjoyed by comparable mainland communities (see case study).

Other Australian Government agencies also contribute to life in the territories. For example, the Department of Environment and Heritage manages national parks including all Antarctic and sub-antarctic territories, while the Australian Federal Police provides community policing services in Jervis Bay and the IOTs.

Services to self-governing territories

In 2003-04 we administered payments to the ACT for costs associated with Canberra's role as the national capital. We also administered loans for assets transferred to the NT when granted self-government and to Norfolk Island for the Cascade Cliff Safety Project.

We continued to work with the Norfolk Island Government through the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area Management Board to maintain and interpret heritage buildings and values on the Island.

In 2004-05 we will support the continuing evolution of self-government on Norfolk Island. As part of this we will:

  • transfer selected crown leases to freehold title so islanders have the opportunity to own the land on which they live
  • manage a $3.1 million grant for urgent works to stabilise and protect the island's historic Kingston Pier (see photo above right), and
  • administer a loan to the Norfolk Island Government to fund resurfacing of the island's airport runways.

Revenue associated with services to territories

We collect loan repayments from territory governments and taxes and fees from the sale of goods and services to territory residents. This revenue helps offset the costs of delivering services and is reported and audited as part of our financial statements. We will review our fees and charges in 2004-05 to ensure we comply with new cost recovery guidelines.

Price of output

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result was $108.1 million in 2003-04. This result reflects the cost of writing down Christmas Island's Immigration Reception and Processing Centre staff housing on its transfer to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) ($23.8 million).

From 2004-05, services to the IOTs will be delivered through a new administered programme. Existing departmental resources for the IOT will also be transferred to the new administered programme (see table 5.6). This transfer has been endorsed by the government and will be picked up in our 2004-05 financial statements (see Note 13).

Table 5.5 - Australia's territories and their populations

Territory  
Area a
 
Population a
 
Cultural/linguistic features
Self-governing territories
Australian Capital Territory
2 358 km2
322 850
 
Norfolk Island
35 km2
1 359
 
Northern Territory
1 349 129 km2
198 351
About 25% indigenous
Non self-governing territories
Christmas Island
135 km2
1 501
Mainly Chinese and Malay speakers
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
14 km2
601
Mainly Cocos-Malay speakers
Coral Sea Islands
81 km2
4
 
Jervis Bay
73 km2
558
About 30% indigenous
Other
Ashmore and Cartier Islands
2 km2
Uninhabited
 
Australian Antarctic Territory b
5 896 500 km2
Transient
 
Heard and McDonald Islands b
367 km2
Uninhabited
 
All territories
7 248 694 km2
525 264
 
a Source: BTRE, About Australia's Regions (May 2004).
b Australia's antarctic/subantarctic territories are administered by Environment Australia (www.environment.gov.au).

Table 5.6 - Trends in services to and funding for territories

The following table presents a conservative picture of the cost of services to and funding for territories. These statistics do not include the cost of depreciation of administered assets. As such, the estimate for 2004-05 may understate the true cost of services by $11.4 million.

   
2001-02
 
2002-03
 
2003-04
 
2004-05 est
Payment for ACT municipal services
$21.1m
$21.6m
$22.1m
$22.5m
Payment for ACT water and sewerage services
$8.5m
$8.7m
$8.9m
$9.1m
Other administered programmes
n/a
n/a
n/a
$58.3m
Price of departmental output
$91.9m
$106.2m
$108.1m
$22.0m
Total cost of services to territories
$121.4m
$136.5m
$139.0m
$111.9m

 
Administered programmes - Payments to the ACT
- assistance for water and sewerage services
- compensation for the effects of National Capital Influence on the costs of providing municipal services
(Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
These programmes recognise the costs to the ACT Government associated with Canberra being the national capital. Effectiveness: reduced cost to the ACT of the National Capital influence on utility and municipal services

Location: ACT

Cost: $22.1m - municipal services
$8.9m - utility services

We make payments to the ACT Government for costs associated with being the national capital. In 2003-04, we paid the ACT Government the full amount payable in fortnightly instalments.

The amount payable is based on an estimate made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission when the ACT became self-governing in 1988, and adjusted for increases in the consumer price index.

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Services to local government

 

(Programmes Group)

 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
The department provides Commonwealth assistance to develop and support local government and to support planning initiatives across all jurisdictions. Key activities include:
  • payment of financial assistance grants to local governments
  • preparing the Local Government National Report
  • managing the National Awards for Local Government.
Effectiveness:
  • more efficient, effective and responsive local governments
  • improved cross portfolio and jurisdictional cooperation
  • stakeholders are satisfied with programmes and services
  • administration of programmes is in accordance with legislation, government policy and departmental standards.
Price: $3.3m (up from $2.6m at Budget)

Report on performance

The department administers payments to 722 local governments across Australia and actively promotes and supports better practice in local government.

Financial assistance grants to local government

We administer financial assistance grants to local governments under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995. We also publish a separate annual report on the way local government grants are allocated.

The Act requires us to table our report as soon as practical after 30 June each year. Our report for 2002-03:

  • was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on 24 December 2003, after consultation with all state and local governments
  • highlighted efforts by all levels of government to collaborate through 'joined-up' activities, and
  • included a special report on how the local government sector functions in a comparable country - Canada.

Our annual report on local government is widely cited by people working in local government, researchers and others wishing to better understand the sector. For example, it has been quoted in:

  • the November 2003 report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration on local government and cost shifting
  • research papers published by the Australian Parliamentary Library, and
  • papers prepared by the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia.

A copy of the 2002-03 report is available online at www.dotars.gov.au/ under the local government tab. We expect to table the report for 2003-04 in December 2004.

Did you know?

Local governments:

  • spend around $16 billion a year or 2% of GDP
  • employ around 154 000 people, and
  • are responsible for over 80% of Australia's roads.

Among OECD countries with a federal system of government, Australia has the second lowest percentage of taxes raised by local government (3%) - Mexico is the lowest (0.8%) and Switzerland the highest (14%).

Source: BTRE, About Australia's Regions (May 2003)

Promoting and supporting better practice in local government

We provide local governments with opportunities to celebrate their successes and share their experiences with other councils through the National Awards for Local Government (see case study), associated leading practice seminars, and an online database of the 2000 plus projects nominated for awards since 1997.

The 2003 awards, which were announced in November 2003, included new categories of award to celebrate the Year of the Built Environment.

Leading Practice Seminars were held in Perth, Sydney, Hobart and Batemans Bay and attracted more than 150 participants. Feedback from seminar participants confirms that they found them a worthwhile way of getting new insights into issues and for networking.

Local governments clearly value the opportunities presented by the awards and by associated seminars and promotions. To quote the City of Salisbury, a winner in the 2003 awards, 'It's the only way in which we can actually share experiences and grow as a local government sector'.

Other achievements

We also support the Development Assessment Forum, which has a long term focus to lead, reform and harmonise Australia's development assessment (DA) systems.

In 2003-04 the forum released a model DA process for public comment. The model aims to cut red tape while delivering a quality built environment that is acceptable to the community. It will be refined over 2004-05 taking into account community feedback and ongoing research on issues including natural disaster mitigation.

For more information about the forum and the model DA process, visit www.daf.gov.au

Price of output

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result for 2003-04 was $3.4 million or less than 0.2 cents for every dollar going to local government. This result, which was lower than our 2002-03 result, reflects self-imposed expenditure restraint under the Work out/Work up plan.

Table 5.7 - Trends in services to and funding for local government

 
2001-02
 
2002-03
 
2003-04
 
2004-05est
Financial assistance grants
Local road grants
$408m
$445m
$466m
$471m
General purpose grants
$920m
$1 004m
$1 049m
$1 062m
Supplementary funding for SA councils
n/a
n/a
n/a
$4m
Total grants
$1 328m
$1 449m
$1 508m
$1 537m
Bodies funded
722 bodies
721 bodies
722 bodies
703 bodies
Annual report in respect of grants (to be) tabled
26 March 2003
24 Dec 2003
Dec 2004
Dec 2005
Local government awards
Nominations closed
July 2001
July 2002
July 2003
July 2004
Nominations received
294
373
335
250
Award categories
11
11
19
18
Awards presented
November 2001
November 2002
November 2003
November 2004
Website hits (online project database)
not reported
not reported
2 094
no target set
Price of output
$1.2m
$3.9m
$3.4m
$4.0m

 
Administered programme - Local Government Financial Assistance Grants (Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme contributes to the cost of services provided by local councils. Effectiveness: more effective efficient and responsive local governments

Location: metropolitan, regional, rural and remote Australia

Cost: $1508.4m (up from $1505.4m at Budget)

We work closely with grants commissions in each state to allocate and distribute grants in accordance with long-standing national principles. In 2003-2004, Australia's 722 local governing bodies received more than $1.5 billion in financial assistance grants - $46 million more than in 2002-03.

  • Thirty per cent of funding was distributed as local road grants. These funds were allocated between states according to fixed shares, and between local governments within a state on the basis of road expenditure needs.
  • Seventy per cent of funding was distributed as general purpose grants. These funds were allocated between states on the basis of population, and between local governing bodies within a state on the basis of relative needs. They are untied and can be spent by councils based on local priorities.
  • Overall, roughly two thirds or $1 billion went to councils in regional and rural Australia including $25 million to indigenous councils.

Table 5.7 illustrates trends in financial assistance for local government. For more information, please see our annual report on this programme as available at www.dotars.gov.au/

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Natural disaster mitigation and relief

 

(Programmes Group)

 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
The department facilitates continuing improvement in natural disaster risk assessment and provides cost-effective mitigation measures for communities while supporting disaster affected communities. Key activities include:
  • administering programmes for natural disaster mitigation, and relief and recovery for communities affected by declared natural disasters.
Effectiveness:
  • more effective natural disaster mitigation
  • improved cross portfolio and jurisdictional cooperation
  • stakeholder satisfaction with programmes
  • administration of programmes is in accordance with legislation, government policy and departmental standards.
Price: $5.2m (up from $2.4m at Budget)

Report on performance

The government focuses beyond disaster response and reaction, towards anticipation and mitigation (see table 5.8).

In 2003-04, the department led reforms in natural disaster management in Australia. Under a five-year, twelve point action plan agreed by COAG, our new challenge is to:

  • administer a new Natural Disaster Mitigation Programme
  • establish an agreed national method for collecting information on disaster events and risks
  • work with state, territory and local governments to complete systematic risk assessments for every community in Australia (once we have an agreed methodology)
  • provide leadership on land use planning and building code reforms to reduce avoidable natural disaster risks and damages, and
  • work with the augmented Australasian Police Ministers' Council, which has overall responsibility for implementing the COAG plan.

We also help communities to mitigate against and recover from disaster in other ways. In 2003-04, we administered the:

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result in 2003-04 was $3.5 million. This result was higher than in previous years and our original budget, but 30 per cent less than our revised budget.

Table 5.8 - Trends in natural disaster mitigation and relief

   
2002-03
 
2003-04
 
2004-05 est
Administered expenditure by type of disaster a
Flood mitigation
$8.8m
$7.3m
$12.1m
Bushfire mitigation b
$8.2m
$6.7m
$5.5m
Other/not yet allocated
$0.0m
$1.7m
$17.5m
All mitigation
$17.0m
$15.7m
$35.1m
Flood relief
$0.0m
$0.0m
Bushfire relief
$2.5m
$1.0m
Other/not yet allocated
$83.0m
$47.0m
$89.5m
All relief
$85.5m
$48.0m
$89.5m
Natural Disaster Mitigation
New projects approved
n/a
128
no targets apply
Total projects funded c
n/a
141
Total cost of programme
n/a
$5.5m
$17.5m
Regional Flood Mitigation
New projects approved
49
22
no targets apply
Total projects funded
81
78
Total cost of programme
$8.8m
$4.7m
$12.1m
NDRA
Disasters notified
27 disasters
39 disasters
Total cost of NDRA d
$82.9m
$46.9m
$89.5m
Price of output
$3.2m
$3.4m
$3.9m

a These estimates include funds from a variety of programmes including programmes which have now wound up, such as the Lismore Levee.
b The National Aerial Firefighting programme is classified as mitigation for the purposes of this table.
c Includes projects previously approved under legacy programmes.
d Costs include Natural Disaster Risk Management Studies funding until 1 July 2003, when this funding was incorporated into the broader Natural Disaster Mitigation Programme, and excludes loans to states and territories.

 
Administered programme - Natural Disaster Mitigation Programme
(formerly the Disaster Mitigation Australia Package) (Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
This five-year programme funds research and work to create safer, sustainable communities better able to withstand the effects of natural disasters. Effectiveness: more effective natural disaster mitigation policies and measures

Quality: stakeholders are satisfied

Cost: $5.5m (down from $8.0m at Budget)

We fund a range of projects to help communities become better able to withstand the effects of natural disasters. In 2003-04 we spent $2.5 million on measures including:

  • community awareness and education programmes, such as on bushfire awareness in Victoria
  • structural works to protect against damage, such as permanent fire breaks and flood protection works in WA and Queensland, and
  • collection and analysis of data about disasters such as landslides in the Pittwater area of NSW.

We also spent $3.0 million on research into natural disaster risk management. In previous years, we funded and accounted for this activity under the Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements.

While it is hard to assess the effectiveness of such activities in the short term, investment in natural disaster mitigation has been conservatively estimated to deliver a 15 per cent rate of return on investment.

We revise programme budgets several times each year in light of the total funds that may be required. The final result for 2003-04, $5.5 million, reflected delays in implementing the new programme. Unspent funding has been rolled over into 2004-05.

 
Administered programme - Regional Flood Mitigation (Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme funds measures to reduce the loss of life and property caused by flooding.

The Australian Government contributes up to 1/3 of approved project costs. State and territory governments must match this funding but can contribute more. The balance of project costs are met by local agencies.
Effectiveness: reduced cost to communities from the effects of flooding

Quality: average annual damage estimate is reduced

Location: rural and regional Australia, and outer metropolitan areas

Cost: $9.9m (down from $14.9 million at Budget)

We fund a range of flood mitigation measures such as levees, channel improvement works, flood warning systems and the voluntary purchase of flood prone homes. Projects approved in 2003-04 include:

  • structural works in places ranging from the regional centres of Tamworth NSW and Benalla Victoria, through to the small indigenous community of Yalata SA
  • a flood awareness programme for communites along the Logan River, South East of Brisbane, and
  • a flood warning system for residents of the Shepparton-Mooroopna region of Victoria.

We revise programme budgets several times each year in light of the total funds that may be required. Our final result for 2003-04, $4.7 million, reflected changes in ministerial appointments, which delayed the approval of 2003-04 projects, and further delays starting and completing projects in a number of states and territories.

The actual damage caused by floods varies considerably from year to year, depending on the location and amount of rainfall. However, a 2001 report by the BTRE found that floods are Australia's most costly disaster type and cost Australia over $370 million a year on average.

 
Administered programme - National Aerial Firefighting (Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme helps the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) to acquire and deploy firefighting aircraft around Australia.

NAFC is a joint company formed by the states and territories in association with the Australasian Fire Authorities Council.
Effectiveness: more effective national firefighting capability

Quality: stakeholders are satisfied

Cost: $5.5m

While bushfire fighting is largely a state responsibility, bushfires do not respect state boundaries. In 2003-04, we continued to fund the NAFC to acquire and deploy firefighting aircraft around Australia. State and territory governments also continued to meet the cost of leasing key equipment from overseas. This equipment included:

  • Erickson Air-Crane helitankers, and
  • medium rotary-wing firefighting aircraft.

The new arrangements were tested for the first time in February 2004. Two NSWbased aircraft were flown to Adelaide and Mildura during a period of severe fire danger in SA.

The new arrangements have been well received. The Australian Government has extended the programme at a cost of $5.5 million in each year from 2004-05 through to 2006-07.

For more information about NAFC activities, visit http://www.nafc.org.au/

 
Administered programme - Assistance for ACT Softwood Sawmills (Programmes Group)
Description Performance indicators Progress
This programme involves a one-off payment of $1 million to the ACT Government to assist softwood sawmills in the region upgrade equipment to process logs from alternative sources.
Effectiveness: minimises the economic impact of the January 2003 bushfires on ACT sawmills

Quality: stakeholders are satisfied

Cost: $1m

In 2003-04 we paid $1 million to the ACT Government. This payment did not take place as planned in late 2002-03 because the ACT government was not in a position to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding on this issue until 2003-04.

 
Administered programme - Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements (Programmes Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
This programme reimburses states and territories for some of the costs of relief and recovery associated with rapid onset natural disasters.

These disasters include bushfire, cyclones, earthquakes, floods, storms and/or storm surge.
Effectiveness: the financial burden on states and territories for eligible disaster relief measures is reduced

Quality: stakeholders are satisfied

Cost: $135.0m (up from $99.5m at Budget)

We provide relief and recovery funding in respect of rapid onset natural disasters. In 2003-04, we were notified of 39 disasters affecting the ACT, WA, Victoria, Queensland, NSW and the NT.

We make payments in response to claims from states and territories. In 2003-04 we paid all claims received, including significant amounts to Victoria and the ACT for measures relating to the severe bushfires of 2002-03.

We revise our budget several times through the year based on the claims we expect to receive. We spent only part of our budget for 2003-04 because a number of claims have yet to be received.

The 2002 COAG review of natural disaster management found that current relief and recovery arrangements are sound. Moreover, they are effective in providing immediate and urgent assistance to individuals and families and in rebuilding infrastructure. However:

  • there are anomalies in the assistance available across Australia, and
  • more can be done to anticipate and meet the needs of farmers, businesses, individuals and community groups recovering from disaster.

One of the outcomes of the review was agreement to enhance and modernise the NDRA. We are chairing two groups of federal, state and territory officials who are working on this issue. The working group met for the first time in June 2004 and is expected to report in time for revised arrangements to be considered for introduction in June 2005.

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Research and data

 

(Policy and Research Group)

 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
The department, particularly through the BTRE regional research programme, undertakes research on current and emerging regional policy issues, and collects, maintains and disseminates relevant data. Effectiveness:
  • policy development and programme delivery are indicative of improved understanding and communication of regional issues
  • research and analysis outputs increase and improve stakeholder knowledge.
Price: $2.4m (up from $1.6m at Budget)

Report on performance

The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics (BTRE) undertakes research and analysis to support policy development and inform the community of major trends and issues in regional Australia. In 2003-04 BTRE's research focus included:

  • publishing regional statistics and developing major new databases
  • analysing regional trends from 1991-2001 in industry, employment, education, skills and qualifications, and
  • investigating key issues, such as the significance of water access regimes for investment trends in the Murray-Darling Basin.

BTRE published several new reports and papers on relevant issues in 2003-04, all of which are available free online at http://www.bitre.gov.au/ Details of BTRE publications and their relevance to Australia's national research priorities are set out in Appendix B.

We are proactive about communicating our findings. BTRE's Inaugural National Research Colloquium in June 2004 - which included presentations on the 'Focus on Regions' series as well as a policy research forum - attracted around 150 researchers and policy makers. We are in the process of publishing papers from the colloquium and plan to hold a similar event every two years. We also contributed presentations to another eight conferences and external seminars on regional issues.

Our research is widely cited by others. For example, the national regional research journal, Sustaining Regions, recently ran a highly favourable review of the BTRE working paper, Government Interventions in Pursuit of Regional Development: Learning from Experience 4.

We generally aim to deliver our outputs at an agreed price. For this output, our final result in 2003 - 04 was $1.8 million. This result, which was significantly less than our 2002 - 03 result, reflects self-imposed expenditure restraint under the Work Out/Work Up plan.

The Policy and Research Group, which BTRE sits within, administers several small programmes which support other bodies to research issues and share their knowledge. These programmes are outlined in more detail opposite.

4 Sustaining Regions, volume 3 number 2, Summer 2003

Table 5.9 - Trends in regional research

 
2002-03
 
2003-04
 
2004-05est
BTRE activities relevant to regional issues
Research publications
3
4
4
Cost of output
$2.3m
$1.8m
$2.1m

 
Administered programmes
- Regional and Rural Research Information and Data
- Regional and Rural Development Grants
(Policy and Research Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
These programmes aim to improve access to information for decision-making, policy development and programme delivery affecting rural and regional communities. Effectiveness: improved understanding and communication of regional issues in policy development

Location: regional, rural and remote Australia

Cost: Research information and data - $0.1m
Development grants - $0.2m

We funded three research projects in 2003-04 at a cost of $0.1 million:

  • Beyond the Farm Gate, a project to assess the impact of drought on non-farm businesses, with findings to be incorporated into a report for public distribution
  • statistical profiles on the eight regions participating in the Sustainable Regions Programme and available on its website, and
  • regional development practitioner awards associated with the 2004 Annual Australia and New Zealand Regional Science Association Conference.

We funded ten development projects in 2003-04 at a cost of $0.2 million. Projects included:

  • three regional conferences to promote research and practice in regional Australia amongst stakeholders
  • three projects to help regional practitioners and communities better understand the economic, social and environmental structures of regions (the National Regional Evaluation Framework)
  • a project to help policy makers better understand the main influences on urban Australians' perceptions of life in Australia's regions
  • a progress review of the Australian Government's involvement in the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), and
  • acquisition of hospital and health services data.
 
Administered programme - Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR)
(Policy and Research Group)
 
Description
 
Performance indicators
Progress
FRRR is Australia's only national philanthropic foundation dedicated to rural and regional Australia. Effectiveness: partnerships between governments, philanthropy and private sector are strengthened

Location: regional, rural and remote Australia

Cost: $0.7m

The government, together with the Sidney Myer Fund (a major philanthropic trust), helped set up the FRRR in early 2000. The government contributed a $0.7 million establishment grant and $10 million investment fund. Since then, FRRR has formed partnerships with:

  • other philanthropic bodies including the Gardiner Foundation, the Pratt Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Philanthropy Australia, and
  • private bodies such as the ANZ, the National Rural Health Alliance and the National Farmers' Federation.

The FRRR has provided around $4.3 million to projects in rural and regional communities since its launch. We have contributed a further $0.6 million towards its operating budget, including $0.5 million in 2003-04 based on the foundation's success in attracting private sector funding. The private sector has contributed over $5 million to FRRR.

The FRRR is succeeding in supporting small projects that have difficulty attracting support from other sources. A good example is the Lead On initiative, launched in Bendigo, Victoria with a grant of just $100 000. The initiative has brought together over 700 young people and 120 business/community groups in over 150 projects. Demand for Lead On continues from communities in regional Queensland, NSW and Victoria. There are now Lead On offices in Bendigo, Mildura, Echuca and Swan Hill in Victoria, and Ipswich in Queensland.

A study of FRRR's activities, funded under the Regional and Rural Development Grants programme, has been completed. The study looked at the overall FRRR model, its effectiveness, performance and outlook. The department is conducting a review of the study's findings. This process is expected to be completed in October 2004.

For more information about FRRR's activities, visit http://www.frrr.org.au/

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