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Report on performance

Outcome 2-Regional outputs and programmes

Output 2.1.1-Regional services

Highlights

The Growing Regions Conference, held in Brisbane in July 2006, attracted more than 300 delegates from Australia and overseas.

The third Regional Women's Advisory Council was appointed.

The Regional Development Council met in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, in July 2006, identifying a number of areas for cooperation between levels of government.

The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal granted $3.8 million to charitable projects in rural communities of less than 15,000 people, community projects that address ageing and aged care issues, or activities to alleviate disruption to young people's education caused by factors such as drought, economic downturn and remoteness.

The second stage of the Regional Partnerships Evaluation was completed.

An updated set of Regional Partnerships Guidelines was released in July 2006.

The Minister for Transport and Regional Services appointed Area Consultative Committee chairs and, for the first time, deputy chairs, for a two-year period from 1 January 2007.

Three-year contracts were awarded to Area Consultative Committees, replacing annual contracts. The three-year contracts include a revised charter and performance indicators linked to the priorities of the Regional Partnerships Programme.

Overview-Output 2.1.1-Regional services

Output 2.1.1 is delivered by the Regional Services business division.

Under Output 2.1.1, Regional Services:

  • provides advice to the Australian Government on a broad range of social and economic issues affecting regional Australia;
  • delivers information to regional Australians on Australian Government programmes and services;
  • collates and analyses data on regional Australia to inform policy development;
  • works with other agencies and governments to evaluate and improve services to regional and Indigenous Australians; and
  • administers grants and subsidies for community initiatives that support regional development.

Regional Services also administers programmes that aim to improve the economic and social environment for Australia's regions, by making regions more sustainable, encouraging job creation and growth, improving access to services, and upgrading a wide range of infrastructure that provides benefits to local communities.

The output includes eight administered programmes:

  • Area Consultative Committees;
  • Construction of the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum;
  • Contribution to the Australian Outback Development Consortium;
  • Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal;
  • Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants;
  • Regional Partnerships;
  • Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme (RASS); and
  • Sustainable Regions.

Table 4.2 summarises the output's performance in 2006-07.

Summary of performance-Output 2.1.1-Regional services

Table 4.2 Summary of performance-Output 2.1.1

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Regions are assisted to manage their own futures

The Department approved assistance for regions through:

  • 338 projects (at a total cost of $ 85.3 million) under the Regional Partnerships Programme; and
  • 13 projects (at a total cost of $18.9 million) under the Sustainable Regions Programme.

Other agencies/governments are assisted to evaluate and improve services to regional and Indigenous Australians

The Department provided advice to other Australian Government agencies and statutory authorities on the impacts of government policy and programmes, and continued its work on the National Regional Evaluation Framework.

Quality

Information on Australian Government programmes and services is available to all Australians

The Department made information available to all Australians through the Australian Government Regional Information Service.

Regional and Indigenous communities have opportunities to establish and advance local priorities and partnerships

Departmental officers based in Halls Creek facilitated linkages with the three levels of government for four Indigenous communities in the East Kimberley, Western Australia.

The Department provided secretariat support to the third Regional Women's Advisory Council.

Grants are administered for projects that maintain or improve regional well-being and sustainability

The Department administered $82.4 million in grant payments and subsidies.

Other agencies/governments work with us on issues affecting regions

The Department provided advice to Australian Government agencies on the regional impacts of 92 submissions to government, from across 21 agencies.

Through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Department met with international government representatives to share lessons on best policy and programme approaches for regional communities.

Price

$36.6 million

The actual price of this output in 2006-07 was $38.6 million.

Overall performance

Detailed report on performance-Output 2.1.1-Regional services

Effectiveness indicators-Output 2.1.1

Regions are assisted to manage their own futures

In 2006-07, the Department continued to assist regions to manage their own futures by providing policy advice to the Australian Government, managing programmes effectively, assisting agencies at all levels of government to improve their services to regions, and keeping regions informed.

This included:

  • disseminating information on Australian Government programmes and services;
  • providing grants under the Regional Partnerships and Sustainable Regions Programmes for projects nominated by communities as important to their socioeconomic and environmental wellbeing and sustainability; and
  • providing grants under the Remote Area Subsidy Scheme to assist remote communities that would otherwise not have access to passenger transport, goods delivery and other services.

Other agencies/ governments are assisted to evaluate and improve services to regional and Indigenous Australians

The Department provided advice to other Australian Government agencies and statutory authorities, including through interdepartmental committees, on the regional impacts of government policy and programmes under development.

Work continued on the National Regional Evaluation Framework, a whole-of-government approach to analysing the conditions of Australia's regions, providing an improved empirical basis for place-based policy development and better targeting of regional programmes.

Quality indicators-Output 2.1.1

Information on Australian Government programmes and services is available to all Australians

Information was delivered to people in rural, regional and remote Australia through the Australian Government Regional Information Service, which consists of three service channels:

  • the Australian Government Regional Information Directory;
  • a call centre (toll-free telephone number 1800 026 222); and
  • the Regional Entry Point Website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au.

The call centre, which is the main point of contact for people seeking printed copies of the directory, received more than 20,000 enquiries in more than 15,000 calls in 2006-07. Call centre operators ensured that information was accessible to all callers by:

  • reading aloud the requested information and/or providing a copy of the directory in cassette or CD form to assist callers with vision impairments;
  • using teletype services to assist callers with hearing impairments; and
  • using a telephone interpreting service to assist callers whose main language was other than English.

The website, which holds information on over 1,000 programmes, received around 3 million hits in 2006-07, more than doubling the total of 1.2 million received in 2005-06.

Information on how community groups can access government grants was provided through a dedicated website, GrantsLINK, at www.grantslink.gov.au. GrantsLINK promoted over 200 Australian Government grants programmes and received more than 7 million hits in 2006-07.

Regional and Indigenous communities have opportunities to establish and advance local priorities and partnerships

Partnerships to deliver programme priorities

The Department continued to work with:

  • the network of Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) around Australia, to deliver the Regional Partnerships Programme;
  • locally appointed advisory committees and executive officers in the Darling Matilda Way and Northern Rivers and North Coast regions of New South Wales, to deliver the Sustainable Regions Programme; and
  • Indigenous communities and government agencies in the East Kimberley, Western Australia, as part of a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) pilot programme.

Representation for regional women

The Department provided secretariat support and other services to the third Regional Women's Advisory Council, appointed by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services in June 2006. The Council met on a quarterly basis.

On 9 August 2006, the report of the inquiry into women's representation on regional and rural bodies of influence, At the table: Getting the best people and making the right decisions for regional and rural Australia, was launched by Senator the Hon Judith Troeth.

The Australian Government developed the the Regional Women's Action Plan for Women's Representation, which received funding of $4.5 million over four years to 2010-11 in the 2007-08 Budget.

The plan will comprise four elements:

  • improving information on the benefits of increased participation by regional women;
  • influencing demand from regional boards;
  • improving pathways for women's participation on regional boards; and
  • increasing networking and mentoring opportunities for regional women.

Grants are administered for projects that maintain or improve regional well-being and sustainability

In 2006-07, the Department administered $82.4 million in grant payments and subsidies to support projects for the benefit of Australian regions, mainly through the:

  • Regional Partnerships Programme;
  • Sustainable Regions Programme;
  • Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme;
  • Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal; and
  • Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants Programme.

Other agencies/ governments work with us on issues affecting regions

Cooperation to deliver outcomes

The Department continued to work with agencies of the Australian Government and other governments to achieve outcomes on issues affecting Australia's regions.

For example, the Department of Health and Ageing assisted with the management of the Rural Medical Infrastructure Fund, which is administered under the Regional Partnerships Programme. The fund is designed to improve access to medical practitioners and allied health practitioners in regional communities.

Leadership across levels of government

The Regional Development Council (RDC) is responsible for regional development issues in Australia. It comprises federal, state and territory ministers responsible for regional development, and a representative from the Australian Local Government Association.

The aim of the RDC is to facilitate more effective cooperation across all areas of government in order to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes for regional Australians.

In July 2006, the Council met and identified a number of areas of focus, including regional investment, regional indicators, the importance of information and communications technology to regional economic development, and Indigenous participation in the resources sector.

The Department is represented on the Standing Committee on Regional Development, a committee of officials from the Australian Government and state and territory governments that supports the RDC. The committee met on two occasions to progress the RDC's initiatives in 2006-07.

International information sharing

The Department increased its international engagement on rural policy in 2006-07, commencing with the Growing Regions Conference held in Brisbane in July 2006. The conference attracted more than 300 delegates, and provided valuable opportunities to share information and experience for leading regional development practitioners, researchers and policy makers from Australia and overseas.

In November 2006, the Department sent two representatives to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, to participate in policy meetings. The representatives also participated in the OECD Rural Policy Conference on investment priorities for rural areas, and held a workshop on issues in regional Australia with rural policy experts from around the world.

In May 2007, at the request of the OECD, the Department sent a representative to Finland as a peer representative to take part in Finland's rural policy review.

Table 4.3 Trends in regional services

  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 estimate
Departmental activities
Total price of outputa $35.5m $36.0m $40.1m $38.6m $40.0m
Australian Government Regional Information Service
www.regionalaustralia.gov.au 1.6m hits 1.0m hits 1.2m hits 3.4m hits 3.4m hits
www.grantslink.gov.au 1.2m hits 1.4m hits 1.8m hits 7.7m hits 7.7m hits
Calls to 1800 026 222 23,241 28,481 22,534 21,769 21,769
Regional Partnerships Programme
Regional Partnership Projects
Applications received 723 630 541 634 No set target
New projects approved 277 417 321 338 No set target
Construction of Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum
Cost to government Nil Nil Nil Nil $1.5m
Rural Transaction Centresb
New sites approved 74 - - - -
Sites approved to date 239 239 239 239 239
Sites operating at 30 June 115 175 213 216 221
Rural Transaction Centres with electronic point of sale (personal banking service)
New sites approved 33 - - - -
Sites approved to date 141 141 141 141 141
Sites operating at 30 June 130 140 140 140 140
Cost to government $78.5m $95.0m $83.7m $53.9m $72.4m
Area Consultative Committee Network
Cost to government - - - $16.9m $17.4m
Sustainable Regions Programme
New projects approved 86 60 55 12 30
Cost to government $20.9m $22.6m $36.8m $7.1m $15.4m
Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme
Communities assisted 220 225 225 235 235
Operators engaged 7 7 6 6 6
Cost to government $2.6m $2.7m $3.2m $3.3 $4.3m
Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal
Cost to government $0.5m $0.2m $0.4m $0.5m $0.5m
Regional and Rural Research and Development Grantsc
Cost to government $0.2m $0.2m $0.2m $0.2m $0.2m
Contribution to the Australian Outback Development Consortium
Cost to government - - - $0.5m -
Total programmes administeredd
Number of programmes 3 7 6 9 8
Total cost of programmes $102.7m $120.7m $124.2m $82.4m $111.8m

a As this output came into existence in 2004-05, the historical data shown here relate to the three outputs it replaced: regional development policy advice, regional development programmes, and regional research and data.
b The Rural Transaction Centres (RTC) Programme was funded through the RTC reserve, as established by the Telstra (Further Dilution of Public Ownership) Act 1999. Under the Act, funds from the reserve could be accessed only until 30 June 2005.
c Prior to 2005-06 this programme was two separate programmes: the Regional and Rural Research Information and Data Programme and the Regional Rural Development Grants.
d Includes Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme from 2004-05 only.

Administered programmes-Output 2.1.1- Regional services

Table 4.4 Summary of performance-Area Consultative Committees

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

ACCs develop strong links between governments, the community and the private sector to support regional growth

The Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) responded to issues and opportunities in their regions.

Quality

ACCs facilitate whole of government solutions to local problems

The ACCs focused on the Regional Partnerships Programme, and assisted other government agencies in the delivery of their programmes.

Number and value of Regional Partnership applicationsa

The ACCs assisted in the development of 633 applications, received under the Regional Partnerships Programme.

ACCs deliver services in accordance with their funding and reporting obligations under the Operational Funding Contracts

The ACCs delivered services in accordance with the six main performance indicators under the three-year operational funding contracts.

Cost

$17.0 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $16.9 million.

Overall performance

a Performance indicator modified in the 2007-08 PBS.

Did you know?

The Regional Women's Advisory Council provides independent feedback and advice to the Australian Government, through the Minister, on the effectiveness and appropriateness of Australian Government policies and programmes, and on emerging issues for women and their communities in regional, rural and remote areas. Council members are chosen for their capacity to consult with and influence communities in rural, regional and remote Australia. The Council meets quarterly and hosts occasional forums bringing together regional women of influence.

Effectiveness indicators-Area Consultative Committees

ACCs develop strong links between governments, the community and the private sector to support regional growth

Strategic regional plans

The ACCs worked with the key stakeholders in each region, including government agencies, local businesses and community groups, to identify opportunities, set priorities and develop strategies for growth.

Through this consultation, ACCs developed strategic regional plans that broadly identify the key development opportunities and barriers affecting each region.

The plans provide a framework and criteria to assist ACCs to identify, develop and support projects suitable to apply for Regional Partnerships Programme grants.

Committee membership

In 2006-07, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services appointed chairs for a two-year term from 1 January 2007. Deputy chairs were also appointed, for the first time, to assist the chairs in their voluntary roles.

The chair, deputy chair and other members of each ACC are leaders in their region, drawn from the community, local business and local government sectors. Members of ACCs are volunteers who give their time, experience and energy to support regional growth for their communities.

Quality indicators-Area Consultative Committees

ACCs facilitate whole of government solutions to local problems

The primary focus of ACCs is to promote the Regional Partnerships Programme in their regions. ACCs also work in partnership with business, the community and all levels of government to achieve regional economic growth by facilitating whole-of-government solutions to local issues.

Some ACCs choose to have arrangements with other Australian Government agencies to deliver programmes that contribute to their region. These include agreements regarding the engagement of:

  • officers from AusIndustry's Small Business Answers Programme and Austrade's Tradestart Export Programme;
  • sugar resource officers, to assist with restructuring the Queensland sugar industry, through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; and
  • fishing communities assistance, through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Number and value of Regional Partnership applications

In 2006-07, the Department approved 338 projects collectively valued at $85.3 million. This is an increase from 2005-06, when 321 projects with a value totalling $57.0 million were approved. This figure was reported as 309 in the 2005-06 Annual Report, which was correct at the time of publishing. A further 12 approved projects were entered into the reporting system after publishing.

The increase in the number of projects approved reflects the role of ACCs in identifying and facilitating the development of grant applications under the Regional Partnerships Programme.

ACCs deliver services in accordance with their funding and reporting obligations under the Operational Funding Contracts

The Department made payments to ACCs subject to the committees' meeting reporting requirements under their operational funding contracts. All ACCs met their reporting requirements.

ACCs moved from one-year to three-year operational funding contracts in 2006-07. The introduction of the three-year funding contracts will assist ACCs to attract and retain quality staff, to institute longer-term strategic regional plans, and to implement lasting activities that will generate benefits for their regions.

The contracts include six main performance indicators:

  • number of community events (where the ACC is a key organiser) that target areas identified in the ACC business plan or strategic regional plan;
  • number of Regional Partnerships Programme applications developed and submitted for funding approval;
  • total value of Regional Partnerships Programme project approvals;
  • percentage of ACC-recommended projects approved by the decision maker;
  • number of projects facilitated by the ACC to the point of submitting an application to a funding source other than the Regional Partnerships Programme; and
  • number of Australian Government initiatives promoted and/or provided by the ACC.

The contracts emphasise that the primary role of the ACC network is to deliver the Regional Partnerships Programme. The contracts also detail the ACC reporting requirements and payment schedules. These include provision of an agreed annual business plan, detailed budget information and an up-to-date strategic regional plan.

Table 4.5 Summary of performance-Construction of the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

The Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation Museum is able to be constructed

Construction was delayed while the proponent secured additional funding sources. The project has commenced and is expected to be completed in 2008.

Quality

Payments are made in line with project progress and funding agreements

Payments were made in line with progress and the funding agreement.

Location

Bundaberg

The museum will be constructed in Bundaberg.

Cost

$1.5 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was nil.

The underspend relates to delays in finalising Queensland Government funding and consequently the project scope. Construction is now expected to commence at the end of September 2007 with completion scheduled for June 2008. Approval has been provided to move the funds to 2007-08.

Overall performance

Table 4.6 Summary of performance-Contribution to the Australian Outback Development Consortium

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Opportunities for outback individuals, communities and organisations are improved through the delivery of special projects such as Outback Global, Outback Equinox-Youth Muster, Outback Safety Education Campaign, Outback Youth Careers Programme a

Improved opportunities for outback individuals, communities and organisations were achieved through strategic planning, project development and ongoing sponsorship.

Steps were taken to commence a consultancy arrangement for sponsorship of special projects; a national advisory council to assist in the delivery of those projects; and development of a business plan overview based on a four-year planning cycle.

Quality

Promotion and communication processes are established, and special projects already conceived are progressed by 30 June 2007a

Promotion and communication processes were established and special projects were progressed through networking, meetings, conferences, media releases and local and rural press newspaper articles. An updated website was launched. New branding and electronic newsletters were established and are expected to come into use from July 2007.

Quantity

Individuals, communities and organisations have an opportunity to participate in 10 major initiatives, ranging from short to long term, during the Year of the Outback 2010-Planning for the Four Yearly Cycle project a

Participation opportunities were progressed through the Australian Outback Development Consortium (AODC), for example, through partnership with Rural Press and through field days. Participation activities included:

  • Outback Global, which involves establishing a continuing campaign to recognise Australia's skills and capabilities to assist in sustainable economic development, and attract trade delegations and tourists;
  • the Outback Equinox-Youth Muster events, which link youth with ongoing career opportunities;
  • the Outback Safety Education Campaign, aimed at remote areas, which provides training on avoiding risk and assisting people in danger.

Individuals also had opportunities to participate in focus groups to assist in the development of a strategic plan for the AODC and the ongoing four-year planning process.

Monthly electronic newsletters are produced and distributeda

Electronic newsletters were produced and will be distributed on a monthly basis, particularly through the AODC website, at no charge.

Location

The programme has a national focusa

Individuals, communities and organisations across outback Australia were eligible for this programme.

Cost

$0.5 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $0.5 million.

Overall performance

a This programme was announced and its performance indicators first published in PAES 2006-07.

Table 4.7 Summary of performance-Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Additional funds are generated for rural and regional renewal

The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal is the only national philanthropic foundation dedicated to rural and regional Australia. It was set up by the Australian Government and the Sidney Myer Fund (a major philanthropic trust) in 2000. More information about the foundation is available from its website, www.frrr.org.au.

Since its establishment in 2000, the foundation has granted almost $13.2 million to projects that stimulate the renewal of whole communities. The foundation is developing a niche in providing small grants to small communities. Private donations to the foundation have been growing steadily.

The foundation fulfilled its objectives in 2006-07 by raising approximately $3.2 million in donations (in addition to the Australian Government's contribution) and providing grants to communities through its various programmes.

Quality

Payments are made in line with the Australian Government's obligations

Australian Government payments were made to the foundation in accordance with the foundation's deed of grant, which takes into account the broader objectives and governance of the organisation.

Location

Regional, rural and remote Australia

The foundation provides assistance for projects in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Cost

$0.5 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $0.5 million.

Overall performance

Table 4.8 Summary of performance-Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Issues affecting Australia's regions are researched and communicated to national and regional decision makers

The programme's Research Programme Guidelines were aligned to ensure ongoing support for the development of the National Regional Evaluation Framework, the conduct of national information events that promote regional research and issues, and activities to address priorities of the Regional Development Council and the Regional Women's Advisory Council.

Cost

$0.2 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $0.2 million.

Overall performance

Effectiveness indicators-Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants

Issues affecting Australia's regions are researched and communicated to national and regional decision makers

Projects funded under the Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants Programme in 2006-07 focused on:

  • research associated with the development of the National Regional Evaluation Framework;
  • research associated with cross-jurisdictional regional indicators;
  • finalisation of the Collaborative Leadership Models Consultancy, which identifies and examines successful models of collaborative leadership;
  • research into women's economic contribution in regional Australia; and
  • sponsorship of four events held in 2007
    • the Eleventh National Conference for Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia;
    • the Australian and New Zealand Regional Science Association International Conference;
    • the New South Wales Country Week Expo; and
    • the Queensland Resources Expo and Resourcing the Future Conference.

The research, including sponsorship of regional conferences, helps the Department to provide more informed advice to government on regional issues and to promote constructive dialogue and interaction between regional policy practitioners.

Table 4.9 Summary of performance-Regional Partnerships

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Funded projects improve regional growth and opportunities, access to services, planning and structural adjustment

Projects funded under the Regional Partnerships Programme improved community infrastructure and resulted in increased employment and business prosperity for regional Australia.

In February 2006, the Australian National Audit Office commenced an audit of the administration of the Regional Partnerships Programme. The report is due to be tabled in the spring 2007 session of parliament.

Quality

90 per cent of applications for funding are assessed within 12 weeks of submission

Less than 90 per cent of applications for funding were assessed within 12 weeks of submission. The reasons for delays included proponents failing to provide necessary information and the complexity of the requirements for detailed risk assessments.

Grants are provided for projects which meet programme guidelines, including consistency with ACC regional priorities and partnership funding

Guidelines released in 2006 provide details of the types of projects that are eligible for funding, the criteria that applications are assessed against, the role of Area Consultative Committees (ACCs), and the importance of developing partnerships and gaining community support.

Payments are made in line with project progress and funding agreements

Payments were made on successful delivery of agreed project milestones, as detailed in project funding agreements.

Quantity/Location

Projects are established in every region of Australia (56 regions)a

The 338 projects that were approved for funding collectively represented 55 of the 56 defined regions.

Cost

$77.2 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $53.9 million

The underspend reflects slippage in grant recipients meeting project milestones. Demand for Regional Partnerships is strong and strategies are being developed to help applicants address payment scheduling problems. Substantially greater achievement is expected during 2007-08. Approval has been provided to move $9.4 million to 2007-08 and the forward years.

Overall performance

a Performance indicator modified in PBS 2007-08

Effectiveness indicators-Regional Partnerships

Funded projects improve regional growth and opportunities, access to services, planning and structural adjustment

Community-based projects

The Regional Partnerships Programme improves regional growth and opportunities, and supports the development of self-reliant communities, by funding projects which:

  • provide opportunities for economic and social participation;
  • improve access to services;
  • help communities to plan their futures; and
  • make structural adjustments.

Funding is provided to a wide variety of organisations, including community groups and other non-profit organisations, local government, for-profit organisations, research institutions and Indigenous councils. Of the grants approved in 2006-07, 89 per cent provided funding to non-profit organisations and local government.

Since the programme commenced, in July 2003, over 1,300 projects have been approved and granted total funding of more than $290 million.

Election commitments

Election commitment projects are funded under the Regional Partnerships Programme. Ministerial approval had been given for 35 election commitment projects, and funding agreements had been signed for 34 projects, by 30 June 2007. Sixteen of the election commitment projects had been completed.

Rural Medical Infrastructure Fund

Through the Rural Medical Infrastructure Fund, the Regional Partnerships Programme provides funding to small rural communities to help establish walk-in, walk-out health and medical facilities, with the aim of making it easier for the communities to recruit and retain medical practitioners and allied health professionals. The guidelines for the fund were revised in 2006 to expand the eligibility criteria. Seventeen projects, with a total value of $3.25 million, were approved under the fund in 2006-07.

Quality indicators-Regional Partnerships

90 per cent of applications for funding are assessed within 12 weeks of submission

 

In 2006-07, the Department assessed 497 applications for Regional Partnerships Programme funding.

Although the timeliness target was not met, the time taken to assess applications was reduced, by centralising assessment processes in the Department's central office.

In May 2007, the Regional Partnerships Ministerial Committee approved an increase in the threshold for small grants from $25,000 to $50,000, to simplify and streamline the assessment of small projects. In addition, revised procedures were implemented in 2006-07 to continue to improve the time taken to assess applications for funding.

It is expected that, during 2007-08, 90 per cent of decisions will be made within 12 weeks for projects seeking funding above $50,000, and within eight weeks for projects seeking funding up to $50,000.

Grants are provided for projects which meet programme guidelines, including consistency with ACC regional priorities and partnership funding

Grants under the Regional Partnerships Programme were provided for projects which conformed to updated guidelines released in July 2006. The guidelines clarified eligibility criteria and detailed assessment requirements, thereby providing better information on what should be included in applications and clearer guidance as to the types of projects that are likely to be approved. The guidelines are consistent with ACC regional priorities and emphasise the importance of seeking partnership funding.

Each application for funding was assessed against the Regional Partnerships Programme assessment criteria, which state that applications must:

  • be consistent with regional priorities identified in the programme guidelines;
  • demonstrate that the outcomes of the project will provide benefits to the community;
  • show that the project has adequate financial support from partnership funding; and
  • show that the project is viable and sustainable.

Payments are made in line with project progress and funding agreements

In 2006-07, payments for projects were made on achievement of agreed milestones, in accordance with funding agreements.

Successful applicants are required to enter into a funding agreement, a legally enforceable document, which sets out the terms and conditions for Australian Government funding for the specified project. The funding agreement includes a negotiated schedule of payments linked to agreed milestones, outcomes and time frames.

The Department closely monitors projects to ensure that they meet agreed milestones and that proponents comply with the conditions of funding. The Department checks progress reports against the obligations identified in each funding agreement, conducts site visits and, for some projects, attends steering committee meetings.

During the year, the Department conducted two training programmes for staff on funding agreements and risk management to ensure compliance with relevant statutory requirements and improve funding agreement management.

Quantity/location indicators-Regional Partnerships

Projects are established in every region of Australia (56 regions)

Of the 56 regions of Australia represented by ACCs, 55 benefited from projects funded under the Regional Partnerships Programme in 2006-07. The other region had an application awaiting approval by the Ministerial Committee at 30 June 2007.

Table 4.10 Summary of performance-Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme (RASS)

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Remote and isolated communities have access to passenger transport, goods delivery and other services

The Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme subsidised passenger and freight services to provide access for 235 remote communities in 2006-07.

Quality

Weekly air services are provided to communities who would otherwise have no regular access to transport

The scheme provided weekly air services to communities in all 10 of its geographic regions.

Only communities that do not have access to regular transport are eligible for admission to the scheme. The 235 communities under the scheme rely on the service for regular passenger and freight transportation.

Quantity/Location

Air services are provided to approximately 225 isolated communities in remote parts of Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania

The scheme serviced 235 isolated communities in 2006-07.

Cost

$4.0 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $3.3 million.

RASS air operators are required to deduct other revenue earned from RASS flights (e.g. from Australia Post, freight, tourist passenger fares) from the agreed maximum subsidy payable under the scheme. Accordingly, there can be an underspend on RASS compared to budget, as was the case in 2006-07. Further, in 2006-07 there were variations to the cost of servicing two regions due to an air operator going into liquidiation.

Overall performance

Did you know?

Projects from the Regional Partnerships Programme have been approved in every region of Australia (as represented the Area Consultative Committee network) and nearly 90 per cent of all Australian electorates have benefited.

On average over 70 per cent of all Regional Partnerships applications for funding are approved-no matter where they come from. Local governments and non-profit organisations account for over 80 per cent of Regional Partnerships funding recipients.

Since initiating the programme in 2003, the Australian Government has provided over $315 million of funding through the Regional Partnerships Programme for over 1,300 projects

Table 4.11 Summary of performance-Sustainable Regions

PBS/PAES performance indicators Results

Effectiveness

Funded projects improve economic, social and/or environmental well-being in the region

Funding was approved for 13 new projects under the Sustainable Regions Programme. The projects were all designed to improve wellbeing in their regions.

Quality

Regional priorities are established by a Sustainable Regions Advisory Committee (SRAC) in each region

Sustainable Regions Advisory Committees (SRACs) established priorities for their regions and made recommendations on project funding in 2006-07. The Department continued to provide advice to SRACs in relation to issues affecting regions and assessment criteria for potential applications.

Grants are provided for projects which meet programme guidelines, including consistency with SRAC regional priorities and partnership funding

All projects were competitively assessed against all the relevant criteria.

Payments are made in line with project progress and funding agreements

Payments were made on successful delivery of project milestones as detailed in the project funding agreements.

Quantity/Location

Regional priorities and projects are established for two new regions (Northern Rivers and North Coast New South Wales, Darling Matilda Way)

Regional priorities for the two new regions were established by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, based on recommendations from the SRACs and advice from the Department.

Agreed projects are implemented in eight existing regions in 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 of Tasmania

As at 30 June 2007, a total of $101.6 million had been committed to 263 projects across the eight regions.

Cost

$22.6 million

The actual cost of this programme in 2006-07 was $7.1m.

The underspend reflects delays in establishing the two new regions that were announced in the 2004 election. These regions have experienced delays in the establishment of Advisory Committees which has delayed the development of project applications. Both regions have had difficulty in identifying projects in the early stages of their existence. Approval has been provided to move the funds to 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Overall performance

Effectiveness indicators-Sustainable Regions

Funded projects improve economic, social and/or environmental well-being in the region

Since the Sustainable Regions Programme commenced in 2001, the Department has administered more than $120 million to fund a total of 276 projects to help regional communities to deal with major economic, social and environmental change.

In 2006-07, funding was approved for 13 new projects, including:

  • the construction of the Bilby and Endangered Species Tourism and Conservation Centre in Charleville, Queensland. The centre is part of a suite of projects aimed at branding the region as the 'Home of Natural Sciences'. The new facility will house observatories and interpretive displays and include a visitor information centre for the region;
  • upgrading of the Longreach Airport to jet standard, including improvements to the runway, apron, taxiway and terminal (subject to confirmation of partner contributions from the Queensland Government and Queensland Airports Limited). As one of the few jet-capable facilities in outback Queensland, the airport will provide a transport hub for the increasing number of tourist attractions in the surrounding regions;
  • construction of stage 2 of the Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre in Bourke, New South Wales. The centre is designed to tell the story of 500 years in the life of the Darling River. Stage 2 includes the Young River Pavilion, the Mature River Pavilion and a café;
  • upgrading of the aquaculture facilities at the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, to commercial hatchery and research standards;
  • the establishment of a manufacturing plant to produce EcoCover, a certified organic, 100 per cent biodegradable paper mulch mat, as well as other agricultural products made from paper; and
  • the establishment of a specialist medical centre for visiting specialists and allied health providers at Nambucca, New South Wales.

Figure 4.2 shows the distribution of projects by region. More information about the Sustainable Regions Programme is available from the programme's website, www.sustainableregions.gov.au.

Did you know?

Since 2001, the Australian Government has committed over $120 million to 276 projects to help communities in 10 locations around Australia deal with major economic, social and environmental change, through the Sustainable Regions Programme.

Figure 4.2 Distribution of Sustainable Regions Programme projects

Figure 4.2	Distribution of Sustainable Regions Programme projects

Quality indicators-Sustainable Regions

Regional priorities are established by a Sustainable Regions Advisory Committee (SRAC) in each region

In 2006-07, the Department continued to provide advice and other support to Sustainable Regions Advisory Committees (SRACs), including committees in the two new regions: Northern Rivers and North Coast New South Wales, and Darling Matilda Way.

The SRACs-which include business, community and local government representatives-provided advice to the Australian Government on issues associated with the regions, provided on-the-ground support for potential applications, and made recommendations on project funding.

Grants are provided for projects which meet programme guidelines, including consistency with SRAC regional priorities and partnership funding

Each application for funding was fully and competitively assessed by the relevant SRAC. To be successful, applications must:

  • meet the Sustainable Regions Programme assessment criteria;
  • be consistent with identified regional priorities;
  • demonstrate that they are likely to achieve sustainable outcomes; and
  • have significant regional support.

The Department reviewed SRAC recommendations to check that the proposed projects met the programme guidelines, and arranged any financial due diligence checks needed, before providing recommendations and advice to the Minister for decision.

The projects funded have attracted partnership funding totalling approximately $200.4 million, from the private sector and other partners, since the programme began in 2001. This equates to nearly $2 of partnership funding for every $1 invested by the Australian Government, although the size of the benefit varies between projects and regions.

Payments are made in line with project progress and funding agreements

In 2006-07, payments were made on achievement of project milestones, in accordance with funding agreements.

Successful applicants are required to enter into a funding agreement, a legally enforceable document, which sets out the terms and conditions for Australian Government funding for the specified project. The funding agreement includes a negotiated schedule of payments linked to agreed milestones, activities and time frames.

The Department works closely with project proponents to ensure that projects remain on schedule and comply with the conditions of funding. Progress is analysed against reports received and the obligations identified in funding agreements. Site visits are made as required.

Quantity/location indicators-Sustainable Regions

Regional priorities and projects are established for two new regions (Northern Rivers and North Coast New South Wales, Darling Matilda Way)

The Minister agreed to regional priorities recommended to him by the SRACs in the two newer regions.

On the basis of these priorities, the SRACs for the new regions considered a number of expressions of interest and full applications for grants under the Sustainable Regions Programme. As a result, nine projects were approved in the Northern Rivers and North Coast New South Wales region and four projects were approved in the Darling Matilda Way region, with total funding of $18.9 million, in 2006-07.

Agreed projects are implemented in eight existing regions in 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 of Tasmania

As at 30 June 2007, a total of $101.6 million had been committed to 263 projects across the eight initial regions, and 222 projects had been completed. Implementation continues in relation to a small number of projects with payments totalling approximately $840,400 still to be paid.

Outlook-Output 2.1.1-Regional services

The Regional Services Division will continue to effectively administer the Australian Government's regional programmes, and provide advice to government, in 2007-08. The focus will be on continually improving administrative processes, consistent with the requirements of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, and providing advice informed by the National Regional Evaluation Framework.

Administrative activities for the Sustainable Regions Programme will continue as projects for the two newer regions are finalised; the programme has been extended until June 2009 for those regions. For the eight initial regions, all projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2007-08.

The Department will continue to work closely with ACCs to deliver the Regional Partnerships Programme, with particular focus on the four priorities of the programme: small or disadvantaged communities; youth; economic growth and skills development; and Indigenous communities.

The objectives of the Regional Partnerships Programme are to stimulate growth in regions, improve access to services, support planning, and help communities make structural adjustments. The challenges for 2007-08 will be to:

  • address recommendations of the Australian National Audit Office audit of the programme;
  • continue to improve the administration of the programme to ensure timely assessment and approval of projects and consistent management of the programme;
  • continue to work with ACCs to assist communities to develop high-quality project applications; and
  • fully expend the appropriation of the programme by encouraging sufficient applications for funding and working with grant recipients to finalise their projects.

The Department will also continue to administer its other programmes under Output 2.1.1, such as the Remote Area Subsidy Scheme, to improve regional wellbeing and sustainability. Work will commence on implementing initiatives to improve regional women's representation and decision making.

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