Review and evaluation
During the year, the department's programs and administration were subject to a range of reviews and evaluations in addition to that provided through external scrutiny.
The findings of the reviews and evaluations outlined below will inform policy development and guide improvements in our practices and program delivery.
National Review of Drought Policy
In 2009-10, the department supported the Australian Government's National Review of Drought Policy. The government undertook this review in recognition that the current Exceptional Circumstances arrangements may no longer be the most appropriate in the context of a changing climate.
This review included investigations of the climatic, economic and social aspects of drought and drought support by the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, the Productivity Commission and an expert social panel.
In response to the reports commissioned for the National Review of Drought Policy, on 5 May 2010 the government announced that it will conduct a pilot of drought policy reform measures in a region of Western Australia for 12 months from 1 July 2010. The pilot and its subsequent review in 2011 will further inform the government's consideration of national drought policy reform. (See Part 3: Program 1.11 Drought programs.)
Review of the effectiveness of the wheat export marketing arrangements
During the year, the Productivity Commission inquired into the operation and effectiveness of the new wheat export marketing arrangements. Among the matters considered by the commission were the role of Wheat Export Australia, accreditation of exporters, competition in the transport and supply chain for wheat, and the availability and transparency of market information. The commission will provide its final report to the government on 1 July 2010.
Climate Change Adjustment Program financial template review
In June 2010, WalterTurnbull completed a review on the appropriateness of the financial assessment model used to assess a farmer's financial position for the Climate Change Adjustment and Transitional Income Support programs. The review found that, overall, the current eligibility assessment model is an efficient and effective model for assessing an applicant's financial position.
Rural Financial Counselling Service: an evaluation
Charles Sturt University was commissioned in 2009-10 to conduct an online survey of Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) clients. The aim of the survey was to evaluate client satisfaction with the RFCS, the appropriateness of referrals to other professional services, the extent of improvement in clients' situations and changes in management practices as a result of interaction with the RFCS.
The survey found that the RFCS contributes to adjustment processes and the growth of resilience and self-reliance among farm people. Around 40 per cent of clients surveyed attributed half or more of the changes they have made to their farming enterprise to RFCS input. Overall, there is a high degree of client satisfaction with the RFCS. Client assessments of service quality are generally positive, and clients with the lowest education levels are most likely to benefit from the service.
Inquiry into the Australian Government research and development corporations model
On 15 February 2010, the Productivity Commission began an inquiry into the rural research and development corporation model. The inquiry is considering the economic and policy rationale for Australian Government investment in rural research and development. The inquiry is also examining the interactions and potential overlaps across governments and programs to ensure Australia gets the best value for its research and development spending. The final report is due for submission to the government by 15 February 2011. (See www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/rural-research.)
Longitudinal Farm Management Deposit study (phase 1 completed)
Roberts Evaluation Pty Ltd undertook phase one of a two-phase longitudinal study on the Farm Management Deposit (FMD) program. The first phase of the study established a profile of FMD holders examining why and how FMDs are being used. The results from phase one found that FMD usage has changed over time, with more farmers making use of their FMDs to assist in long-term planning and risk management on their farms. These results were presented in a baseline report. The second phase will build on the baseline report to analyse the use of FMDs by individuals over time and in differing situations, to examine the pattern of usage during drought and drought recovery. The second phase of the study is scheduled to commence in 2011.
The Bureau of Rural Sciences developed a monitoring and evaluation framework for FarmReady and is carrying out the evaluation. The evaluation is designed to answer two key questions:
- What difference is FarmReady making?
- How well is FarmReady being implemented?
The questions are in the present tense as FarmReady will continue beyond the period covered by this evaluation plan. A final report is expected by December 2010.
Review of FarmReady Reimbursement Grants Services Agreement and spot audit of projects
Ernst & Young were engaged to review the external administrator's performance of its services in relation to administering the FarmReady Reimbursement Grants. In addition, Ernst & Young will conduct spot audits on three projects approved under round one of the FarmReady Industry Grants and three Community Networks and Capacity Building projects. This work is being finalised.