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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1353..


MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

do. There are some circumstances where it is not, but generally it is an appropriate thing to do.

Therefore, the view that there should be a very large surplus beyond what has been projected by this government at this time is a view I do not share. I think we have a sustainable surplus, and that is the most important thing the ACT community should be relying upon.

MR RUGENDYKE: I ask a supplementary question. The forecast $11 million operating surplus for 2004-05 seems fairly skinny. Is it your view that that is a sufficient margin to combat the economic shocks you mentioned?

MR HUMPHRIES: I do not have the over-the-horizon capacity to see what might happen in 2004-05. I think at this stage $11 million is sufficient. If circumstances facing the territory are not so positive as they are today, then I would probably support increasing that surplus somewhat. As you have indicated, each year these things may change. My view is that at this stage, looking that far over the horizon, $11 million is adequate for the territory's needs.

School buses

MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Urban Services and relates to the hitherto unaffordable $6 million per annum free bus scheme which was first promised by the Liberals in 1995. It has been a bit like the Belconnen pool proposal, really, which has been around for a couple of days. It has some grey whiskers on it. Yesterday's budget contained as its centrepiece, I think is a fair statement, a commitment to provide free school buses. On closer examination, this promise will be available only to "eligible" students. I would like the Minister for Urban Services to tell us how many students will be eligible and whether free travel will be available only on dedicated school buses.

MR SMYTH: Mr Berry, in his preamble, asked why it took so long. There was a hurdle to overcome, a $344.5 million audited hurdle that said we were in the red. Why were we in the red? It was because of the economic mismanagement of those who governed the territory before us and governed badly. The program for the implementation of the delivery of the free school travel is that we will now communicate with all the parents. We will send out a kit detailing how they can apply for the school bus pass. The answer to Mr Berry's question about whether it is only for dedicated school routes is that it is not, because a large number of our students already use the route system. The travel will be between 7.30 am and 5.30 pm each school day.

MR BERRY: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Will the free travel be available for every student who chooses to travel to a school that is more than the minimum distance specified?

MR SMYTH: There will be exceptions to all the rules. We have set up a process whereby the schools will now send out to the parents via the students a form asking the parents to apply for a free student travel card for the students. The forms will come back to the schools and they will collate them and give them to ACTION. ACTION will determine, based on the advice from the schools, who is and who is not eligible. If


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