Page 860 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022
A trial right now probably will not encourage people onto the bus. A lot of people are concerned about COVID and they will not want to mix. If it did get new users onto the bus, I am worried it could do real damage to our long-term uptake of public transport. That is because the service is not running at proper capacity yet. If we did manage to get new users onto that bus network from a free trial, and if they had a poor experience, they might be put off the bus for life. We know this from ACT government surveys. People need reliability and frequency, and we do not have that right now due to our workforce shortages.
I also know this personally. An unreliable network, even if it is free, will do more harm than good in convincing people to catch a bus. If your bus does not turn up the first time you catch it, you will not catch the bus again. You will probably tell your friends how unreliable buses are in Canberra. Canberra is a small town; these decisions matter and they last a long time.
More critically, I am worried that, as a cost of living relief measure, this motion misses the mark. I spoke earlier about some of the people who simply cannot use a bus. A lot of those people are our most vulnerable. They might be elderly, they might have a disability, they might have a really big family with a lot of kids, they might have a lot of trip chaining for lots of kids or they might be a carer with a lot of trip chaining. They might be shift-workers or people who have to drive, like at-home carers or at-home cleaners, or delivery drivers. Those people are not going to get any benefit from free bus travel. They will keep paying a lot for petrol and they will probably be wondering why they missed out.
The ones most likely to benefit from a free bus trial right now are probably those people who already regularly catch the bus. A lot of those people are in secure, salaried jobs. They are not paying extra for petrol at the moment. They are not necessarily the people who need the most help right now. I think what we need for the climate and for congestion is a better bus service long term. I think what we need to relieve cost of living pressures right now is relief that is really well-targeted to the people who need it, and I am not sure that the original motion does that.
I genuinely thank Mr Parton for bringing on this important motion and for accelerating our conversation on this. I am afraid that the Greens cannot support the original motion; but we are really happy to support the amended version, which actually does commit to returning to normal services as soon as we can, returning to a full bus network. It also commits to looking at a trial at a time when it is really, really strategic and when it would really help. The Greens will be happy to support the amended motion.
MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra—Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Business and Better Regulation, Minister for Human Rights and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (4.12): Madam Assistant Speaker, if it sounds like we are talking about something we have recently spoken about, you would not be mistaken. Public transport being free for a period of time is a suggestion in this place from as recently as November last year, in a motion from Ms Castley which was amended at the time. Ms Lawder yesterday copied a motion of