Page 1215 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 4 May 2022
highlighted this as a major issue last election because we know how important it is. We put it in our parliamentary and governing agreement and our 2020 election campaign, and I am really pleased to take this forward.
I also want to acknowledge the effect COVID has had on our bus timetabling. We looked at this during the last sittings, and in my office we went through the data quite carefully. It was clear that we are still running a workforce that is affected by high levels of staff absence related to COVID, and that is why I am also calling for a lot more drivers overall, before we get back to the regular timetable.
But we do not just want to return to that regular timetable; we want to get a better service. We need more drivers. We need to let those drivers who want to work on weekends do so on a permanent basis. We need a program and a target to get more women driving our buses. This will also help our overall workforce capacity. We need to do this as soon as possible so that Canberra has the reliable, frequent bus service we need, every day that we need it. I commend this motion to the Assembly.
MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee—Minister for Skills, Minister for Transport and City Services and Special Minister of State) (4.22): I rise to add a few words to this conversation, on behalf of the government. Transport Canberra and our government are committed to delivering an efficient, reliable, seven-day-a-week bus network for the Canberra community. Continuing to make public transport better is our very strong focus. We understand that Canberrans want reliable and accessible public transport services that turn up on time and efficiently take them where they want to go. We also recognise that providing quality services is an essential tool for achieving a long-term shift away from private vehicles and towards more sustainable ways of getting around.
Where we differ from Ms Clay, however, is in thinking that this is something that can be achieved with the stroke of a pen on an Assembly motion. We recognise that attracting and retaining the workforce needed to deliver a fantastic public transport service requires consultation and collaboration both with our current workers and with those who may be keen to join Transport Canberra in the months and years to come. That consultation and collaboration is underway right now, including through enterprise bargaining for a new four-year industrial agreement. To be honest, I am not sure that it is very helpful for the Assembly to be attempting to presuppose the solutions and outcomes that those conversations will arrive at.
To provide members with an update on that process, the ACT government rolled over all industrial agreements by one year in 2021 to allow government and worker resources to be channelled towards the COVID-19 pandemic response. We have recommenced bargaining in 2022, and these conversations are off to a constructive start. We are undertaking an interest-based bargaining approach which involves the Transport Canberra workforce and unions like the TWU and the AMWU, as their representatives, in a conversation about how we can achieve our shared objectives of continuing to make our public transport system even better.
We are not going to charge into that conversation and demand certain outcomes because, as those who have been around the ACT government for a while can attest,