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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 May 2018) . . Page.. 1690 ..


MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.25): As a frequent bus user, I very much thank Miss Burch for her frequent bus motions, and I hope she can keep up the good work. It is great that this Assembly is looking at our public transport system, in particular our bus system, because that is what serves most people—or does not serve most people—in Canberra. I very much welcome the Liberals’ support for public transport, which has not always been quite as enthusiastic in the past.

People who were paying attention to my speech this morning on Ms Cody’s motion—and I am sure you all were—would have heard me say that I intended to support Miss Burch’s motion. I certainly support the intention behind the motion 100—200—per cent. Since then there has been a lot of toing and froing with a government amendment, which I saw just before lunchtime today. As Minister Fitzharris noted, she had one version and then has come back with another.

In the spirit of doing what I hope will happen, unanimous agreement of this Assembly that we need to do better with late-night buses, I am hopeful that all of this will go through. Basically, it adds more information that the minister has to report on, which has to be a plus. And the bit at the beginning, new paragraphs 1(b) and 1(c), are not particularly different from Miss Burch’s except that they are longer, more complicated and harder to understand—which could be counted as a difference, I guess. I am really not quite sure why we need them, but this became a sticking point in terms of negotiating to try to get something that looked as though it was going to be acceptable, so this is where the Greens thought we would land.

I do wish to make it very clear for the record that, of course, I agree with Miss Burch’s statement: low income Canberrans are disproportionately impacted by public transport. If you are someone who washes dishes in a restaurant, you are probably not going to be able to afford to take a taxi home. If the restaurant closes at 11 o’clock, you will still be there at 12 o’clock. The patrons might be able to get home on the bus, or they might not, but you certainly will not be getting home on the bus. On the other hand if you are a senior medical specialist doing a night shift somewhere, you are going to be able to afford a taxi or an Uber home or whatever.

Public transport is significant. After-hours, non-commuter, non-peak-hour public transport is significantly more used by disadvantaged Canberrans and low income Canberrans. We need to put their needs front and centre in those hours. We have not paid enough attention to them.

It is not just for people’s working life. A couple of months ago, I spoke to a friend of mine who recounted how he had an invitation to a dinner on Sunday night which he would have really liked to go to. He is a socially isolated person because he is not in a position to afford his own car; he uses public transport. This was on a Sunday night. He had to refuse the invitation to dinner because there was no possible way he could get home and there was no possible way he could afford a taxi. This is the sort of thing that happens every day in Canberra to low income, disadvantaged people.

While it is low income people in particular, it is not only low income people. There are a significant number of people who do not drive cars, often because of their age.


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