Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 2 August 2018) . . Page.. 2655 ..
The minister claims that these cuts are justified for two key reasons: firstly, because general network services will be expanded to 30 per cent more schools; and, secondly, because only five per cent of primary school children catch dedicated school bus services. While this may be the case, it has done little to alleviate parents’ concerns. This February’s school census tells us that there are over 45,800 primary school children in the ACT. This means that, according to the government’s own figures, almost 2,300 primary school children catch school buses every day. That is 2,300 vulnerable young children whose safety will be at risk with these cuts to school buses.
While general network services may be expanded, many parents have raised significant concerns around the safety of unaccompanied young children on the general public network and at interchanges. Travelling on the general network will require many more children to transfer through bus interchanges and walk further to and from bus stops. In many instances this will also result in longer commutes for children.
Recent abduction attempts on children near schools have parents worried that it is only a matter of time before a child is taken. Not long ago parents of schoolchildren received letters from the government outlining concerns for children’s safety in light of these abduction attempts. This is at the same time that those opposite are cutting school buses. It is disingenuous for the Labor-Greens government to say that it is concerned about children’s safety while they are also slashing school buses.
It shows no regard for the safety of children to expect unaccompanied young children to walk long distances to their nearest stop, travel on general public buses and wait at interchanges for connecting services. If parents cannot have confidence that their children can get to and from school safely, how could they then choose to send their children to that school? This is what I mean when I say that meaningful, informed choice requires access.
Longer travel times for our kids also mean less time to do their homework. Longer travel times mean less time to spend on extracurricular activities. Longer travel times mean less time to spend with families and less time to spend just being a kid. These are all factors which impact parents’ choice.
The Canberra Liberals have heard from many parents, grandparents, teachers and principals across the territory about what cuts to school buses will mean for their choice of schools. Parents in Crace are saying that their children will have to travel to the Gungahlin interchange and back out again, just to get to and from Catholic schools in neighbouring suburbs. Parents in Woden have told us that their children will have to catch three buses in order to get home. That is six buses a day.
Parents in Gleneagles, in Kambah, have told us that their 10 and 12-year-old children will have to walk 1.8 kilometres to the nearest bus stop, catch the local bus to an interchange and then transfer to a public bus to get to school. Their total travel time is likely to quadruple and their safety will be at risk.