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There is widespread concern in the community about decisions that affect them that happen overnight. If all or any part of ACTION is to be corporatised, it is essential that there is an opportunity for extensive public consultation and debate. There is some lack of confidence out there about decisions that have already been made in haste, and we are seeking an assurance from the Government that this will not happen with ACTION.

There is a basic assumption made by proponents of corporatisation that exposing public authorities to competition will somehow magically enhance efficiency and the general welfare of the community. How the community will benefit from any proposals to enhance efficiency must be seriously debated. In the provision of these services traditionally provided by government, we can find ways both to be efficient and to satisfy community needs. In the national arena this debate is only now starting to happen, well after many policies based on recommendations contained in the Hilmer report have been implemented through Federal legislation and heads of government agreements. The Hilmer reform agenda is currently subject to a Federal parliamentary inquiry. The terms of reference are very broad, including social costs and benefits of any measures aimed at increasing efficiency. That inquiry is expected to report in September and it will be very interesting to look at the conclusions.

If we accept that public transport in Canberra is not as good as we would like it to be, then we need to look at why this is the case before we look at solutions. There are many subjective factors that make people use public transport. Quite clearly, the low use of public transport in Canberra shows that the system we have is neither convenient nor cheap; nor is it necessarily as safe, comfortable and reliable as the community would like it to be. While we continue to subsidise private car use with roads and freeways and ever increasing areas of prime land used for relatively cheap parking, there is less incentive for the community to use public transport. As a consequence, the community has come to rely on the private motor vehicle, with all the inherent environmental, social and health problems that this incurs. An effective transport system is vital to achieve social equity in our community and to redress the local and global issue of greenhouse gas emissions. It is a service that benefits the elderly, the young and the disadvantaged members of our society.

We have already recently debated at length the environmental and social arguments for a cheap, reliable and efficient public transport system. I do not think we can overstress the social responsibility of government with regard to public transport. Other members representing residents of Tuggeranong and Belconnen will be well aware of how few and far between many bus services are. I have been contacted by people, particularly in Tuggeranong and Belconnen, who on several occasions have been left to wait for buses that never arrive. On inquiring why this is the case, these people have been informed by management at ACTION that it is the result of a smaller number of reserve drivers being available as a consequence of rationalisation of services. If you live in an outer suburb and you rely on buses that in peak hours run perhaps every 20 minutes or half an hour and on weekends run once an hour, missing one bus can mean a significant delay.

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