Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1796 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated bus service, you can travel for one fare, whatever the distance. Many students currently have to pay two fares for travelling quite short distances through an interchange to get to their school. The new system offers equity in that if you travel within your zone you pay one fare. If you travel further, and go across two or three zones, you will end up paying two fares.
Some of the increases are substantial. They are substantial because, apart from New South Wales, which of course has free school travel, we are coming off quite a low percentage of the adult fare. The increase will be from 25 per cent of the adult fare to 35 per cent of the adult fare. Apart from New South Wales, we will still have some of the cheapest school bus travel in the country. I accept that Mr Osborne has been lobbied hard by many groups. He has brought many groups to my office. I compliment him on that. I believe that what we have put in place is fundamentally much fairer and will give ACTION the best opportunities to deliver the bus services that the people of Canberra deserve.
The Government will vote against the amendments. If the Government loses on the amendments and on the motion, I will of course look at these structures and take advice from the Standing Committee on Urban Services. We recently made concessions to alleviate the hardship for families with a large number of kids who travel across two zones. I think those concessions have been well received, but some people have said that the concessions do not go far enough. I have had my departmental officials go back to the schools in question and ask for the numbers of students affected by this and the numbers of students not paying full fees so that we can find out the degree of the problem. They have gone particularly to schools in the central zone, and to this date those schools will not tell me.
If you have an objection to a price rise, I can argue that we come off a very low base and that you are now paying what would be considered in most other jurisdictions a fair price. However, when we have gone out and asked schools for numbers so that we can get a handle on what they see as the size of the problem, they have not told us the numbers most dramatically affected. They insist that all their students are affected. This Government is keen to help those who deserve assistance. I do not think we are here to offer middle-class welfare. Until I can get some more information - perhaps Mr Osborne can get the information; the schools certainly will not provide it to my officials - we need to maintain the integrity of the system.
The zone system offers ACTION the opportunity to provide a really tremendous service to the people of Canberra. It will benefit the majority of travellers. Some will pay more, yes, but they are travelling longer distances. The majority, two-thirds, of not only students but also adults travel within one zone. I think what we have done is well measured, is considered and will give ACTION the best chance to survive and deliver the sort of service that all Canberrans want. With that in mind, we will oppose the amendments.