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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1877 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

He does not fully appreciate what this decision in relation to fares for residents of Palmerston will mean. Palmerston is one of Gungahlin's largest suburbs. Even a slight drop in the number of people using the commuter service from Palmerston to Civic is going to have a significant impact on traffic congestion in the Gungahlin area. That is the most obvious and glaring example of the impact of the zonal fare structure on commuters and on people who choose to use the bus service.

Mr Speaker, quite clearly the Government is not interested in developing a fare structure that is going to get people onto buses. I repeat what I said yesterday: The Government did not consult with the community about the fare structure. They did consult about the route structure, and that is to be commended - there have been some significant improvements, I believe, to the route structure - but they did not consult about the fare structure. I do not want to hear the Minister saying in this debate that the fare structure has been implemented after significant community consultation because there has not been consultation about that fare structure.

Indeed, ACTION informed residents who attended public meetings held as part of the community consultation on the new network that the fare structure was a matter for the Government and the Cabinet to decide. It was not a matter for them; it was a matter for the Cabinet and the Government, because it had to do with revenue. Mr Speaker, I think that answer from ACTION sums it all up. This Government is interested in the revenue aspects rather than actually getting people onto buses.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.57): We debated ACTION and the public transport system to some extent yesterday so I will not take up too much time. I would like, in the context of this debate, to reinforce how important the debate about ACTION and public transport is. I have a real concern about public transport in Canberra. I have a real concern about transport in Canberra. I think some of the arguments that Mr Corbell and Ms Tucker have advanced go to the heart of an issue that does not receive the attention of government that it deserves. We are on a slippery slope in relation to public transport and transport in Canberra.

In our efforts to achieve some economies or to address the bottom line in terms of ACTION services, we risk exacerbating the slide that ACTION has experienced over the last decade. I understand ACTION patronage has decreased by something in the order of 27 per cent, and that is incredibly dramatic. It is frightening. One response to that course is to actually say, "Well, 27 per cent less patronage. We cannot afford to subsidise this service at all. We really must make it pay for itself. We must reduce services. We must cut staff".

I have this fear that there is a touch of panic underlying the Government's approach to ACTION. Associated with that touch of panic is a feeling that if we do not fix it this time, the game is up; this is ACTION's last chance; it is now or never. People have to come back onto the buses. We have to do something about increasing incredibly low numbers of people that use ACTION services to travel to work, particularly those who work in Civic. I understand the number of people that actually travel to work by ACTION is 12 or 15 per cent. It might be 5 per cent. I take the point the Minister has made.

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