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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2053 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

The decision to seek expressions of interest before the ACTION network was given statutory authority status was a sneaky way to bypass this Assembly's wish to be involved with the sale of Territory-owned corporations. That is the truth of it. What happened was that the Government decided to sell it off before we had to debate the issue here in the Assembly. The way it did that was to put the acceptability of ACTION being a statutory authority - which is one half-step away from Territory-owned corporation status - onto the list of its ambit claims in the EBA discussions with the Transport Workers Union. The Government wanted those guys up there - I am pointing to the gallery - to make a government decision. It is a government decision whether to have it as a statutory authority, part of a department or a Territory-owned corporation. So they said to the bus drivers, "You decide". When they knocked it back, they thought, "Beauty; there is one of the triggers. We can flog it off". It was a set-up. It was a three-card trick. There was not anything that anybody could do about it. But we reject that particular perspective of it.

Mr Speaker, when we talk about the ACTION bus service, we have to think about what it actually provides. We do not have any trams or trains in this town. It has been built for vehicular travel. Because of that layout, a public transport system with bus services is essential for those people who are not fortunate enough to own $93,000 four-wheel-drives or second cars with which they can take advantage of the cheap registration.

Mr Corbell: Battler-mobiles.

MR HARGREAVES: Thank you very much, Mr Corbell. The people who do not have those battler-mobiles are the elderly, who are actually stranded within their homes if the bus service is not provided to them, and schoolkids. I do not know how many schoolchildren battlers actually have their own battler-mobiles. In fact, the schoolkids who have their own cars or who use dad's car, mum's car, or whoever's car to go to school are not in the majority. We have a responsibility to make sure that those kids get to school, and not just by paying somebody else to deliver them.

Disabled people cannot get around without an adequate transport system. All too often we make these dollar-driven decisions, forgetting about those people. Families on low incomes can only afford the one car; so the breadwinner is usually the one that takes the car to work. What happens to the family that is left behind? John Howard's big thing is: "Let's put women back in the home". He sure as hell wants to do it. If I am correct, not only does he want to put them in the home, but he wants to keep them there, because they have no access to public transport to get out and about.

What about the isolated areas of Canberra? We talk long and deeply about social isolation and about the pioneers in my colleague's part of the world, Gungahlin, the pioneers of South Tuggeranong and the pioneers of Reid. People in Reid can walk to wherever they like, but we cannot. Social isolation sets in there, and often the only way people can get relief from that social isolation is by use of the public transport system.

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