Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2054 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
What we are talking about here, Mr Speaker, is equality of access. We have already seen the pricing structure attack equality of access. The introduction of the zonal system has been an abysmal failure. It does not provide equality at all; it provides inequity. It also savagely increases the cost. I would like to give an example, Mr Speaker, of how equality of access does not work in the private sector. This example was provided to me by one of our Federal members. A newly developed area in the western Melbourne suburbs was a couple of kilometres from the main part of the metropolitan area. It had a population of about 15,000. The Government down in Victoria pulled out of the public bus system. They said that they had a crash-hot system and that the private sector would pick it all up. Indeed, they did.
In they went to this new area with 15,000 people. People bought their houses out there - not because they wanted to but because they had to, because they were cheap - and they thought, "We will go out and do some more pioneering". Inside three weeks, that bus company realised that that particular bunch of houses was not going to provide them with the profit margin they expected, and they yanked out the service, just like that - he said, clicking his fingers. The people in that particular part of the world had no transport to the medical facilities that they needed, to ordinary support facilities or to go shopping in the middle of the day. That was disgusting. And it happened because it was a private organisation, profit driven. Mr Speaker, the Government is responsible for ensuring that access to public transport is available to everybody who needs it. Private companies do not do that because they are profit driven.
I would like to address our community service obligations. Governments need to provide resources to ensure that the disadvantaged have access to transport services, to provide opportunities for these people to get out of the social traps of isolation that I mentioned before. Lack of transport often generates that social isolation. I want to underscore that through repetition. Mr Speaker, bottom line financial results ought not to be the sole determinant of successful performance. This philosophy is born out of economic rationalism. It is dollar driven. It puts costs above people. When financial performance is the sole determinant it allows the service no room to move. Mr Speaker, the balance sheet has no regard whatever for suffering and it has no soul - and, I suspect, neither have the drivers of this particular blind rush to privatise a service.
Mr Speaker, I now turn to the industrial relations aspect of this matter. We have heard much from the architect of sweet and sensitive industrial relations, Peter Reith. He seems to be giving these people very good tuition, although I sometimes wonder whether this Government is teaching him or he is teaching them. I do not know. We will just have to sit and wait. They have ignored the reasonable conventions of industrial relations. They were dragged, kicking and screaming, to the Industrial Relations Commission, but they have actually got a predetermined position. Would you like me to stop and wait for you, Chief Minister?
MR SPEAKER: No. We would like you to address the Chair, however, Mr Hargreaves, please.