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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2056 ..

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (11.23): Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address the house on these two motions. It is quite clear that we can talk about the truth and what has actually happened or we can just stand here and posture. It is curious to describe the industrial relations process as a series of ambit claims. There is an initial stage in the industrial relations process where, I think, sides do posture. Perhaps you do start with some ambit claims. You then get down to the serious business of trying to resolve where the issue goes.

The serious business of trying to resolve where ACTION goes began many months ago - indeed, 14 months ago, Mr Speaker. I think it would be fair to say that it began under the former Minister, Mr Kaine, with his appointment of Guy Thurston. Guy Thurston is the officer in charge of ACTION. It is acknowledged by many in this place that he has done a great job in working towards a better bus service for all Canberrans. That is what ACTION is there for. It is there to provide a better bus service for all Canberrans. I think it is fair to say that for 14 months Guy Thurston has worked towards that.

Ms Tucker started by saying that I am confused about the public consultation process on the network and EBA negotiations. The two go hand in hand, Mr Speaker. Mr Thurston has been working on both sides of this issue for about 14 months. I have seen the documents he has and the folder he has that lists all his meetings and all his negotiations. Yes, there was a public process. There was the Graham report; there were the other reports; there was public consultation. There was public consultation over about nine months, and the new network proposal was put out, modified and discussed. But that whole new network depended upon some changes. They are not even best-practice changes, Mr Speaker. This is about implementing some standard practices in the bus industry around the country.

Mr Speaker, in rising to speak to this motion I would like to outline what has happened in these last 14 months of negotiations. The reform sought by the Government in the negotiations would have achieved changes to work practices needed to implement the new network and to meet the budget which this Assembly has voted to me to spend on ACTION. The Government is obligated to deliver these reforms within the budget. To delay the introduction of the new network from October to February will cost in the vicinity of a million dollars. It will cost in the vicinity of a million dollars simply because we have not been allowed to implement what the Graham report called for. I must say, Mr Speaker, that Labor has continually urged us to implement the Graham report. Graham said that the issues were pay, restrictive work practices, bus routes and timetables. We have, Mr Speaker, worked very surely towards working out the issues that cover pay, restrictive practices, bus routes and timetables.

These reforms are not unreasonable. They are in line with the costs of other public transport operators around the country and reflect just standard practice - not even best practice - in the industry at large. The enterprise agreement offered by the Government would have allowed the new network to be implemented and services to be extended at no additional cost to the ratepayers. The Government has spent 14 months negotiating with the union to formulate the new network so that ACTION could run that service, Mr Speaker. This is the Government's preferred option.

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