Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2064 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
leaves us to wonder whether this Minister has any integrity, whether he has any competence, whether he knows what he is doing, or whether he has any interest in what he is doing, in terms of the provision of a public transport system for Canberra, other than to do the ideological bidding of his party - namely, to sell ACTION at all costs, irrespective of the cost to the public transport system of Canberra, irrespective of the cost to the workers of ACTION, irrespective of the cost to the families of the workers of ACTION. You are completely exposed, Minister. It is not a laughing matter, Minister. You sit there and laugh at the damage you have caused to public transport in Canberra and to the security of all those workers that you have a responsibility for, a responsibility that you have failed to deliver on.
MR KAINE (11.52): I do not intend to speak at great length, but I would at least like to focus on the substance of Ms Tucker's motion. It is that, regardless of what the Government at the end of the day decides to do, we in this place expect to have full information about that and we expect to have the opportunity to debate it. I think that there is a further consideration in that, which is that before it comes to this place as a final proposal for a course of action we would want to be satisfied that there has been community consultation - not on whether, or how, we can improve the present bus system, but on the question of contracting out or selling off ACTION. They are two different subjects. I think the Minister did avoid the question that Ms Tucker raised, and that was the question of public consultation on the proposition to contract out any part of ACTION. I do not think there has been any public consultation on that issue. Those are the issues that I want to focus on.
We can get heated in this debate. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition became quite emotional, and I can understand why. He has a constituency, and he believes very deeply and strongly that that constituency is under attack. I think that he is somewhat justified in taking that position and that concern. I do not think the Minister dealt with it. It is all very well, when his actions are questioned, for the Minister to get up and bag the unions. That is essentially what he did. He did not even attempt to justify the decision that he has made about advertising for tenders. There was no justification at all. That, for me, is the nub of the argument.
There is no question that the responsibility and duty of the Government are to provide a bus service that meets the needs of the people who need to use it. How it does that is the point at issue. Fourteen months ago we had a comprehensive report on how the bus service could be improved. I believe that progress on that report has been quite good. But at the end of the day, when the trade unions start to say, "Hang on a bit; there are some of these matters that affect our conditions of service and we want to talk about them", if the reaction of the Minister at that point is: "Well, we will contract out the service", we are not getting far in terms of negotiation. I think that there is a process that we have to go through. That means that when you get down to the hard issues you have got to sit around the table and discuss them. The Government is not always going to get the answer that it wants. It is not possible. In today's world, you have to negotiate the issues.