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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2066 ..

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (11.59): Mr Speaker, this is an interesting debate and it is a debate that we have had before in this place. I am sure that Mr Kaine is aware of that as well. I would like to quote from the Canberra Times, something that those opposite are very happy to do. It will interest members that on 21 June 1997 - that is not exactly a couple of weeks ago, Mr Speaker; we are talking about over 12 months ago - the Canberra Times said this:

The ratepayers of the ACT have subsidised the public bus system to the tune of $40 million to $50 million a year for the best part of two decades. This has been done under the rationale that a subsidised public system will provide services not capable of being provided by an unsubsidised private system. The theory has been that the ratepayer ought to subsidise a public system for the benefit of people who cannot afford cars or to reduce the reliance on the private car, particularly at peak periods.

Mr Speaker, I think we would all agree with that. The Canberra Times goes on:

That is a fine theory. But now we learn that the public subsidisation of the bus service in the ACT has been in vain. The service is no better - indeed it is worse - than many unsubsidised private systems. A report by Roger Graham and Associates presented to the ACT Government last week paints an almost laughable picture of bungling, inefficiency, incompetence, red tape, union recalcitrance and management spinelessness. It would be laughable if it were someone else's bus service. The appalling thing is that this story is not especially new. When Labor was in office, the picture was similar. There was a little tinkering around the edges. There were some painfully drawn-out concessions to slightly modify some bad work practices. The public subsidy was reduced from the palpably ridiculous to the merely unacceptably high.

In the very week that the report came out, a further example of the fundamental problem emerged: any slight suggestion of change is met by bullying resistance by bus drivers and their union, the Transport Workers Union. They resisted an eight-week weekend trial -

initially anyway -

to allow the Queanbeyan-Canberra bus operator, Deane's, to pick up and set down passengers within the ACT.

The Canberra Times goes on:

On virtually every benchmark, ACTION underperformed ...

Of greater significance was the overall customer dissatisfaction with the service.

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