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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2100 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Nobody can come into this place, a public forum like this, and not acknowledge that we as a community have a fundamental and extremely serious problem with the way that ACTION operates. Our approach to this matter has been to conduct EBA negotiations on the premise that we cannot allow those sorts of practices to continue and, as part of the process, to try to wind those things back and to provide for the intrusion of some of the elements of reform which have been characteristic of changes in bus services elsewhere in Australia, changes which have very much left the ACT in their wake - things like split shifts.

Think about it for a moment. How idiotic is it to have a system where we employ a person for a set period of time during the day, but we do not have the work to offer them during large parts of the day? Because we cannot split a shift in two under the old arrangements, we are obliged to employ people throughout periods when there is not the work for them and essentially allow them to sit around and engage in entertainment or reading or whatever they might want to do over the period that they cannot be gainfully employed. That is not a sensible way of using scarce taxpayers' dollars. What we have tried to do in these negotiations is tackle those issues in a way which previous governments have not been prepared to.

Mr Berry: Including your own.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Berry interjects, "Including your own". I concede that we have not tackled some of these issues in the past; that we have let them ride - excuse the pun - over a period of time. Perhaps, arguably, we should have raised more of these issues and pressed for more reform in earlier EBA negotiations or in some other forum.

We are now at the point where we have put this issue squarely in negotiations. We have to say to the community that we are trying to engineer a better outcome from the point of view of taxpayers' dollars. What goes on in ACTION at the moment cannot be acceptable to anybody who believes that we need to be squeezing every available efficiency out of every dollar that we spend in this community. It simply is not acceptable. I ask: Who can come into this place and say honestly, to members of the public who might be listening to this debate, "I am satisfied with what ACTION does at the moment. It is a pretty efficient service. We do not need much reform."? None of us can do that.

I address my comments particularly to Ms Tucker in this debate. She has come into this place many times in the past and argued for a better public transport system. She said that we need to have more resources put into public transport so that it is a more acceptable alternative for those people who might otherwise use their cars and for people who are disadvantaged or are otherwise unable to use other forms of transport. She has argued that more or less since the first day she was in this place. Here is a debate which is about transferring money away from poor work practices towards the pointy end of ACTION bus services.

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