Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2406 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
Mr Speaker, last Tuesday, on behalf of my committee, I asked for a short extension of time to report on this issue. I am pleased to table the committee's report today. It is a unanimous report, except for one matter.
In relation to school bus routes, we unanimously recommended that a thorough review be undertaken; that the community be closely involved, in particular through the school transport advisory committee; and that the Government give further consideration to the bus travel needs of students, in particular in the Gungahlin area.
In relation to the constitution of the advisory committee on school bus services, we unanimously recommended that the resources available to the committee be beefed up and its membership be extended to include a student representative and a member from ACT Roads, which is part of the Department of Urban Services.
In relation to traffic congestion around schools, we unanimously recommended that the Government raise the priority it gives to problems identified by schools and that it draw up a program of works to fix these problems, especially where these problems are very longstanding, such as at Daramalan, St Clare's and St Edmund's colleges.
In relation to school bus fares, two members of the committee considered that the proposed fare structure should go ahead, provided that one important change is made, while the third member of the committee, my colleague Mr Corbell, considered that the proposed fare structure should not go ahead until more information is available. I will let Mr Corbell speak for himself.
I want to emphasise that there was not a dissenting report, which is of surprise. The way we handled these different viewpoints was to make plain in the text and in the list of recommendations that, on this one matter, two members of the committee have one view and one member has a different one. I would like to compliment my colleagues on this approach, and also the secretary to the committee, Mr Power. It enables the committee to report more quickly than otherwise and does not weaken the report, as sometimes happens with a dissenting report.
I turn back to the issue of student fares, Mr Speaker. Mr Rugendyke and I have come to the view, after carefully listening to all the points put to us, that the proposed fare structure should go ahead, but only if the proposed fare increase for the 11 per cent of students who use a direct bus service over two zones is brought in over a three-year period - not in one hit, as the Government had previously proposed. We simply think a sudden jump in fares for this category of students from 45c to $1.20 is too great.
We acknowledge that something needs to be done to fix the inequities in student fares, which successive governments have not addressed over a number of years. We think it is equitable to bring student fares into balance; that is, it is time to ensure that all students who travel across two zones are charged the same fare in the new system and that all students who travel within one zone are likewise charged the same fare.