Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2407 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
What my colleague Mr Rugendyke and I suggest is that the balance take three years to achieve so as not to hugely disadvantage one category of students who, through no fault of their own, have enjoyed a low fare for many years. This is why we have also recommended that the Government take measures to alleviate the impact of the increased fares on students travelling across two zones by making special provision for students and their families who can demonstrate financial hardship. We are conscious that these students made their decision about where to go to school on the basis of existing bus fares. They should not be forced to consider moving schools - in the worst possible case - simply because bus fares have increased.
Mr Speaker, also on bus fares, the committee was unanimous that students who need specialised schooling, such as students with disabilities, should be able to travel by bus to their special school at the lowest fare. I want to emphasise that.
I want to thank all those who contributed to the inquiry. This includes government officials, school representatives and students themselves. We were very impressed by the quality of evidence put before us. It is all summarised in the report.
Before closing, I would like to add three personal comments. Firstly, I want to put in a plea for continued efforts by the Government to assist Copland College to increase its student numbers. Secondly, I want to stress that the proposed fare structure will mean that some students will pay less rather than more but, overall, the new system is intended to apply equally for travel within one zone and equally for travel across two zones. Thirdly, if the Government adopts the suggestions made by me and my colleague Mr Rugendyke, then they should flow on into the cost of term tickets for travel across zones for the next three years.
With those comments, Mr Speaker, I conclude my remarks. I thank my colleagues. It has been a very difficult inquiry, but you will see from the results of the report that it was well rewarded in the findings of that committee. I commend the report to the house.
MR CORBELL (10.39): Mr Speaker, this was certainly a very lengthy inquiry, by the Urban Services Committee's standards, and it involved quite a large amount of evidence. I think, in general, the committee's approach is one which is very sensible; but, as my colleague the chairman, Mr Hird, pointed out, I do disagree with the extent to which two members of this committee - Mr Hird and Mr Rugendyke - have proceeded on the issue of dealing with the inequities of school bus services and the fares paid by kids who use those services.
The majority report proposes an alternative system of fare structure. I must say that I feel very strongly that that was not an appropriate course of action for the committee to take. I have outlined those concerns in the report; but, just for the record, let me state that I do believe that we are not experts on fare structures. Indeed, we do not have the information available to us to propose an alternative fare structure for children travelling on school buses which would be fair. My view was further highlighted by evidence, presented by a range of people and groups, that the information that ACTION itself had on school bus travel patterns and methods was quite inadequate. I turn to the report.