Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2408 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
I think, on page 21 of the report, it is outlined fairly clearly that ACTION itself is not particularly confident, on the data it has on the patterns of movement of schoolchildren, to actually put in place a fare system. I will read the relevant paragraph on page 21:
In relation to the cost of school bus fares, the committee is concerned about deficiencies in key data which make it difficult to feel confident that the most appropriate fare structure has been determined. The committee also notes the government's expectation that the report of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission (due in draft form in February 1999) will `assist [DUS] -
the Department of Urban Services -
to more accurately cost and determine Community Service Obligation funding, including payments for school services'. This suggests that the department is not confident of its present information.
I agree with that finding, and that is a finding that all three members of the committee have agreed with. The problem is that there is one proposal in this report that we should actually go further and propose an alternative fare structure. If the committee is accepting that there is not sufficient evidence to be absolutely confident about costs and travel patterns for schoolchildren on school buses, then we should not be proposing an alternative fare structure. That is where I disagree with my colleagues.
Mr Speaker, I have proposed - and my comments are in the report - that ACTION and the Government really need to go back and get some decent information on patterns of movement for children who use school buses and the costs associated with those movements. It is simply not acceptable for the Government to make an arbitrary decision about how much schoolchildren will pay to travel on a school bus when it is not confident of its information.
Equally, I believe that it is not acceptable for the committee to repeat the mistake of the Government and impose an arbitrary method of determining fare structures for schoolchildren. Both of those approaches are wrong. What I am asking in my comments in the report is for the Government to go back, start again, and get some decent data which is consistent, because the three lots of data presented by ACTION to the committee were wildly different. If I recall correctly, they ranged from somewhere around 16,000 to 28,000 movements. They have got three lots of information themselves. It is certainly not a consistent lot of data on which to make such an important decision. So I hope that the Government recognises that in its response to the report.
Mr Speaker, I should say, though, that there were a number of issues on which I and my colleagues on the committee were in complete agreement. One of those was in relation to the issue of school pick-up and drop-off points for buses. We heard some disturbing evidence from a range of schools, mostly in the non-government school sector, that the arrangements for the drop-off and pick-up points for students using school buses were completely inadequate and, in some respects, dangerous. It would appear that on repeated occasions these schools have made representation to the Government in an attempt to have the situation addressed; but for one reason or another - not always the