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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2411 ..

MR HIRD (10.54), in reply: Mr Speaker, I would just like to address Mr Osborne's fears in respect of this report. The committee took evidence from a wide range of people that were interested in this subject, namely, 26 groups and individuals. These individuals and groups identified that what they feared most of all was going across the three zones, as the introduction by the Government of a big increase in the fare structure would do untold damage to families' budgeting arrangements. Some of these families had decided to send their children - in the case of, say, the Catholic fraternity - to St Edmund's, to a boys school, because of their belief that that educational system would be more beneficial to their children. This would have meant, in some cases, that they went across three zones, and the cost would be prohibitive.

But, when we got down and analysed the whole exercise, we found another problem. A student from Tuggeranong had a disability, and the only school that that student could enter was Dickson College. The committee took all these matters into consideration. On balance, it was quite clear to me and my colleague Mr Rugendyke that the fare structure should be phased in over a period of three years. Whilst this Government is trying to tackle these problems, it has not just happened overnight that the fare structure has got away from us. It has happened over a period of years, and now we are trying to do what is known as a catch-up.

Mr Osborne was talking about the problems when there is financial hardship within families. That happens now, let me tell you, Mr Osborne. There is a percentage of families that cannot afford to use the public transport system. They are large families, in the main, and they receive special arrangements via the Minister. We are talking about 11 per cent of families, a small percentage of whom may need financial assistance, having access to that arrangement which is already in-built. We do not see any problems with the Government's ability to pick it up when hardship can be shown. You do not need to bring in your tax return, Mr Osborne. I always wondered about front-row forwards, and I am still wondering about them. The fact is that, if a family can demonstrate that there is a financial - - -

Mr Berry: What position did you play?

MR HIRD: The centres were all right.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Berry. You are offside.

MR HIRD: He has been offside a long time.

The financial arrangements can be made through the Minister's office, so the students themselves are not disadvantaged in their attempts to get a good education within the educational system of the Territory.

MS TUCKER: It appears that we are having a full debate on this. So I seek leave to make a statement.

Leave granted.

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