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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3237 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

The Government also does not intend, as recommended by the committee, to charge a fare to students who need specialised schooling, such as those with disabilities. These students will continue to receive free of charge the benefit of special transport services provided by ACTION to specialist schools.

Mr Speaker, the Government recognises that there are traffic congestion problems at some schools because of the large number of buses setting down and picking up students in the morning and afternoon. The Government will continue to work with the affected schools to improve road traffic arrangements and reduce congestion. A representative from the roads and traffic area of Urban Services is now a member of the school transport liaison committee, as recommended by the standing committee.

Mr Speaker, I now table the Government's response to the report of the Standing Committee on Urban Services on its inquiry into ACTION bus services for schoolchildren. I welcome an early debate of these issues.

MR CORBELL (4.18): Mr Speaker, I would like to respond very briefly to the Government's response to the committee's report. Obviously, I have not had an opportunity to read it in great detail, but there are a number of issues that I see immediately which, I must say, I am concerned about. They relate to a number of the recommendations of the committee. The one that concerns me greatly is the issue of giving further consideration to the needs of students in the Gungahlin area for bus travel services. The Government's response is "Agreed". You would think on reading it that the Government agrees that the Government should give further consideration to the bus travel needs of students in the Gungahlin area; but, when you actually read what they say, you find that they are agreeing to the status quo. That is not an agreement, Mr Speaker. That is ignoring the recommendation.

Mr Speaker, what the committee was saying in its recommendation was that currently there is a problem with school bus services for students in the Gungahlin area and that those services need to be improved - not stay the same, Minister, but be improved. But, instead, what we have got is a response from the Government which says that the existing structure is basically okay; that the process they have in place at the moment is satisfactory. The committee in its inquiry heard that the process that is in place at the moment and proposed as part of the new zone structure is not satisfactory. It is not satisfactory in regard to the students who are wanting to attend Copland College. It is not satisfactory from Copland College's point of view, in terms of maintaining a viable level of enrolments. It is certainly not satisfactory for those students who attend Dickson College, which is also in the priority enrolment area for Gungahlin.

The situation remains unchanged. Students at Dickson will have to pay to cross a zone to get from Gungahlin to their college every day, if they choose to catch a bus. That is the issue that we were raising, Mr Speaker - that the Government should give further consideration to the bus travel needs of students in the Gungahlin area. The Government will be very well aware of that, because they had representatives present throughout the hearings. They heard the issues raised. It is disingenuous for the Government to stand up and present this response which says that they agree with that recommendation and then to ignore a number of the key issues that led to that recommendation coming about. That is not a good response from the Government or from the Minister.

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