Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3239 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
What we will see as a result of the Government's failure to address that issue is a reduction in the number of students who use school bus services and an increase in the number of parents who instead choose to drive their children to school. That is not the sort of outcome the Government should be promoting. Unfortunately, it is a consequence of their failure to address this recommendation.
MR HARGREAVES (4.26): Mr Speaker, I shall not take very long. I thank the Minister for making a speedy response to this review, because a lot of people have been anxiously awaiting the Government's response to the report. What the Government's response does not provide, to my mind, is some timelines for when the Government proposes to get off its backside and do something about these things.
Mr Speaker, recommendation 1(a), which talks about school bus routes, addresses the issue of overcrowding. We are about to have the year finish, in most cases. In some cases, it has finished. Now is the time to start talking about the sorts of buses that we should be providing for the students at the beginning of next year - not in the middle of next year, after somebody has reviewed it. What this actual response does is put off the answers to the questions for a further 12 months. That is clearly not acceptable.
Mr Speaker, I ask these questions, and I shall be asking them at other opportunities: When does the Government propose to do this review of school services? Is it going to be a public review of school services, in terms of getting input from concerned parents to this particular review mechanism? How long is that review going to take? I address my questions to the Minister's back, because he is not listening to me.
Mr Smyth: Yes, I am, John.
MR HARGREAVES: Thank you, Minister. The Government's response does say that the school transport liaison committee will review school services at the start of the year. That is true - about six weeks in. It also looks at school numbers in October or thereabouts. I could be a month out. Hopefully, because of what has been put in here, they will meet twice more during the year as well. That is great, because that allows us to respond to the ups and downs there.
Mr Smyth: They will meet several times.
MR HARGREAVES: It appears as though the minimum that they will be required to meet is four times a year. I fully support that. However, I would suggest, Mr Speaker, that we have got enough data to know what the ups and downs, the peaks and troughs, of schoolkids' travel are at the beginning of the year. We know, for example, that in the first week of term there is overcrowding on the buses. Every year it is the same. Every year we say, "Oh, dear; look at that", but we do not actually do something about it, on the information given to ACTION. I suspect that it is not ACTION's fault that this is the case. I suspect that it is the Department of Education which is at fault here. The Department of Education tells the Minister that the number of students is X, because they know that the Minister is dishing out the money to the schools on a per capita basis under the infamous school-based management system; also, the schools give the transport liaison committee a lower set of figures. Therefore, we have got a problem.