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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1733 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

So I do not know what his report is going to say. I am not going to prejudge that matter. I am going to wait and see what the evidence actually produces. The reasons I have given for not disclosing the document to date are the only reasons that I would consider for such a course of action.

School buses

MS TUCKER: My question is directed to the Minister for Education and it relates to the government's existing free school bus scheme, which is available for children whose parents are on a social security pension or benefit. I am aware that there are some children who currently receive free bus passes who will not be eligible for a free bus pass under your new scheme because they live within the specified distances of 1.6 kilometres from a primary school or two kilometres from a high school. These children and their parents rely on bus travel to school. Otherwise they would not have gone to the trouble of getting a free school bus pass. While the children may be capable of walking the distance, there are safety and convenience issues for the parents that make this an unattractive option.

It also seems quite unfair that these low-income people are losing their free school bus travel when people who can afford the bus fares to distant private schools will now get this for free under the government's new scheme. Minister, will you give an undertaking that those low-income people who currently receive a free school bus pass will be able to keep it, even if they live within the distance criteria of your new scheme?

MR STEFANIAK: I will take that question, because I think we actually administer that scheme, unlike the free bus pass system which is largely under my colleague the Minister for Urban Services. Thank you, Ms Tucker, for that question. I understand there would be about 100 students in that category, and they are in years 3, 4, 5 and 6 because, if they are in high school under the free bus scheme for low-income families, which has been operating for many years in this territory, there is a 2-kilometre limit, and that is exactly the same as for the government's free bus scheme.

In terms of primary students, I understand that the limit under that scheme is one kilometre-and, of course, under the scheme we are bringing in and announced in the budget, which is comparable with the scheme in New South Wales, it is 1.6 kilometres. So about 100 students will be affected. We are currently looking at that to see what we can do in terms of those students. So that is something that the Minister for Urban Services and I are aware of and we are working through that.

MS TUCKER: I ask a supplementary question. Are you going to make sure, when you have found a way of accommodating the needs of these people, that you contact them individually? Are you able to do that so that they are informed about what you are going to do?

MR STEFANIAK: As we know who they are, I think it would obviously be important to find some way of ensuring that they are aware of what the situation will be. Obviously, I think it has been indicated to them that they should apply under the bus pass system, and that will all be taken into consideration. But certainly we would intend ensuring that each and every one of them knew exactly what the situation would be.

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