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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2163 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

bus passes will not be eligible under the new scheme because they live within the specified distance of 1.6 kilometres from a primary school or two kilometres from a high school.

One of my constituents, a pensioner, will now have to find some $100 a term for term student tickets for her two sons. She cannot afford this amount from the pension, yet she feels that the two kilometres walking distance is neither convenient nor safe for her children. In a bizarre twist, she could move her children to a more distant school and become eligible, but that would disrupt their education and social networks.

There are probably many more families in this position who may not have realised that their current free school bus passes will be useless after 3 September when the scheme is meant to start. It is clearly 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.

The minister, in answer to a question from me, said that the children ought to go ahead and apply for a pass, and hopefully the department will sort it out. Unfortunately, very many of them have been told that they are not eligible and they were not given an application form, despite their requests. We are talking about families and children most in need, and these are the families which will suffer. If ever there was evidence that this government did not consider the equity implications of its actions before announcing this scheme, this is it. (Extension of time granted.) I thank members.

On the question of freedom of choice, I just want to address that again. I know I did do that yesterday in the budget debate, but I think it needs to be mentioned in the context of this debate once again. We have seen in this government and the federal government, and conservative governments all over the world in fact, this propaganda about freedom of choice and the reality of the choice that Liberal governments and conservative governments, and Labor governments to a degree as well, are offering. It is really choice for those who are already empowered.

If you care about inequity, if you care about social exclusion, if you care about trying to equalise our society and going back to the Australian idea of a fair go for all, if you care about those fundamental notions of equity and social cohesion, you cannot support this notion of choice as put forward by these sorts of right-leaning governments. It is clear, the evidence is already in, that they will encourage and entrench inequity. It is a superficial argument which is very dangerous in my view. If we are to find a way of moving into this century in some kind of collective way to deal with the issues that we have to deal with, then we have to focus on those issues of social exclusion and equity, and governments like this do not want to know about it.


(12.19): I would like to commence by referring to recommendation 29 of the Estimates Committee report. It says that the majority of that committee thought that the government should not commit or expend any funds on the free school bus service until November. That quite clearly is beyond the election date and will allow the people of Canberra to decide before financial commitments are made. One of the points the government has been debating is that some of the money is going to be spent anyway. That is the point we want to make. What has been clearly established in this

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