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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2742 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

I have had a careful look at this bill and I have had a look at what the functions of the board will be. Interestingly enough the bill does not talk about a bus network. The first function that this board will have is to provide an effective public transport network. That need not necessarily be confined to buses. I believe that we are long past the stage where our strategic planning for a network in Canberra ought to go way beyond buses. I do not see that you would ever do away with buses entirely, but I believe it is time that we had on the table a plan for a transport network that goes way beyond buses. The buses may provide a feeder system-we should not do away with them entirely-but I do not think we can continue to work on the basis that buses alone are going to meet the increasing needs for transportation in this city. That has not worked anywhere else in the world, and I do not believe it will work here. So I think any expectation that our bus network is going to continue to meet our needs is fallacious.

I believe that a good corporate board, with a business background, including expertise on public transportation systems, can develop a strategic plan for a transport network that will far exceed anything that is on the drawing board at the moment. That, to me, is the major attraction of the notion of putting the management of this organisation at arms reach from the government. I suppose it might be a bit overstating the fact, but it seems to me that you put it beyond the reach of the dead hand of government and put it in the hands of people who are capable of some strategic thinking and some innovative thinking.

Mr Osborne seems to think that corporatising this operation will sound the death knell of ACTION buses. I do not know why he takes that pessimistic view because, no matter what sort of a strategic plan we develop for a future transportation system, it is clear that we are going to be relying on buses for some years to come. You do not conjure up a light rail system or some other system overnight; it is going to take quite a while. So we will be depending on the bus system. That means to me that there is no way that the government, even if it wished to, could severely dislocate the existing organisation or the existing work force. Mr Osborne is somehow of the belief that the minute we corporatise this operation it is going to fall apart at the seams, people are going to lose their jobs, and conditions of service are going to be eroded. I just do not understand why he would think along those lines.

There are some aspects of the bill that do concern me. I notice, for example, that it does not seem to be the intention of the government that this corporation will come under the provisions of the Territory Owned Corporations Act 1990. I wonder why it is being excluded from those provisions. As far as I can see, the only reference to the TOC Act of 1990 is in clause 37 where it refers to taxation. I do not understand the government's exclusion of this proposed corporation from that act. Perhaps the minister can explain why he does not think it should fall under the auspices of that act.

I suppose the one thing that concerns me most, and I think it has been referred to by somebody else, is the heavy emphasis on putting this bus system on a commercial operating basis. It is not, it never has been, and it cannot be in its present form. It has been a notorious consumer of public money, and I do not see how we can operate a bus service into the foreseeable future without it continuing to be a consumer of public money. So how can we say that we are going to set up a corporation to manage this system and make that corporation operate it on a commercial basis?

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