Page 1220 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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It is … the role of oppositions to fight hard for those left behind by government policy or administration. I believe that oppositions, even when faced with a majority government, are capable of influencing outcomes for the good of the community and leading in such a way as to improve people’s lives on a day-to-day basis.

This is extraordinarily important in the case of our older and ageing Canberrans. The leader continued:

I believe that a solutions focused opposition is best placed to become a solutions focused government.

To put it another way, the role of opposition—as it was put to me a few years ago—is like this. There is a bus; it is the government bus and people are all on the government bus. As the government goes round the corner and goes over bumps because the roads have not been maintained and it is hard for people to get on the bus because they do not run as frequently as they used to, it is the job of opposition to come behind and provide an alternative bus service which picks up those people who have been left behind by a thoughtless government.

That leads me to one of the key areas of significance that the Council on the Ageing have prioritised for action over the next year or so: transport. When it comes to the issue of transport, the ageing community in Canberra, like most others, has been substantially ill served by the Stanhope government. We have spent the best part of 18 months struggling with a service which is worse than it was before—which was described as the worst public transport service of any capital city in the country, even worse than little old Hobart, with its small government and not much opportunity for economic expansion. Even Hobart can get a better public transport service than we can.

Although there is promise that the new bus timetable will address many of those issues, the fact is that we have had to struggle for 18 months and the government has not listened to the community when they asked for the old service to be reinstated. The paltry excuse was, “Well, if we reinstated the old service we would have to cut the services to the eye hospital.” Yes, the services to the eye hospital are important; they are good and they are to be applauded—any extension of the service is. But it was an extension to the service at the cost of many other services that created huge inconvenience for people who depend upon public transport.

We have to remember that 50 per cent of the people in the ACT do not have direct access to private transport. Fifty per cent of people in the ACT rely upon public transport. That is probably because of age—whether they are young or old—or infirmity. That is an important figure that we need to keep in our minds. But we are not providing a service to half the population.

Mr Hargreaves: That’s not true.

MRS DUNNE: It is not true in the ACT—the minister interjects—because people who do not have direct access to private transport have to beg, cajole or stay at home

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