NEWCASTLE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Tomorrow marks exactly one month since the changes to Newcastle Transport came into effect. That is one month of an unworkable and unacceptable timetable and one month of chaos for our transport network. Almost every day since then I have met with constituents whose lives have been dramatically affected. Take, for example, the dozens of wonderful workers I met with yesterday at Access Industries. Access Industries, one of the largest disability employment providers in the Hunter, was not consulted during the Clayton's consultation process that was undertaken to design the new network. Those workers described to me the effect that these changes have had on them. They have been late to work almost every day, which has affected their wages. They have been unable to visit family and friends, leaving them socially isolated. Their daily commute now leaves them exhausted at the end of each day, and each working week.
This timetable affects not only workers with disability but also workers who rely on public transport to get to and from work. Patricia from Marks Point used to catch one bus to Newcastle West, a trip which took about 40 minutes. That same journey now involves catching three buses, or a bus and a train and walking the remainder of the way, arriving five minutes late to work. It now takes her an hour and 50 minutes. Many workers have had to renegotiate their working hours, reduce their shifts and take a pay cut simply because they cannot get to work before their scheduled start time. For example, Julie from Belmont South has a teenage son who works at Subway. His increased journey time from school has meant that his shifts have been cut by half an hour, resulting in less money in his pocket. Young workers who work part-time at retail hubs such as Charlestown now spend as much time getting to their jobs as they do working their shifts and as a result are reliant on their parents to drive them to work.
It is my strong view that the role of Government is to provide good public services and to ensure that no‑one is left behind. This is how communities thrive and prosper. If those fundamental public services are not serving the needs of the communities who rely on them that will not happen. That is occurring right now in the Swansea area and its surrounds. Last week the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure stood in this Chamber and feigned disbelief at the criticism voiced by the community at having their public transport network chopped to bits. He claimed he had seen no evidence of people with disability being adversely affected by these changes. The Minister refuses to accept that his decision to sign off on the changes has resulted in absolute chaos. But wilful blindness is no excuse. If the Minister will not listen, the Premier needs to step in. As a former transport Minister, the Premier knows how important transport services are for vulnerable people and how important it is to get the transport system right. We have had a month of the new network, which is long enough to know that it is not working. The Premier must intervene and review the changes.
Every day that we represent our communities, we need to remind ourselves why we are here, what purpose we serve and what drives us to stand and fight for better outcomes for the people we represent. The Minister for Transport and Infrastructure once said, "Arrogance and elitism should never characterise government. Politicians should never see themselves as above and beyond the people; rather, they must stand alongside and work with the communities they represent." I agree with the Minister, but he should be standing alongside my community. He should review the network, like he is reviewing the Sydney trains. The people in my electorate cannot bear the burden of the network changes. The network is unworkable; it is causing social isolation. People are unable to get to work or to social events, and elderly residents are unable to attend medical appointments. It is a shocking burden on the people of our communities. The Minister needs to think back to his words and work with the community to deliver an outcome better than the shambles known as the Newcastle transport system.