SWANSEA ELECTORATE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
It is with the deepest concern that I draw the attention of the House to the pain my community is suffering. In July last year, the Liberal Government privatised Newcastle Buses and Ferries. Since then we have lurched from one public transport crisis to another. Last year, I outlined my efforts to ensure that my community was not forgotten. I made every effort to work in good faith with the newly appointed private provider, Keolis Downer.
I have made every effort to bring my concerns and those of the community to the attention of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. I have requested meetings. I have asked for public consultation with the community. I have made representations to both the Minister and Keolis Downer. From the get-go, the Minister has had an arrogant and belligerent approach to his portfolio responsibilities. Even worse, he has been dismissive of the legitimate and serious concerns of the people who rely on public transport. The Minister claims that he has seen no evidence of the disadvantage faced by vulnerable people. If that is the case, he is either wilfully ignorant or he did not bother to look at the changes before signing off on them. That makes him a liar.
Six months ago, the Minister for Transport patronisingly told me to be patient. He said, "Give them two minutes. They've only been there for three months." We are now heading into the eighth month of complete chaos. The so-called "assurances" I was fed have been mistruths—broad public consultation, four- to seven- minute waits between connections, better services, more frequent services, and a new way to travel. The Minister continues to peddle these fake facts and ignore the concerns of public transport users. The 350 bus service, which previously ran directly from Swansea Heads to Newcastle, had one of the highest levels of patronage in the entire network. Indeed, until three months ago it was considered a major route in the Newcastle transport network. Over the past months the needs of the community have not changed radically, but the tick-and-flick attitude of this arrogant transport Minister has forced an unworkable transport network on my community and allowed a private provider to put profits before people.
My community now has a public transport crisis. I have not spoken to a single person who is better off because of these changes. It is no exaggeration to say that they have ruined people's lives. For example, Ebony from Pelican, a young woman claiming the Newstart Allowance, recently travelled to Charlestown for a meeting with her job service provider. Ebony was late for her 10.00 a.m. appointment because she had to wait 50 minutes at Lake Macquarie Fair for the connecting service—and it was not running late. When she called her job service provider she was threatened with non-compliance and told that her payments could be suspended. So we had to fix that as well. Jack, a student studying for the Higher School Certificate at the selective Merewether High School at Broadmeadow, now has to get a bus at 5.32 a.m. in order to get to school by 8.00 a.m. Instead of taking one hour, his commute now takes two hours and 13 minutes.
Support service providers have also told me that elderly people have been robbed of what little independence they had and now face severe social isolation. The bus that formerly went past the Belmont 16Ft Sailing Club has been scrapped. This means that patrons can no longer get to the club for social events such as bingo. Now the Minister might trivialise this but we are talking about people's lives. All these issues could have been corrected if he had done his job properly. The spin about "broad consultation" was a lie. Schools were never consulted and support and disability service providers were not contacted. People who actually use public transport were largely excluded from the consultation process—or the fake consultation process as it turns out—and as a result we have had nothing but chaos. This Minister is not fit to hold an office of the Crown. If he had a shred of dignity he would tender his resignation immediately.