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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Access to Regional Bus Services

20 March 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I thank the 
member for Lyons, Ms Butler, for bringing this on as a matter of public 
importance. For people living in rural and regional areas, having access 
to affordable transport options is essential. Wherever you live in 
Tasmania, being able to access affordable public, private and community 
transport is essential to social inclusion, to being able to reach 
education, schools, skills, training - to be able to have economic 
foundations in your life.

It is disappointing to come into this House today and listen to the kind 
of questions that came from the Labor Party this morning in the first 
question time back. We are facing a climate emergency. We had 8000 
children gather on the lawns of Parliament House last Friday. I 
understand that access to regional bus services is essential, but I was 
hoping that Labor might come into this place today and show us that they 
actually stood for something. We have not had that.

Along with Dr Woodruff, I was pleased to be able to attend a briefing from 
the Department of State Growth last week on changes to the bus timetable. 
I thank the departmental officers who provided us with that briefing. We 
gained a deeper understanding of the review of contracts and what that 
meant for service delivery; and what progress was being made on making 
sure that there is integrated ticketing for public, private and community 
transport in Tasmania. It was very disappointing to hear that it is 
something that is still being studied.

There are issues around making sure you have a viable public, private and 
community transport system. It has to be connected and you need to invest 
in those connections. It is taking too long for this Government to do 
that. So, what we have again is 'ad hocracy'. We have communities that 
are disenfranchised; communities that, as Ms Butler said, feel that they 
are not being heard and planning that is not yet long term. That is a 
matter of great regret.

I listened with interest to the minister's response to the concerns raised 
by Ms Butler on behalf of her community in Lyons. I was very disappointed 
not to hear that there is a comprehensive review of the decision to cancel 
the service from the west coast to Hobart. It is difficult to understand 
why that service was cancelled. I have spoken to bushwalkers and fly-
fisher people who have used that service and do not believe that it was 
underutilised to the extent that it should be cancelled. It is a madness 
not to have a service that connects the west coast to the capital city. I 
have not had the opportunity to speak to west coast councillors about why 
they would express such strong support for the cancellation of the 
Queenstown to Hobart service. That has let down people who have used that 
service.

It has been put to us that part of the reason that the service was 
cancelled is because Tassal has made a decision to fly its workers to the 
east coast, rather than use the bus service. If a Liberal member has an 
opportunity to respond to that concern, it would be excellent.

On the broader transport question in Tasmania, we have had successive 
governments, to be honest, underinvest in public and pedestrian transport 
infrastructure. We have had continued delays on investment in that 
infrastructure. Even yesterday, in the Premier's Address, there was no 
comfort to those Tasmanians who want to know that there is a long-term 
plan for public transport, for private bus services, for community 
transport and for making sure that our cities and our regions - increasing 
congestion is an issue in Launceston - are able to cope with the demands 
of an increasing population. 

I agree with the minister that it is really important that we have 
programs and investment in place that drive people out of their cars and 
on to buses, on to light rail - when it is delivered - on to electric 
bikes, or to walk to work.

The City Deal was so disappointing from that point of view. The 
investment in public and pedestrian infrastructure is woefully inadequate. 
We still have governments that are only thinking about the next three or 
four years, rather than the next 30-50 years. It is a failure of this 
Parliament in not starting to look at the long term.

Madam Speaker, we would like to know that this minister and this 
Government does not think that the renegotiation of the contract is the 
end of the story for transport services to rural and regional Tasmania; 
that there is a comprehensive plan for making sure we include those 
excellent community transport operators and options in the mix; and that 
it is delivered as part of an integrated transport strategy for Tasmania 
that includes integrated ticketing, ferry and light rail, pedestrian and 
cycling infrastructure. 

We are still hearing evidence of heel-dragging on things like the ferry 
service across the Derwent; the need for proper integrated ticketing; and 
the need for more than a study of congestion. We need a commitment to 
investing and making sure that Hobart, which feeds Southern Tasmania and 
is a powerhouse of the south of the state, has a long-term plan underneath 
it. So far, the best work on this front is being done by the Royal 
Automobile Club of Tasmania with their Greater Hobart Mobility Vision. I 
urge all members to get on board with the RACT's work.