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Access to Regional Bus Services

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Tags: Public Transport, Hobart Light Rail

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.