Mr BAYLEY question to TREASURER, Mr FERGUSON
You introduced free Metro transport for five weeks last year to help Tasmanians struggling with high fuel prices and cost-of-living pressures. It was lauded a success. Usage increased and antisocial behaviour fell; congestion eased; and people saved money on fuel and parking. Cost-of-living pressures for Tasmanians are more serious since then. Rents and power prices are higher and fuel is still over $2 per litre.
Your Government said last year you wanted to focus on what matters to Tasmanians. Do you agree it is past time to help struggling Tasmanians and time to bring back free Metro services?
Mr SPEAKER - I will call the Treasurer. However, it is an Order of the Day so could we keep the debate not to the specifics of the motion?
Mr Speaker, I note that it is an Order of the Day. We expect a debate later on this afternoon. The question anticipates that.
The Government has worked hard to use the ability of the state to support Tasmanians with their cost-of-living challenges. It would be good if we would see other governments step up and meet us at our level of support to our people. Tasmania is providing the most generous concessions arrangements in the country, across a range of areas, including household power bills for a wider spectrum of Tasmanians who previously have not received the concession support. In particular, I am thinking of families in receipt of Family Tax Benefit A or B who are not on a concession card. For the first time ever, they will receive the concession boost on their power bill over this current financial year and the next one.
Regarding Metro, last year when petrol prices were increasing and before the federal Morrison government introduced the fuel excise reduction, we introduced a five to six week period of fare-free travel, not just for Metro -
Dr Woodruff - What a great idea!
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Leader of the Greens.
Mr FERGUSON - but for all public transport in Tasmania. The Greens seem to have an inner-urban focus on one bus company - Metro. Only one.
Dr Woodruff - You can go ahead and do it across the whole state.
Mr SPEAKER - Treasurer, interjections should cease. There is a substantive debate to be had this afternoon. I cannot see any reason why there should be any interjections because there will be a fair debate on this afternoon. Interjections should cease and allow the Treasurer to continue his answer.
Mr FERGUSON - It is a very inner-urban view from the Greens, who seem to forget that there is a whole big state out there outside the confines of the capital. Hobart is great, but Tasmania is great. Let us remember all of our regional centres as well.
We have eight other private-owned public transport providers in Tasmania. If we did what the Greens are proposing, you would be withdrawing finances out of public transport. That would be the net effect of what the Greens are proposing. If we only focused on Metro how would Metro manage its fleet replacement? How would it manage its upgrading of support for the Tasmanian community? How would it continue to meet best practice?
It is important that we have fares that are affordable. That is why we have heavily concession-based fares for people on low and fixed incomes. I look forward to the debate later this afternoon, but any initiative in this space from the Greens will lead to a direct withdrawal of finances from public transport in Tasmania. That is not a recipe for route expansion, park and ride, or better innovation occurring in public transport, which is what this Government stands for.
While I am on my feet I want to speak briefly on what we have been doing in our country areas, particularly for the non-urban public transport. Our regional communities rely on public transport too. There has been a reduction in 80 per cent of country fares as a result of our Government's decision to bring it into a contemporary arrangement, distance-based, because we have dealt with the problem that some people were paying far too much for their bus fares. We want to support not just our city Tasmanians but our country Tasmanians as well.