Ms YASMIN CATLEY (Swansea—Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism): I move:
That this House:
(1) Notes that the Government has launched the Bus Industry Taskforce, to address the devastating impacts privatisation has had on networks across the State, including in the electorate of Swansea.
(2) Notes that constituents have consistently contacted the Swansea electorate office to express their discontent with the termination of the former 350 and 349 services, as well as to advise of service cuts and cancellations.
(3) Congratulates the Government on taking this significant step towards rectifying the issues to improve our local services.
I thank the member for Swansea for bringing this motion to the House.
Similar to her electorate, my office in Wakehurst also receives a lot of correspondence from commuters dissatisfied with late or cancelled scheduled bus services. We know that when public transport is reliable and frequent, people use it; it makes their lives easier and drives down congestion for everyone in the community. In the lead-up to the election and since, I was very vocal about the need for bus services on the beaches to essentially be fixed. There is no doubt that the perfect storm, from a fully public bus service on the northern beaches to a privately run service, combined with the pandemic, has had a significant knock-on effect. The level of cancellation of bus services in particular has been way too high. It is an issue I am following closely and will continue to advocate for on behalf of the people of Wakehurst. I personally use this service to get to Parliament, to meetings in the city and to my favourite sporting events at the Sydney Cricket Ground—including tonight.
I am continuing to listen to my community. I encourage residents of Wakehurst to contact my office—and the task force—about their expectations and what they need fixed. I am continuing to engage with Keolis Downer, the private operator of buses on the Northern Beaches, and holding them to account about their progress in hiring drivers, overcoming the driver shortage and playing their role in addressing the issues. To be fair, I am encouraged by their reports that the number of bus drivers they are employing is increasing. In relation to recent timetable adjustments, I made my expectation clear that the full timetable will be restored by tend of the year.
I will continue to work with the Government to make sure that Transport for NSW is maintaining proper oversight of this essential public service and that recommendations to the bus taskforce are robust and implemented as fast as possible. How is it that a contract is written in such a way that it encourages service cancellations over buses running late? It is extraordinary. As we have heard, kids are being stranded on their way to school. My nephews, aged 10 and eight, along with a bunch of other kids, were left behind. They had to call their mum to come back to get them. It is not right. School kids, HSC students, are running late for their exams and being told they will fail because the principals cannot wait an hour for them to get to school. It is wrong.
There are also permanent route cancellations—the list of problems goes on. This contract also failed to provide any consideration for public schools to have buses available to take students to school sport. Seriously, who wrote this contract? People are late for work—an hour late. That is not acceptable. I welcome the Government's task force. I note that the last bus passenger forum was held in Dee Why. It was a successful event, and I thank the Minister and the member for Coogee for attending. I received a lot of positive feedback about it. I thank everyone who participated. It was well and truly oversubscribed because everyone wants this issue fixed—so let's get on with it. If it takes a task force to do it, so bloody be it. I encourage the community to make submissions. I look forward to interim reports from the task force being made publicly available within the time frames originally stated, and to the swift implementation of recommendations that alleviate bus driver shortages and get buses up to the quality the community expects.