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Cancellation of No. 3 Bus Route

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank the ANU students who are with us today.

I have presented a petition signed by 1,128 Canberra residents calling on this Assembly to urge the government to provide viable public transport on the ANU campus. This petition responds to the decision to cut the number 3 bus route, which has operated for 39 years.

The ANU student newspaper for 26 March 1980 noted that the government was ‘giving some consideration to the introduction’ of a bus that would connect the university with the rest of Canberra, and Students were encouraged to express their interest. Give months later, the bus service was due to begin. That service has continued from 1980 until now. One could argue, Madam Speaker, that the university grew up around this bus route and the assumption that it would continue. There are now 12 student accommodation facilities located along a 1.5 kilometre stretch of this route, several of them newly built. Together, these residence halls house a staggering 3,274 students.

Madam Speaker, I would like to put this number in perspective. I am a member for Ginninderra, so I will use my electorate for comparison. The 3,274 students who live on the western edge of the ANU campus exceed the population of Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Fraser, Hawker, Higgins, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, or Weetangera. Now imagine what the response would be if this government decided to cut bus service to one of these suburbs! Yet this is precisely what they are doing to 3,000-plus students.

And they have done so with almost no consultation. One poorly advertised feedback session was held on campus in August, with only 30 students attending. The undergraduate association was separately consulted, but the postgraduate student association was not – despite more than half of ANU students being postgraduates.

Aware of this inexcusable oversight, the postgraduate association requested a consultation. I have been told that it followed this government’s now-familiar pattern: officials showed up, told the students what was going to happen, and told them it was going to happen whether they liked it or not. End of problem.

Except, Madam Speaker, it hasn’t ended the problem. This e-petition attracted over eleven hundred signatures in less than one week. My office has been contacted by a student who doesn’t have an ACT address but wanted us to know that she finds the number 3 bus, quote, ‘invaluable’. This response, Madam Speaker, is not the end of a problem; it is the beginning.

The loss of the number 3 bus means that thousands of students who live at ANU or who commute to its medical, physics and Asia and Pacific departments now face a half-hour walk to and from the City Bus Station. Maybe this government thinks that’s not a big deal, but it is. Many of these students have chosen where they live based on the assumption of on-campus bus service continuing.

Beyond that, I remind this Assembly that not every university student is a perfectly abled 20 year old. Many students at the ANU live with disabilities or have mobility issues. Others have acute or chronic illness. This is not an easy half-hour walk for them. This decision also unfairly targets international students and disadvantaged students who lack access to private transport.

This brings us to the serious issue of safety. The 2016 Australian Human Rights Commission report found that 3.5 per cent of respondents had been sexually assaulted on campus, and more than one-third had been sexually harassed. Cutting the number 3 bus means that students will no longer have safe, reliable and affordable transport home at night. For a government that claims to be sensitive to issues facing women and LBGTIQA persons, this decision appears both uncaring and tone-deaf.

This petition presents, in order of preference, three possible fixes for this problem. Any one of them will be better than telling the thousands of students left stranded by this decision to just deal with it. Madam Speaker, on behalf of these students and other concerned Canberra residents, I commend this petition, with its 1,128 signatures, to the Assembly.

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