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Various bus petitions

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the petitions presented by Ms Candice Burch. More than 7,000 residents have signed these petitions, and I sincerely hope that this government will take note. This set of petitions follows two that I presented earlier this year.

In March, I presented a petition signed by 1,128 Canberra residents upset about plans to eliminate the bus that for 39 years had serviced the western half of the ANU. Cancelling the number 3 bus has isolated more than 3,200 students who live along its former route – a population larger than nearly half of Canberra’s suburbs. The residents who signed this petition made a simple and reasonable request of this government: reinstate the number 3 bus, divert another bus to travel through the ANU campus, or work with the university to provide funding for a regular and reliable shuttle bus service that would connect the campus to the public transport network.

Any one of these requests would fix this problem, Madam Speaker. It is simply not reasonable to tell several thousand students that, in the opinion of this government, they no longer merit bus service – even if they are overwhelmingly from interstate and overseas.

I remind this Assembly that it is not just students that this government has turned its back on. In recent weeks, I have heard from ACT residents who work on campus. One wrote to let me know that he had been forced back into his car because of losing this bus. ‘The new Action system is now next to useless for me and my family’, he said, noting that walking to the new bus stop and then walking to his workplace on campus requires an extra four kilometres by foot – ‘not the indication of a viable bus service’, he added. In a follow-up email, he suggested diverting the R2, R3 or R4 bus through campus along Daley Road – a recommendation that I am happy to pass along to the minister. The Canberra Liberals have publicly announced that we will restore bus service to the ANU, but in the meantime, something needs to be done.

Then last month I presented another petition focussing on public transport issues in the Belconnen area. This petition was signed by even more people: 1,180 of them. Former Xpresso riders, upset that their commutes have increased by 30-to-40 minutes each way, want their old buses back. Parents whose children used to be able to get to school quickly and easily want their school buses back. And residents in Macquarie, Cook and Aranda – who had already complained about their overcrowded bus – would be happy to get the old service back because it was better than being left on the side of the street.

In all cases, these residents want to know why a service that was working needed to be broken so badly. Is this the hidden cost of light rail? Can’t we have a tram in Canberra as well as a viable bus network? People are not stupid. They know that just two months ago, they could get to work or school and back without all the new hassle, and now they can’t. They know how long their commutes were only a few weeks ago, and now they are angry that each day this government is stealing an hour or more of their precious time that should be spent with their families instead.

In many ways, Madam Speaker, the new Transport Canberra network is like when a food manufacturer shrinks the block of chocolate or puts fewer chips in the packet but just keeps charging the same price. People notice these things, and they don’t like it. Our new bus network is now less connected and less convenient and lacks capacity. This government has shrunk service and provided fewer options but, of course, just keeps charging the same price.

Madam Speaker, on behalf of thousands of my own constituents, I commend this collection of petitions to the Assembly.

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