Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2014-15 (part 1)

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I rise this afternoon to speak on part 1 of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s Report on the 2014-15 Budget Estimates, which was presented to this Parliamentin June 2014.

I commend the work of Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) as it is essential to the good working of the Parliament with its critical role of overseeing the government’s spending. It is therefore very important that ministers approach the budget estimates hearing process with the utmost seriousness and display dedication to providing comprehensive and honest information to the Parliament.

I want to speak on the contribution by the Minister for Public Transport, as recorded on pages 106 to 108 in chapter 11 of the report.

I was drawn to this contribution by a number of complaints that came into my electorate office regarding disruptive changes to bus routes, especially the express bus route 895. One particular complaint was from the Lucey family, whose children were left by the side of the road as they waited for the bus to turn up. I have also been lobbied by the Interface
Council Group, which made a recommendation to the budget process suggesting that the government commit to funding improvements to bus services in the interface areas.

I have read the report and there are no references to bus services, so I went to the minister’s presentation to the committee. On page 2 he declares:

The government has put a lot of effort into boosting performance in every public transport mode.

The minister should tell that to the Lucey family.

He continues halfway down page 3, where the word ‘buses’ is mentioned for the
second time.

He then carries on with lots of words about the Melbourne rail link, but there is noticeably nothing in there about the fact that people catching the train from Berwick, Narre Warren and Hallam stations will no longer be able to access the city loop. The government has had a chance to put together a world-class metropolitan train system but it has created a disaster. I do notice that the Frankston line gets a lot of attention from the minister.

On page 4 bus routes in Parkville are mentioned, and at the bottom of page 4 mention is made of the Moorabool Street bus interchange. Lucky Geelong I say. There is no further mention of buses or my concern about bus route extensions or the expansion of services in the outer suburbs, especially in Casey. We know that Casey residents and the council are
asking for more bus services and routes. I read comments by Councillor Aziz in the local papers imploring the Liberal state government to get cracking on its provision of new bus services.

He is adamant that the state government has dropped the ball on this matter, and he would like to see it expand bus services in the suburbs. I think that is a real challenge for the Liberal Party, especially as three of the councillors in the City of Casey are Liberal Party members.

I also notice that in the latest report from the Victorian Council of Social Service, Victoria Without Poverty, a section about expanding public transport services says:

Buses provide the most effective and efficient way to connect people with local jobs and services, and to interchange with the rail system. We can never hope to provide a train station within walking distance of every Victorian, but we can provide a well-connected frequent bus network.

The Victorian Council of Social Service is asking the government and opposition to commit to extra bus services, something that is not apparent from the contribution of the Minister for Public Transport at the PAEC inquiry. I note that the Victorian Auditor-General agrees with this because in the report entitled Developing Transport Infrastructure and Services
for Population Growth Areas he highlights a range of service deficiencies across Melbourne, including inadequate network coverage, poor service frequency and insufficient hours and days of operation. He advises that $197 million needs to be spent to plug the gaps in service delivery in the outer suburbs.

There is a big challenge for this government, but it is one that it is obviously not up to. The minister needs to take notice of what people are saying to him. The Berwick Leader asks, ‘Where is our bus, Minister?’. This report says more about what the minister has not done than what he has done.