Transport Conveyance Allowance

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Minister for Education and concerns the student conveyance allowance. The action I seek is that the minister reinstate the student conveyance allowance for families in Narre
Warren South — and I am very happy to see the member for Hastings in here this evening.

The conveyance allowance had been used by local schools to subsidise school buses to ensure there were transport options available to all students, but these options are disappearing, and local parents are being forced to make difficult decisions about where they can send their children.

In an article entitled ‘Creeping cost cuts’ from the Berwick News, Jenny Cuffe, a mother of four children, said, ‘The cost impact is an insidious creep unfortunately’.

She further added, ‘I can’t see it being fixed — the alternative is that we’ll slowly lose our bus’. Jenny’s children attend Berwick’s St Francis Xavier College, one of the many local schools hit hard by the devastating decision to cut the conveyance allowance. But has the minister or indeed anyone from the Napthine government taken action to relieve the
burden to ensure my local families have access to reliable and safe transportation to and from school?

The answer, of course, is no — that is right. Instead, the minister has intervened and reinstated the conveyance allowance for a school in Mornington — for a school, I might add, that is located just outside his electorate in an electorate held by one of his Liberal friends, who, as I mentioned, is in the chamber tonight: the member for Hastings. In the article headed ‘School bus exemption not the rule’ from the Western Port News, it is reported that:

Hastings MP Neale Burgess has successfully lobbied his Liberal Party colleague, southern peninsula-based Minister for Education Martin Dixon, to allow Somerville children newly enrolled at Mornington secondary on to a school bus if an older sibling already uses the service.

The article is of course accompanied by a photo of the honourable member surrounded by satisfied local parents and students. Nice smiles all round! And why would they not be happy? Jenny Cuffe and her four children would have loved the assistance, not to mention the special attention. It is clear that the minister has seen the devastating impact his cuts are having on schools right across the state, yet he has chosen to display favouritism. He has chosen to reward the member for Hastings, someone with an electorate very close to his own, while families in my own electorate are once again left behind.

Such is the hypocrisy of the minister that when quizzed by the Berwick News a spokesman denied that the minister had intervened at all.

The spokesman said:

The department’s school transport policy has remain unchanged since 2012.

There has been no specific or blanket ministerial intervention with regards to siblings of students who are eligible for student transport.

Yet students in a Liberal Party-held seat have been exempted and can travel without charge with their older siblings. Meanwhile students at Berwick’s St Francis Xavier College and other local schools receive no subsidised public transport. All I am asking of the minister is for him to be fair and reinstate the transport conveyance allowance for families in Narre Warren South.