Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Bus Services

7th February 2018

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 15:15 :34 ): My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. With the introduction of new bus timetables and routes in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area clearly impacting negatively on many existing users, will the Minister intervene to have Newcastle Transport reinstate those important services that were cut?

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE ( BegaMinister for Transport and Infrastructure) (15:16:03): I thank the member for his question. I cannot believe that people are being critical of a transport network that is delivering an additional 1,000 services to the people of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. I have heard enough and I would expect it from the Labor Party, proudly sponsored by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union [RTBU], but I would say this: We took a very deliberate decision to franchise the entire transport network of Newcastle—the buses, the ferry services, the interchange and the light rail. Why? Because the network was experiencing declining patronage and people were not using transport. I have some preliminary information about how things are going, which I will reveal in due course. It makes sense to go to the community to get feedback as the new operator has done. And there was feedback in the hundreds—it was not 10 people giving feedback. Approximately 33 per cent of the network has been redesigned in response to that community feedback.

What that means is more than 1,000 additional and new services. What it means is better connections with other modes of transport. What it also means is increased frequencies on core routes. The member for Lake Macquarie knows that, because there is evidence of that in his electorate. Weekend and late-night travel are also part of the mix. We have revisited the way in which the service network was working—and we found that it was failing. Those opposite know that patronage was declining. As a result, we have now made the changes with our new operator, who is incentivised to do that. I know the aversion of those opposite to the private sector being involved in the delivery of public transport services, but the reality is—

Mr Tim Crakanthorp: It's a disaster.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: —that we have a 10-year contract in place to get the results. I note the interjection from the member for Newcastle, who was in the Chamber yesterday asking a smart alec question. I asked my staff to pick up the phone to ring Access Industries, because he said that that enterprise was severely impacted. I told him that I would—

Ms Jodie Harrison: Point of order: It is relevance. The question was specifically in relation to whether the Minister would reinstate services. It is a simple question. It is a yes or no answer.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister is answering the question.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: In response to that interjection, I am not going to reinstate services. I have enhanced services by more than 1,000 to the people of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. That is silly. Coming back to the point, you said that this business was severely impacted, and I have subsequently found out—

Ms Jodi McKay: Point of order: Will you ask the Minister to direct his comments through the Chair?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Stop the clock. What is the member's point of order? I missed that point of order because I though the member for Strathfield said "Madam Speaker" and I did not know who she was talking to.

Ms Jodi McKay: I did not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! What is the member's point of order?

Ms Jodi McKay: I ask that the Minister direct his comments through the Chair and stop referring to the member directly.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will direct his comments through the Chair.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: The point that I had intended to make is that in response to that question yesterday, members of my staff contacted Access Industries. A number of its clients now have to interchange. There is a bus stop outside the front door of that business and there is also a train station five minutes away. What I do not accept is you coming in here and asking those types of questions when I came to you yesterday and could not get an answer out of you as to what the problem was. I have had to proactively deal with that. Those opposite are deliberately trying to denigrate the new system in Newcastle.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Stop the clock.

Ms Jodi McKay: Apart from the fact that the Minister is still flouting your ruling—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! What is the member's point of order? The Minister directed his comments to the Deputy Speaker.

Ms Jodi McKay: The Minister is directing his comment directly to the member. My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. It is appalling that the Minister spoke yesterday about his focus on disability and yet has had that to say today.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. I call the member for Strathfield to order for the third time.

Mr ANDREW CO NSTANCE: It is a matter of record. To the member for Strathfield, I feel sorry for you because you have performed all week and you have not done yourself any favours. Coming back to the answer that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Stop the clock.

Ms Jodie Harrison: Point of order: I ask that the Minister direct his question through the Chair.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It is not a question; it is an answer. The Minister has the call.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I feel sorry for the crossbench because their time is being wasted by the Labor Party. The member for Lake Macquarie stole a seat from Labor and 10 years later they are a bit sore about it. I would say to him that the new timetable has come in. Let us see how it goes. I am happy to meet with him. We have set a time to discuss a couple of issues. We cannot deliver a new timetable and be all things to all people. What we had under Labor was empty running—just like the member for Newcastle.

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