Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Amendment (Abolition of the Penalty Fares Scheme) Bill 2016
Written on the 25 November 2016
24 November 2016
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am very pleased to be able to rise and speak to the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Amendment (Abolition of the Penalty Fares Scheme) Bill 2016. As Mr O'Donohue has pointed out, it is a fairly simple and straightforward bill. It is repealing some of the elements the previous coalition government introduced to address what was a very concerning cost to the public transport system. As we know, in 2010 there were real issues with fare evasion, and there was no doubt that Labor were soft on this issue. They were soft on fare evasion, and it really ballooned out. In 2011 there was the figure of around $80 million worth of fare evasion taking place. That is a significant cost. Public transport does cost money, and the fares that are collected are only a portion of the actual overall expense that it takes to run public transport across Victoria.
I think that we can be very pleased that we have a public transport system, but there is always room to improve that, and as Mr O'Donohue highlighted, with the use of technology there can be some streamlining to that effect. The public transport system at the present time is experiencing some problems with overcrowding. There are other issues around the myki ticketing system, which has been a real signature policy failure of the Labor administration for many, many years. Of course we came into government and had to fix that mess. Again it just demonstrates the incapacity of Labor governments to manage large projects. When the coalition came into government there were just many, many IT projects that had billions and billions and billions of dollars of blowouts, and myki was just one of them. That is a significant cost to the taxpayer, and it is still ongoing.This fare evasion is a concern, I think, and it should be a concern to all Victorians, because if there are no penalties, what message does that send to people it is okay to just hop on and have a free ride? Of course Mr Elasmar just pointed out in his contribution an example that I think needs to be taken into consideration, and I think it is very reasonable to do so, but if we just give a blanket 'There is no penalty' for many, many fare evaders and do not have any consequences, we are again sending a message that it is all right to just get on a tram or train or bus and expect to have a free ride. The Victorian taxpayer has to foot the bill, and that is why there was a provision that was brought in under the previous coalition governments to address many of those concerns and to try and claw back some of the losses incurred by fare evaders.
As I said, $80 million a year is a very significant amount of money resulting from the fare evasion that was occurring.So even though this bill says in clause 7 that it will repeal sections 220DB, 220DC, 220DD and 220DE of the act, which goes to the point of the areas I have just spoken about relating to the on-the-spot penalty fines that were put in place under the previous coalition government, and even though it is a simple bill with respect to those aspects, I believe it will not address the real concern relating to what is occurring in Victoria if we allow fare evaders to continue. Mr O'Donohue also made the point about the safety of those authorised officers, I think it was, when he referred to attacks on authorised officers and other public transport workers who are very exposed to violent attacks. I know from friends I have who are involved in the bus industry that they are very concerned about the violence that has been taking place on some of the buses that they have responsibility for. One of them says it is only a matter of time until one of his bus drivers is very severely injured or even killed because of the violence that is occurring. I think that is a real consideration that the government must be looking at too in order to protect those individuals and the travelling public.
If we do have this free-for-all attitude, where there is no consequence for actions on the public transport system or for fare evasion, then we are just continuing on a road of 'anything goes'. I think we need to be very mindful of that. As a community and as a government we need to understand that there are occasions where there might be hardship and those matters need to be addressed. Nobody is denying the fact that those matters need to be understood by authorised officers who are perhaps giving out the fines or speaking to the public, but also it is up to the public to take some responsibility too in doing the right thing. I do not blame the public entirely, because due to the absolutely botched myki ticketing system that is in place multiple issues have needed to be addressed over many, many years, or since it came into being. So there are a number of issues around our public transport fare system that need to be addressed. I do believe more needs to be done on this issue.A constituent in Bentleigh contacted me some time ago and I asked the minister in this house about her situation. She owns a small business near the McKinnon railway station. She has a lot of elderly customers come in to buy newspapers and stationery and they ask for myki tickets. She was a licensed holder and was able to provide them, but she is now no longer able to dispense myki tickets. The minister has said, 'No; that's the case. She won't be entitled to sell myki tickets'. For her it is a real concern. She has to turn her customers away. Some of these are elderly customers who have been buying their public transport tickets at this particular outlet for many, many years. For them it is completely frustrating. For her it is part of her business that is now gone, because she was an agent who could sell myki tickets. I think it is completely unreasonable for the minister to just not take that into consideration when perhaps some of these small businesses are doing it very tough.
Can I also say that small businesses in those areas where there have been or are level crossing removals have done it very tough for many, many months. The government has been completely ignoring their needs while the level crossing removals are being undertaken. They have taken a significant hit in income; some have laid off staff and many have closed down. Again it has been the arrogance of this Andrews government that has completely avoided their concerns in relation to their needs.I do digress slightly, but I will just bring this point in because it is about the public transport system. I have to say that the Ormond railway station upgrade, which was funded by the previous coalition government, is now complete. It is a magnificent station, and I think the local community will benefit from that station, but that does not take away from how the project was undertaken and how the community has not been consulted on many areas of it; and now we have sky tower there. So there are ongoing issues. The small business owner I referred to in McKinnon is just one of those who have been impacted by the refusal of the government to allow her to be an agent for myki ticketing as she has in the past.
In terms of this bill, as I said, I think the public does need to understand that running public transport is of course extremely important in relation to the livability of our city and our state, and we want to absolutely promote a modern public transport system wherever we can, but that does cost a lot of money. To have fare evasion in the tens of millions of dollars is absolutely going to impact on that, because the cost of running the public transport system is far greater than what is obtained through ticketing.
With those few words, I just say that, as Mr O'Donohue has said, there are a number of issues in relation to the reduction of fare evasion to 4.1 per cent. Has that been because of the coalition's introduction of a fare-free zone in the CBD? I think there will be some questions that will be asked in committee, as he has highlighted, to get a thorough understanding from the government of how that figure has been derived. Similar to Mr O'Donohue, I look forward to the government's response.