‘Today (20 MARCH 2020) the government have abandoned their visa privatisation plan, announcing that they have “terminated the Request for Tender”.
This is an enormous win for the 2000 workers whose jobs were at risk – and for the integrity of our visa processing system. This win would not have happened without you.’
Anthony Galloway, foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age wrote ‘Government bins $1 billion visa outsourcing plan’ on 20 March …
‘A $1 billion plan to outsource Australia’s visa processing system has been canned by the Morrison government after already costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge on Friday afternoon announced the government will not go ahead with the controversial tender, with the Department of Home Affairs to instead undergo a wider overhaul of its services extending to citizenship applications, security clearances and customs.
The decision comes after taxpayers have already forked out at least $87 million on the tender, according to latest figures released from the government. Both bidders have already been paid at least $1 million to participate in the co-design phase of the procurement.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister David Coleman recused themselves from cabinet discussions on the issue because of their long personal and professional relationships with Scott Briggs, who was previously leading one of the bids.‘
Was it because of ongoing scrutiny of the costly tender and the long personal and professional relationships by unions, economists and even cabinet members that it became too uncomfortable forcing Mr Briggs to quit heading the bid by Australian Visa Processing?
The other bid was a joint proposal between Australia Post and Accenture.
IT appears there is to be no let-up … yet to backdoor immigration … because the department is to conduct a market consultation process over some months for a vision to deliver “large-scale workflow processing capability” for visa and citizenship applications, as well as customs and personnel security clearances.
‘Opponents of the scheme said the changes would have damaged the integrity of Australia’s visa and citizenship system and increase the costs to applicants.
Melissa Donnelly, national secretary of the public sector union CPSU, said the plan to hand over some of the processing to private companies was always misguided, but the outbreak of the coronavirus had further exposed its flaws.
“When our nation is facing great uncertainty, Australians expect the Government to back local jobs and the integrity of vital public services, not flog off essential services to political donors’ multi-national companies. This is a win for the security and health of the Australian community,” she said.’
IF you watch Question Time with the Scomo Guvmnt, and you think that’s bad … and run with such bias … go and sit in the gallery of the NSW Legislative Assembly …
Yesterday, 5 March 2020, we in the gallery audience were appalled by the bullying and obvious bias displayed by the Deputy Speaker … she’s no fairy woman … shrieking … squawking and cutting Government and Opposition Members speech as with a knife … of course the government members were not subject to anywhere near the same extent. The Deputy Speaker continually squawked to Order!
ARE you aware that the vast majority of our bus and ferry services are already operated by the private sector?
–11 out of the 14 metropolitan bus service contracts are operated by the private sector
-since privatisation Newcastle has seen a 19 per cent reduction in services
–removal of 53 bus stops in Sydney’s inner west since privatisation and the private service has never once met on‑time running targets *
–the Government plan is to cut 16 bus routes: 302, 314, 317, 373, 376, 377, 393 394, 395, 397, 399, L98, M10, M50, 891 and 893 to force commuters onto the light rail
–80% of the bus services already provided by the private sector; 100% of the bus services outside of Sydney are provided by the private sector
-Constance response with exponential growth in the transport sector,therefore we need to privatise it
–every other industrialised city in the world is going the exact opposite route
Following the pathetic response from Constance we all stood up and turned our back on Transport Minister, Andrew Constance.
Just as he has turned his back on commuters and bus drivers with bus privatisation!
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: Private members’ statements are now interrupted for the consideration of a petition signed by 10,000 persons listed on theBusiness Paper regarding bus privatisation lodged by the member for Kogarah. I welcome all visitors to the public gallery. Thank you for joining us for the debate this afternoon. Before we commence the debate, and for the benefit of those in the public gallery, I take this opportunity to explain the process and the rationale behind this unique debate. It is unique because it enables the public to bring their concerns directly to the attention of the House.
The procedure is that the petition debate will start with a speech from the member who lodged the petition, who will be followed by up to four other members. A Minister will then respond and, to conclude the debate, the first speaker will speak in reply. After all members have spoken, the House will vote on the question that the House take note of the petition.
This question will, in most cases, be determined on the voices and be passed. However, if this is challenged by a member it may proceed to a division, where the bells are rung and members vote on the motion to take note of the petition by sitting on the appropriate sides of the House.
*Before I call the member for Kogarah, I remind members that a number of them are on three calls to order.
*The member for Londonderry, the member for Gosford and Canterbury are on three calls, and the member for Shellharbour, the member for Swansea and the member for Keira are on two calls.
*I will not hesitate to remove members from the Chamber if they do not abide by the standing order that states members with the call will be heard in silence.
The question is that the House take note of the petition.
Mr CHRIS MINNS (Kogarah) (15:59:22):There are scores of bus drivers in the gallery today who are angry.They are blamed for late services that they are not responsible for, scapegoated for a transport system that is comprehensively letting down the people of this State, and lied to by a government that no doubt many of them trusted and some of them even voted for.
*As we approached the last election they saw the Premier solemnly tell the people of New South Wales that she would cease all future privatisations. When asked about privatisation, she said “No, we are not, and if we were we would have told you upfront.”
Every other industrialised country in the world is investing in publicly owned transport.This Government is selling ours off. It will not say the word “privatisation”—the Liberals refuse to say it. They call it the “golden key”. They call it “franchising”. They call it “asset recycling”. They call it “outbound private involvement”. They call it “public-private horizontal investment”. They call it anything but what it is: selling off our assets.
We know what it means: fewer services, higher prices and more delays. I draw the House’s attention to the new owners of region 6, which was formerly owned by the taxpayer and privatised by the Berejiklian Government in February 2018.
Transit Systems, the winning bidder, sold the company after securing the contract in January 2020. Transit Systems’ Sydney bus routes generated about 27 per cent of the company’s revenue—nearly one third. After selling its stake in January, the original owner made $151 million in market value terms. The second founder made $107 million and the third founder made $41 million, according to filings submitted to the Australian Stock Exchange. I am not knocking them. No flies on those guys: If they were smart enough to buy it, that was up to them. But who was dumb enough to sell it? It was the Liberal Party of New South Wales. That is the situation.
Our transport system has been in chaos over the past few months but I report to the House that the Minister for Transport and Roads has developed an ingenious way of ensuring on-time running: He is stopping, cancelling and closing bus stops in Croydon, Arncliffe, the Princes Highway, Belrose, Canterbury, Dulwich Hill and many more.
Here is the evidence. The Government says, through its own paraphernalia, that the bus stops are going to “contribute to the New South Wales Government’s target of 95 per cent on-time running of bus services.”
It could apply this wonderful rationale to all sorts of government departments. NAPLAN results are down so close the schools; emergency departments are full, close the hospitals.
We can see the transport Minister getting up one day and saying, “We’ve got a great way of making the trains run on time; they’re not going to stop at any stations.” It is an ingenious idea. If you were on the train you could get a seat.
Why are we in this situation? We are in this situation because of chaos and mismanagement of the Transport portfolio. That is the situation. The Government is disastrously trying to claw back some cash from the assets that it owns.
Listen to this litany. Two weeks ago we found out that the Sydney Metro project had blown out by $4 billion.
The Sydney Metro West project has been effectively cancelled. Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 has been scrapped. The North South Aerotropolis Metro is soon to be cancelled and the Sydney Light Rail is $1 billion over budget, one year late and moves slower than a horse and cart.
Provided by Daily Mail A carriage is only slightly slower than the new Sydney trams, if the horses are walking
That is the record of the transport Minister. When asked by journalists about the suggestion that there had been a $4 billion blowout on the Sydney Metro, the Minister said, “Yes, the metro is over budget’. One journalist asked by how much and the Minister said, “Well, between $2 and $3 billion”.
This is the party of fiscal responsibility!
The Minister lost $1 billion in one sentence. It is no wonder net debt in this State is the highest of any jurisdiction in the Commonwealth—$42 billion by the end of this term.
So what have we got? We have got chaos, mismanagement, poor oversight, bungled projects, blown-out time lines, the biggest debt in the State’s history and deceitful reporting practices. That has all led us to this point.
And what is the transport Minister’s response to this appalling record? It is the fault of the bus drivers—not a senior manager, not a politician, no-one else. We will not stand for bus drivers being blamed for the chaos and ineptitude of this Liberal Government. We will hold the Government to account on their behalf.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I am aware that there are strongly held views on the matter to be debated today. Parliamentary debate allows those with opposing views to freely express themselves without interference. I therefore ask that people in the gallery to refrain from clapping or distracting debate in any way, including verbally or visually.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON (Vaucluse) (16:05:09): I want to acknowledge our visitors in the gallery. For those of them who are bus drivers in our public transport system, I genuinely thank you for your efforts. You make a difference to the people who are my constituents in my electorate. I thank you and respect you for the job that you do. We all want the best public transport system for our communities. As a local member, I want that. I think even members of the Opposition would agree with that statement. The question is: How do we get there? How do we achieve that? That is where this Government disagrees with the Labor Opposition. This Government takes very seriously our responsibility to find better transport models so that we have a world-class transport system. We all want that.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the first time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: The Government says, “Let us have a look at new opportunities. Let us have a look at ways to improve our transport that you can share in with us”, and that includes being smart and at times getting out of the way and letting in other people who are part of delivering our transport services.
CAAN: ‘Getting out of the way’ … where have we heard that before? Cough … cough …
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order!I call the member for Mount Druitt to order for the first time. I call the member for Prospect to order for the first time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: I say to you that the Government has a responsibility to do that. We will not apologise for it. It is our duty.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I call the member for Blue Mountains to order.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Can I just say that the vast majority of our bus and ferry services already are operated by the private sector with oversight, which is the franchise model run by Transport for NSW.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I call the member for Blue Mountains to order for the first time. I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: In fact, 11 out of the 14 metropolitan bus service contracts are operated by the private sector. What has happened as a result of that? There is a stronger record of safe, reliable and efficient services meeting and exceeding transport and performance targets.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I call the member for Mount Druitt to order for the second time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: I say this: Shame on you, Labor, for standing in the way of better bus services for our community. Let me tell you why.
*The DEPUTY SPEAKER:Order! The member for Vaucluse will direct her comments through the Chair.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I call the member for Rockdale to order for the second time. I call the member for Blue Mountains to order for the third time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: I say: Just have a look at the Sydney ferry network. It was franchised in 2012. It has been a romping success in my electorate. My community loves it. They are the most efficient, scenic and relaxing way to get across our harbour and into the city. It is my electorate’s transport mode of choice. I have 126 new ferry services on Sydney Harbour and six new ferries on those routes. As the local member I have $6.3 million invested into a new ferry wharf upgrade.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:I call the member for Bankstown to order for the first time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Service performance has improved. There is on-time running. My constituents have a high level of satisfaction with those services and that did not come by accident: The franchising contracts have performance metrics in them.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKERER:I call the member for Bankstown to order for the second time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON:Reliability averaged 99.8 per cent and I say, “Let’s go higher with those ferry services.” As a local member, I say that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. With my experience of franchising of the Sydney ferry network, I am optimistic based on good evidence about the franchising of our buses.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I remind the member for Blue Mountains that she is on three calls to order. Under Standing Order 249A I direct that the member for Blue Mountains remove herself from the Chamber until the conclusion of the debate on the petition signed by 10,000 or more persons.
[Pursuant to sessional order the member for Blue Mountains left the Chamber at 16:13.]
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Madam Deputy Speaker, I am really disappointed. I am trying to get my point across and have my five minutes, but I have to say a lot of what I wanted to say has been interrupted by the appalling performance of Labor members. I say that we will have Transport for NSW running the services. On OpalCard People’s Day there will be on-demand services and more turn-up-and-go buses.
CAAN: Any comment from the Opposition Members was barely audible … if at all …
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the member for Cessnock to order for the first time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: We will have innovation in our transport sector.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:I call the member for Swansea to order for the third time.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Our drivers can share in a part of that. They are the benefits I want for my community and I believe we will get to them through the franchising of our bus services.
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The question is that the House take note of the petition. I call the member for Coffs Harbour.
Ms Jodi McKay:Why would you call the member for Coffs Harbour?
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The Clerk will stop the clock. The member for Newcastle will resume his seat. I took the call from the first member who sought the call, as that is what happens.
CAAN: The Gallery saw Mr Tim Crakanthorp was already up and standing before the member for Coffs Harbour!!
Ms Sophie Cotsis: He did.
Mr Tim Crakanthorp: I did.
Ms Sophie Cotsis:He jumped before.
Mr Tim Crakanthorp: I jumped before him.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: Order! Are Opposition members questioning my ruling? The member for Newcastle will resume his seat. I took the call from the first member who sought the call. It was clearly the member for Coffs Harbour. Under Standing Order 249A I direct that the member for Mount Druitt remove himself from the Chamber until the conclusion of the debate on the petition signed by 10,000 or more persons.
[Pursuant to sessional order the member for Mount Druitt left the Chamber at 16:14.]
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the member for Canterbury to order. I direct the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove the member for Canterbury from the Chamber under Standing Order 249 for the remainder of this sitting day.
[The member for Canterbury left the Chamber at 16.14 accompanied by the Serjeant-at-Arms.]
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The member for Coffs Harbour has the call. He will be heard in silence. I do not want to remove the Leader of the Opposition from the Chamber, but I will not hesitate to do so if she continues to interject. The member for Coffs Harbour has the right to be heard in silence.
Mr GURMESH SINGH: I begin by acknowledging the attendance of people in the gallery today, especially in this weather. I note that the petition is about bus services. Typically people in the regions do not enjoy the same standards of public transport as exists in Sydney.
CAAN: Whose fault is that?
THE DRIVERLESS BUS!
Mr GURMESH SINGH: I do note that this petition calls for better bus services so this gives me a perfect opportunity to update the House and people in the gallery on an exciting development that is being trialled in Coffs Harbour.
The eight-week trial of a driverless bus called the BusBot began a year ago. It is a six-seat bus about the size of the table in the centre of the Chamber and it ran along the north wall of the Coffs Harbour Jetty for about half a kilometre. The purpose of the trial was for the driverless bus to learn how to handle obstacles. During the eight weeks over the Christmas holidays the BusBot had thousands of passengers, most of whom were very satisfied with it.
Phase two of the BusBot trial was in the Marian Grove Retirement Village. This phase was trialling an automated on-demand service whereby people in the retirement village could ask for a bus to arrive on demand and it would take them to various places around the village.
Phase three of the BusBot was launched at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, which I attended in the company of my parliamentary colleague the member for Myall Lakes and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Transport. Phase three will explore different challenges for this driverless bus. The botanic garden has poor global positioning system reception and, due to the shadows and the narrow nature of the path, will require the BusBot to have much more programming and much more software to improve its automation.
You might ask what this has to do with buses in Sydney. I think this BusBot trial that is happening in Coffs Harbour and a few other places in New South Wales is—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the member for Maitland to order for the second time.
Mr GURMESH SINGH: —showcasing the automation that is happening right now. These days most new cars that you drive out of a dealer will come with some level of automation. Some cars, especially at the top end, can drive themselves but are held back by *regulation in this country.
Automation is definitely the future, especially in regional New South Wales.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Cessnock will come to order.
Mr GURMESH SINGH: I think that within this decade, and certainly within the next two decades, we will see automated transport as the norm in New South Wales. Automation will bring better bus services, especially in places such as Coffs Harbour.
With regards to the other topics in the petition, franchising has become the standard approach for delivery of contracted transport services across New South Wales. This is because the New South Wales Government recognises the benefits that experienced world-class private sector operators can bring to our transport networks to improve services for customers.
The private sector has been operating buses in metropolitan Sydney and across New South Wales for decades in places such as Coffs Harbour, with a strong track record of safe, reliable and efficient services meeting or exceeding contracted performance targets. Some 11 out of 14 Sydney metropolitan bus service contracts are already operated by the private sector.
All regional, rural and outer metropolitan bus services in New South Wales are privately operated, with 600 individual bus contracts in place across New South Wales. Tendering of Sydney metropolitan bus services has delivered improved service, on-time running and a 9 per cent improvement in customer satisfaction as per annual surveys.
The New South Wales Government announcedpublic transport reforms in October 2019 that will see the remaining three State Transit Authority bus service contracts franchised as part of the broader retendering of bus contracts across Greater Sydney over the coming three years. The aim of this process is to transform the current one-size-fits-all model of service delivery to one that gives our customers more choice and more services. We want to provide additional bus services across the city, deliver innovative new service options for customers and a fleet of new electric buses that will reduce air and noise pollution for our communities. Under this approach the New South Wales Government retains ownership of all assets as part of the franchising process and continues to control service levels and fares.
Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP (Newcastle) (16:17:10): You know, I am not too happy that I have to stand up here for another petition debate—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! The Clerk will stop the clock. I warn the member for Swansea for the last time. If she continues to interject I will remove her from the Chamber. That apllies to other members who are on three calls to order, including the member for Gosford. The member for Newcastle has the call.
Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP: As I was saying, I am not too happy that I have to stand up here for another petition debate to tell those members opposite what an abject failure the privatisation of buses in this State is. I should not have to.
As the member for Newcastle I have contributed to two previous debates with other members from Hunter electorates, representing over 20,000 people in the Hunter who signed a petition against the privatisation of buses in this State.
The member for Vaucluse stated that members on both sides of the Chamber have very different views on privatisation—yes, that is true! The view of members on this side of the House is that privatisation of the public bus network is an absolute dud.
The former Premier stood in Civic Park in Newcastle and guaranteed the people of Newcastle and the Hunter that we would have a world-class public transport system. What have we got? We have schoolchildren being left by the side of the road.*
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Newcastle will direct his comments through the Chair. The member will be heard in silence.
CAAN: No direction from the Speaker or order for government members …
Now for the truth about the Newcastle disservice!
Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP: We have teenagers who have had to leave home at the crack of dawn so they could get to school on time. We have bus stops closed, blowouts in journey times and multiple transfers placed into what used to be a single bus trip.
We have people with illnesses such as cancer missing vital appointments, workers being forced back into their cars and elderly people abandoned and isolated. We even had people with impaired vision buy houses on bus routes so they could maintain their independence, only to have their bus stop and transport taken away.
Can members imagine for one moment how that would feel and what that would do to them? We are two years down the road and have things improved? No!
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! I direct the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove the member for Swansea from the Chamber under Standing Order 249 for the remainder of the day.
[The member for Swansea left the Chamber at 16:22 accompanied by the Serjeant-at-Arms.]
Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP: I am still hearing about problems with this network.
On 27 January Richard wrote to me about the number 21 bus, the only service that travels from the east to the former train terminus. Some 20 per cent of Newcastle East’s population is over 65 years old. It is their only bus service and does not take them near a shopping centre or to the health services hub of Newcastle West.
On 17 February 2020 Tobias had a problem with the frequency of his service, the number 47. It starts too late in the day and finishes too early in the night.
On 18 February 2020 Amanda stated that, well, she had given up altogether. She wrote, “Since Keolis Downer took over I have abandoned the use of public transport to get from Belmont North to Honeysuckle. Since then I have been driving, because even with a 10 to 15 minute walk it is still half the time of the bus”.
Since coming to Parliament I have fought for the basic tenets of social justice and equity. I can tell you that Newcastle’s decimated bus network fails to achieve those values. It is an attack on some of our community’s most vulnerable people, people who rely on it the most.
A government that cannot care for its vulnerable is not just letting itself down but is letting down our whole society. I thank everyone in the public gallery for coming here to the Chamber and showing your commitment to keeping these buses in public hands. I thank the union movement, especially the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, for its strong support.
The bus privatisation failure in Newcastle is just another arrogant act from a Government that is grossly out of touch. It sold off our buses and the service got worse.
It sold off our electricity network and the reliability got worse. It sold off the Northern Beaches Hospital and the committee has recommended you never privatise a hospital ever again.
These are just some of the items on the list of dodgy, dodgy deals undertaken by this Government as it carries on its privatisation blitz.
Members should not forget the sale of Vales Point Power Station in November 2015 for $1 million; it was later revalued by the new owner at $730 million. Great deal, guys! Privatisation does not work and yet the Government does it over and over and over again. When will it learn? When will it learn that it is here to make things better for the people of New South Wales, not worse? When will it listen?
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL (Coogee) (16:22:42): I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I note that more than five Liberal members of Parliament have not even bothered to turn up to the Chamber and stand here and defend what is happening to their community—
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The member for Coogee will direct her comments through the Chair.
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL:Those members are not able to stand here and defend what their Government is doing to the people in their communities who signed this petition.
I stand here and support the thousands and thousands of community members who have turned up and signed our petition. They oppose the privatisation of our great public buses in Sydney.
On 24 October the transport Minister announced the privatisation of regions 7, 8 and 9, which includes the Eastern Suburbs bus services in my electorate. This is despite the fact that the Premier herself said on 20 March 2019 that there would be no further privatisation.
We know this is a lie. She has outright lied to people of New South Wales. When asked about this in question time on 24 October 2019 her response was, “Wakey-wakey, New South Wales—we have been doing it for eight years!” *
What disdain the Premier has for the people of New South Wales. What arrogance.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The member for Coogee will direct her comments through the Chair. The member for Newcastle will come to order.
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL: Since that announcement more than 20,000 people have signed our petition to reverse that decision, many of whom are from my community. The signatures continue to come in. My office has received thousands of emails, letters and phone calls from local residents, small business owners and disability advocacy groups—all furious about losing their buses.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for North Shore will come to order.
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL:I thank the thousands of community members who have signed this petition and are out there advocating for these public services. They include the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Unions NSW. I thank them for the great work they have been doing in fighting to save these vital bus services. Many of the members are here today.
The reason why Labor and the community oppose this decision is because we know when public assets are privatised it always ends up worse for the community—and privatisation of the last remaining public buses will be no different. We know the moment public assets are privatised profits come before people—shareholders trump passengers.
*We know this because it is embedded into the Corporations Act. We on this side of the Chamber believe that public services are for the public good and that not all public services exist to make money.*
That is why we have things like cross-subsidisation.I ask that the Treasurer become familiar with that. We know that when services are privatised it always ends up worse for the community. As the member for Newcastle said, Newcastle has seen a 19 per cent reduction in services. *
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Newcastle has had an opportunity to speak.
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL: In the inner west there has been the removal of 53 bus stops since privatisation and the private service has never once met on‑time running targets. *
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:I call the member for Oatley to order for the first time.
Dr MARJORIE O’NEILL: If the public want further proof about the implications of privatisation they should look to the other side of the House at the members representing the electorates of Drummoyne, Wakehurst and Pittwater.
I note that the member for Drummoyne in a private member’s statement last week clearly voiced his concerns and articulated all of the problems he and his community are experiencing as a result of the privatisation of ferries.
The Minister for Health and Medical Research, the member for Wakehurst, and the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the member for Pittwater, are well known for their advocacy of public buses. The member for Wakehurst was quoted in a local newspaper as saying “generally the local bus system and drivers were doing a good job” and that he was “completely opposed to tossing the baby out with the bath water”.
What those Government members and all the Opposition members know is that it will be the local routes, taken by everyday people, that will be really under threat. These are the bus services that take people to the doctors, supermarkets, libraries and hospitals.
Privatisation puts at risk these essential, much‑loved and important services. One of the greatest tragedies for us in the east is that, in addition to the implications of privatisation, the Liberals are committed to further cuts to services when the final part of its light rail opens. Documents from Transport for NSW leaked earlier this week show the proposed changes to bus services as a result of the light rail.
The Government plan is to cut 16 bus routes: 302, 314, 317, 373, 376, 377, 393 394, 395, 397, 399, L98, M10, M50, 891 and 893. There is not a person in my electorate who is not impacted by these cuts. Why is the Government doing this? It is doing it to force people onto the light rail—another privatised public transport operator that is failing to meet community expectation and needs—and to streamline region 9 before it sells it off to the highest bidder.
The eastern suburbs once had the best bus services in New South Wales but the services have been slowly decimated by those ideologues on the other side. I said it when I was made the candidate for Coogee and I will reaffirm it now: I am committed to fight to ensure my community and all communities have access to the public services they need. [Time expired.]
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:I call the member for North Shore to order for the first time. The member for Londonderry has already been called to order for the third time. I warn visitors in the gallery that if they interrupt the debate I will have them removed from the gallery.
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The Minister for Transport and Roads has the call. He will be heard in silence.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE (Bega—Minister for Transport and Roads) (16:28:36): I am going to do something unusual as a Liberal Minister and actually thank the Rail, Tram and Bus Union [RTBU] for negotiating some important outcomes for its members.
CAAN: Constance was barely audible. Was the microphone turned off? Was this deliberate? There was no other sound!
Ms Anna Watson: We can’t hear you.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: If members remain quiet they may hear the Minister.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I said I was going to do something unusual and—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: Order! Reset the clock to three minutes.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I just indicated that I am going to do something unusual and actually thank the RTBU for what it has been doing to secure a number of key benefits for drivers including—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The visitors in the gallery will remain seated. Stop the clock. If the visitors do not wish to sit down they can leave the gallery. The member for Drummoyne will be quiet. If the members of the public do not wish to listen to the debate they can leave the gallery. That is my last warning. Reset the clock to three minutes. The Minister will be heard in silence.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: It is fine; I have spoken for 20 seconds. It is all very well to say that this is some sort of ideological debate. With due respect to the member for Kogarah, his buses are served by the Punchbowl Bus Company.
Mr Chris Minns:No, they are not. *
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Kogarah will come to order.
Mr Chris Minns: He is addressing me directly, Madam Speaker.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: Through you, Madam Speaker, the member for Kogarah—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Kogarah is being disorderly.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: The point I am making in relation to the union is that it sought a two‑year job guarantee, the protection of travel passes and entitlements and the provision of more drivers.
I point to region 6 where the Government has provided an additional 156 staff and has grown services by 270. Sydney’s transport system is highly taxpayer subsidised. It is not paid for through fares and the money has to come from somewhere.
CAAN: Libs appear to have an inability to understand the concept of ‘public services’ …
CONSTANCE: When you want to electrify the State’s bus fleet and grow services, when you want to grow union membership and increase the number of bus drivers, some calls have to be made. The reality is out of this it is not just three contract regions going out, it is all 13.
If those opposite believe in nationalising the bus network I ask that they say so. In this city 80 per cent of the bus services are already provided by the private sector and 100 per cent of the bus services outside of Sydney are provided by the private sector.
I ask all members to try to work out how we can grow services when in the past six years there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people catching buses in this city. No‑one has ever seen that growth before. Even in Newcastle—
Mr Tim Crakanthorp: It has been a failure.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I know your view—
Mr Tim Crakanthorp: It is a fact.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: —but if it has been such a failure, why has there been an 18 per cent increase in patronage. For the five years beforehand—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Port Stephens will come to order.
Mr Clayton Barr: You broke a single trip into four trips and you count it as—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the member for Cessnock to order for the second time.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: For the five years beforehand the bus patronage actually dropped away by 11 per cent.
Ms Kate Washington: You ran it down.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: That is interesting because a lot of that patronage drop was under the last government. The union has secured a lot of guarantees. We are going to get world‑class operators. We expect more on‑demand, more services, more drivers. We are not selling the buses or the depots and we will reinvest in bus services in the way that we should.
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Shellharbour will be quiet. Members will be silent.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: In reply: What a bizarre response from the Minister. It needs to be called out for what it is.
His suggestion to the House is that there is exponential growth in the transport sector,therefore we need to privatise it.
Why is every other industrialised city in the world going the exact opposite route? If this were the situation for transport, why are the rail lines not all being privatised?Why is the Government not going through them route by route and getting rid of them?
This is an argument that the transport Minister is making to squeeze into a very narrow argument, that is, he blames bus drivers for his own chaos, ineptitude and mismanagement. This is what he said in the Parliament about bus drivers: “They have not been doing that because the on-time running is lousy, the reliability of the services is poor and, quite frankly, they have been sloppy.”
The RMS has gone public with commute times to help people plan their trips. Image: Getty Images.
That is the Minister for Transport and Roads blaming the guys at the end of the line, the people at the coalface. He is not blaming senior public managers—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:The member for Newcastle will come to order.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: —not senior bureaucrats, not Treasury officials and certainly not politicians. He is blaming bus drivers on $57,000 a year. The Minister earns $350,000 a year and the Premier earns $450,000 a year. I think, this is my view, that she is a snob. I will say it. She runs around in a chauffeur‑driven car—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The member for Terrigal, the member for Goulburn and the member for Holsworthy will come to order. I cannot hear the member for Kogarah.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: —and she blames the poor buggers who are battling Sydney’s traffic day in and day out—
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: I call the member for North Shore to order for the second time.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: —as if it is their fault that they do not have magic buses that jump over crowded intersections.Who is responsible for the chaos and congestion on the roads? The New South Wales Government. Who do they blame? The bus drivers and then they privatise all their jobs. I know those opposite do not care about it. If anyone touched a hair on any of their entitlements they would jump up at a moment’s notice and defend their rights. But when the bus drivers attempt to do it they are called bludgers.
Ms Melanie Gibbons: Point of order—
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:Order! The Clerk will stop the clock.
Ms Melanie Gibbons: The member is addressing those on this side of the House directly and not through you, Madame Deputy Speaker.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: What a devastating point of order!
The DEPUTY SQUAWKER: The member for Kogarah will continue.
Mr CHRIS MINNS:The bottom line is bus drivers deserve better than this Government. They have been sold down the river on a busted ideology and we are fighting and standing up against it. [Time expired.]
[Interruption from gallery]
*The DEPUTY SQUAWKER:I have asked the gallery on a number of occasions to remain silent. The visitors in the public gallery will be removed.
Photo: Unions NSW … we all stood up and turned our back on Transport Minister, Andrew Constance. He turned his back on commuters and bus drivers with bus privatisation.
Upper House MPs have warned the NSW Government to never again get a private operator to run a public hospital, based on the experience at the Northern Beaches Hospital.
The State Government spent $600 million on building the hospital
Inquiry recommends a private operator never be allowed to run a public hospital
Report calls for a “critical need for transparency”
A group of MPs — including two from Government ranks — have spent the past eight months investigating the problems at the Frenchs Forest hospital which opened in October, 2018.
The State Government spent $600 million on building the hospital and while it owns the site, the Government entered into a 20-year contract with Healthscope to privately manage the hospital.
It’s that model that the parliamentary inquiry has criticised and found that it “has the potential to negatively affect people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds”.
It found primarily that Healthscope has a “responsibility to maximise returns to its shareholders”.
The inquiry has recommended that the model of a Public-Private Partnership isn’t entered into again by the Government.
“The report highlights the critical need for transparency, as well as the rejection of a false dichotomy in which NSW Health is responsible solely for oversight of the PPP contract and Healthscope for the hospital’s day to day operation,” the committee chair Greg Donnolly said.
“I’m half deaf,” he told the ABC. “I only hear what I want to hear.”
The shoe repairman’s hearing may be failing, but his vision is just fine.
And he’s seen it all.
Gaping holes where buildings once loomed above him.
Barriers where he used to walk.
And new buildings emerging where there were none before.
“Of course it’s changed,” Mr Srour told the ABC. “That’s what happens in the city.”
In Sydney’s CBD, where Mr Srour’s business is based, change has been the only constant.
He’s experienced it — and the disruption it brings — himself.
His shoe repair and key-cutting business, which has been operating for 64 years, was forced to relocate because of that incessant drill — the one helping build Sydney’s new train station as part of the $16.8 billion Metro line, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project.
Australian National University demographer Liz Allen said investment in the physical infrastructure of Australia’s major cities had been “financially and strategically inadequate for the last two decades at least”.
She said Australia did not need to take a breath on population growth from immigration, but instead leaders needed to “get a grip”.
“We don’t have cities and people spring up overnight,” Dr Allen said.
“The trouble for Australia, and its major cities, has been that political short-termism has prevented investments in major infrastructure because they extend beyond a couple of years.”
For more than four years, large chunks of Sydney’s CBD and parts of its eastern suburbs became a construction zone.
Footpaths became roads.
Roads became more like mazes.
Pavements turned a different colour.
Businesses along the route were reassured about “the prize” that would come.
Three years before construction started, a NSW Government document talked about “a quieter and less chaotic environment with more space to move around” once the project was finished and a “more attractive, accessible environment for visitors, businesses and workers”.
The dogs are barking at the ABC that its excellent disaster coverage over summer has blown the news budget.
That means more jobs will have to go.
Journalists are expecting a round of redundancies next month barring a financial miracle – pennies from heaven, or at least from Canberra.
You might think that with the great public service provided by the ABC fresh in people’s minds, it would be an excellent time for a savvy chair to be pounding government corridors seeking to at least reverse the announced cuts in the ABC’s budget.
Maybe that’s why a sworn enemy of the ABC, Senator James McGrath (LNP, Qld), decided the best contribution he could make to the nation this week, the best thing he could find about himself to self-promote on Twitter, was to attack the reduced amount the ABC already receives.Senator James McGrath✔@SenatorMcGrath
The ABC must show how it can manage its existing budget before asking for a bigger one.
Some might find it ironic that his pay packet is topped up by being chair of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee and deputy chair of the Education and Employment References Committee.
Right now, private economists are publicly doing what Treasury and Reserve Bank economists are doing privately – downgrading Australia’s economic growth prospects and dissing thoughts of the budget surplus Josh Frydenberg claimed to deliver nine months ago.
But since Senator McGrath thinks the ABC’s $1.1 billion is a crucial sum, and prompted by a tweet about the cumulative cost of grant rorts, I wondered how the ABC’s budget compared with the way Senator McGrath’s government plays loose and fast with taxpayers’ funds.Michael West@MichaelWestBiz
The BBRF is spread over four years, so let’s say the amount spent in the election year (94 per cent in coalition and marginal seats, including yet another million-dollar surf club) is a round $200 million.
That brings us to $724 million. But wait, there’s certainly more.
(In case you missed it, the government’s much-promoted “$100 billion infrastructure investment” is over 10 years, so in real terms, it is only a promise to bring annual spending back up to what Joe Hockey promised in 2014. The vast majority of infrastructure spending is being done by the states.)
The #ScottyfromMarketing advertising splash is especially wasteful, not that Senator McGrath cares, as some of the other projects did have worthwhile outcomes despite the poor governance.
So that’s $924 million.
For a really big-ticket waste of money that’s open to large-scale rorting and non-performance though, it’s hard to look past the coalition’s $2 billion climate direct non-action plan, whereby taxpayers hand over money to companies to undertake energy savings they probably would do anyway, and pay farmers, among other things, to “drought-proof” their farms, which they also would have to do anyway.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison rebranded Tony Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund as the Climate Solutions Fund – an exercise that, of itself, wasted money on stationery and name plates – instead of trying to develop a real climate policy.
The $2 billion is being spread over 10 years, so we’ll just add $200 million for a running total of $1.124 billion and stop counting there, as we’ve beaten Senator McGrath’s worrisome ABC budget figure without having to try hard at all.
That’s $1.124 billion primarily spent on shoring up the Coalition’s base, some of it doing some good along the way.
But given the government’s lack of ethics and basic governance failures, who can tell?
It is an unrepresentative sample, but 71 per cent of the 1725 who bothered to vote thought Mr Morrison not making the report public was throwing his departmental secretary under the bus.
The implication is that the Gaetjens report is more damaging to the government than Mr Morrison is prepared to admit, that the Prime Minister is misleading the public over the contents of the report; that he is hiding something.
By comparison, the ABC is the country’s most respected news source.
Not by Senator McGrath, it seems, or the IPA, or the Murdochs, or the small number of people who for some reason watch Sky News After Dark, but by most of us and with good reason.
It has been steadily required to do more with less.
In a time of shrinking news resources more broadly in the nation, we’re very lucky indeed to have a strong public broadcaster.
To quote part of Peter FitzSimons’ 2019 Andrew Olle lecture, for the $1.1 billion Senator McGrath begrudges: “…we Australians can sustain a world-class public broadcaster across 56 regional bureaux, help sustain our democracy; nourish the national soul around the country’s campfire; hold the powerful to account; and shine the light on seriously important issues that the commercial networks never touch for fear there won’t be profits.
“Let me cite the example of just one program, Four Corners, and what it has accomplished just in recent times.
“Since 2016, their journalism has seen Royal Commissions called for everything from water theft in the Murray Darling Basin, to the rapacious behaviour of the big banks, to the appalling treatment of the elderly in aged care. All of this while Louise Milligan was doing her ground-breaking work on George Pell, which ultimately not only helped put him where he belongs – in prison – but must, perforce, help change the approach of an entire church towards its victims.
“That’s one ABC program, in the space of just three years.
“Yes, this journalism does actually come with a cost to the taxpayer – but can we look to the extraordinary value we get first?
“Tonight, as we speak, the frail and elderly in nursing homes all around Australia are being treated a little better than they otherwise would, simply because of the Four Corners story; just as we the people are getting a fairer go from the banks; the Murray and Darling Rivers are flowing a little freer than they otherwise would have . . . and victims of sexual abuse are better compensated.”
For $1.1 billion, the ABC does more to keep bastards honest than all our politicians combined.
I’d wager any one of the cited Four Corners stories has done more for the public good than Senator McGrath has or ever will.
On his track record and sense of priorities, he’s likely to remain best known outside the Liberal Party for a dead cockatoo and being dropped by the Boris Johnson campaign.
If he wanted to turn his career around, he could start by supporting more resources to preserve the ABC.
While residents of Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from crush-loaded roads, trains, schools, and hospitals, as well as smaller and more expensive housing, toll road company Transurban is making out like a bandit.
Last year, ABC News reported that Sydney’s toll road network is the most expensive and extensive in the world, most of which are owned and operated by Transurban:
…transport experts have given the city the dubious honour of having the most extensive — and expensive — urban toll road network in the world.
Sydney has nine toll roads that include a total of 15 toll points, and will soon have even more when motorways under construction are completed.
Currently, motorists are charged when driving on the:
new M4 WestConnex
Lane Cove Tunnel
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Tunnel
There will be at least six additional tollsbetween now and 2023 upon completion of the:
M5 (from Beverly Hills to St Peters)
M5 East (Beverly Hills to General Holmes Drive)
“In terms of the kilometres of tolls in the urban area, Sydney has the most in the world,” said Chinh Ho, senior lecturer with the Institute of Transport Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney.
“We have an expensive network of toll roads…
Shortly afterwards, The SMH reported that tolls on some of Sydney’s roads are rising at triple the rate of inflation:
Tolls on some Sydney motorways are rising at more than three times the rate of inflation. CREDIT:ROB HOMER
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said there were positive signs for wages in some sectors such as education and health.CREDIT:DOMINIC LORRIMER
Tolls on three existing motorways – the widened M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, the M2 and the Eastern Distributor – are also escalating by 4 per cent a year…
Martin Locke, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney, said… “If someone is struggling to pay tolls today, in 10 years time it will be significantly worse if the tolls increase at 4 per cent per annum…
The Grattan Institute’s transport director, Marion Terrill, said she was concerned that the NSW government was continuing to lock in “extremely long-lived arrangements” for toll roads, citing WestConnex’s concession deed lasting until 2060.
Crikey’s Stephen Mayne also exposed the unbelievable extortion of motorists by Transurban, which has taken place with the blessing of Australia’s governments:
Transurban was created by Macquarie Group and Transfield in 1995 to bid for Citylink, a major Kennett government toll road project in Melbourne. Macquarie pocketed a $25 million success from the deal and Transurban was floated in 1996 at the equivalent of $1 a share.
More than 20 years later, Melbourne’s Citylink project is the world’s second most valuable privately owned toll road. This has allowed Transurban to extract the following tolls from motorists over the past six years:
That, however, is dwarfed by the story in Sydney where Transurban now controls seven different toll roads which managed to lift total toll revenue from $1.34 billion in 2017-18 to a record $1.53 billion last financial year. This is primarily due to the addition of the M4 motorway, which is part of the monster $9.3 billion Westconnex privatisation deal sealed by the NSW Liberal government last year. *
The story in Brisbane is more modest. Here, Transurban managed to lift tolling revenue from its five different toll roads from $629 million in 2017-18 to a record $644 million last year. All up, motorists in Australia’s three biggest cities were stung $2.98 billion for tolls by Transurban last financial year… *
Transurban is the Pac-Man of toll roads, snapping up ownership stakes in all but two of Australia’s toll roads…
Only in Australia could a company which has seen its share price go from $1 to more than $15 have a history of never having paid corporate tax. *
Toll road giant Transurban is positioning itself to manage the entire road networks of Australia’s three major cities as governments make the “inevitable” shift to road pricing.
A senior Transurban executive told a private meeting of investors this month that the company wanted to be viewed as the “natural custodian” of the nation’s motorways, in the likely event of motorists being charged to drive on them.
The Melbourne-based company has a near monopoly on private roads in Australia already, controlling 13 of the 15 toll roads in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Analysts Morgan Stanley have described a Transurban-run, user-pays system across all roads as a “meta-monopoly”.
Such a move would further entrench the company – which owns Citylink in Melbourne, the M2 in Sydney and all of Brisbane’s toll roads – as a de-facto private sector planning agency in those major cities. *
Few, if any, countries in the world have allowed a private operator to control so much of their road network.
Even Jeff Kennett, the man who in effect launched Transurban through its Melbourne CityLink contract in 1996, now warns governments against granting the company more toll road projects, arguing that taxpayers are being “ripped off”.
Now, the Victorian Government is locked in a dispute with Transurban over how to dispose of contaminated soil at the build site of the West Gate Tunnel project:
CIMIC and John Holland last week terminated a contract to build the new tunnel for Transurban, claiming they were not responsible for the unexpected cost and difficulty of disposing of contaminated soil…
The contractors claim they were told by Transurban that 85 per cent of the soil they would have to move to build the tunnel would be classified as “fill material” that could be recycled or put into regular landfill sites, but subsequently found that most of the soil was contaminated…
The termination has been rejected by Transurban, which has its own fixed price contract with the state government to deliver the project…
Analysts have estimated the West Gate Tunnel could now cost an additional $1 billion to finish, but the Victorian government is reluctant to pump in additional taxpayer funds…
“There’s a contract, it needs to be delivered, that road needs to be completed in 2022”, [Premier Daniel Andrews said].
As revealed by Clay Lucas earlier this week, the 1465-page agreement between the Victorian Government and Transurban contained 125 references to “contamination”. Transurban also reportedly boasted to the Victorian Government that it was well equipped to deal with the contaminated soil.
West Gate Tunnel construction was delayed when contaminated soil was discovered.CREDIT:JOE ARMAO
Therefore, the Victorian Government must enforce the West Gate Tunnel contract.
Transurban, not taxpayers, must foot any additional costs required to finish the project.
For too long,Transurban has outmanoeuvred and bullied Australia’s governments at great cost to motorists and taxpayers.This must stop.
A West Gate Tunnel construction site in Footscray.CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI
“There really was a lack of rules or protections built into this scheme, which meant that private providers or marketers even could sign students out and get paid straight away just for the enrolment,” Gerard Brody from the Consumer Action Law Centre told 7.30.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has pursued some college owners for running “ghost colleges”, which operate fraudulent enterprises with no real teaching in order to reap those subsidies.
In some extreme cases, students were even signed up for courses without their knowledge.
NSW Constituents are losing what was Our PUBLIC Heavy Rail Network for the privatised MTR Hong Kong Consortium Metro …
Why? For ever more opportunities for overseas buyers to launder black money in high-rise residential …
With the Chatswood to Rouse Hill North West line it has been reported from an Engineer that the narrow tunnels present a hazard!
There have been a number of reports of delays and more!
WHAT happened to MP Sidoti’s referral to ICAC? It was reported in the Daily Telegraph that the Berejiklian Government blocked a motion in Parliament to refer John Sidoti to a full ICAC investigation … a day after he stood down as a Minister!
Single fares for Sydney’s public transport should be increased by 5 per cent annually over the next four years but more discounts should be offered to regular users, according to the state’s pricing regulator.
In a draft report to the NSW Government, the Independent Price and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) said passengers were currently paying about a quarter of the overall cost of public transport, with taxpayers funding the rest – the equivalent of $4900 per household.
A 5 per cent annual rise for single Opal fares between 2020 and 2024 would amount to a 30-cent increase for every adult journey on average, according to the regulator.
While the IPART recommended an increase in fares, the draft report also suggests the government introduce a range of cost-saving measures for regular commuters and low-income passengers.Advertisement
Those include offering people discounted fares after travelling three-to-four days a week, rather than the current eight-trip threshold, as well as discounted off-peak fares for all modes of transport except ferries.
The regulator said those measures would encourage people to travel outside of peak times, reduce load on the network and avoid the need for additional services.
It also recommended offering people with a Commonwealth Health Care Card (roughly 2 per cent of passengers) discounted rates.
“Enabling access to transport for those who are struggling to make ends meet is vital for their continued participation in the workforce,” the report said.
The recommendations would provide a balance between passenger contribution and taxation funding to make the public transport network sustainable over the long term, the IPART said.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government would have the final say on Opal fares.
“The NSW Government is focussed on keeping downward pressure on the cost of living, this includes ensuring public transport is affordable for everyone,” the spokeswoman said.
“IPART play an important role in making recommendations to government as well as determining the maximum fare, however the government has the final say on Opal fares.”
The opposition called on the government to reject the recommendations.
“At a time of stagnant wage growth and low inflation, with rising unemployment, the Berejiklian government should not take this opportunity to gouge the hardworking families of NSW,” shadow treasurer Walt Secord said.
The regulator in 2016 recommended a 4.2 per cent hike of Opal fares over four years, however the government chose to increase the price by CPI, which was 1.9 per cent last year.
As well as ticket pricing, the IPART has also recommended the government consider offering a wider variety of public transport passes, including $20 weekend passes for unlimited access.
“Passengers would be able to choose different travel passes and products tailored to meet their travel patterns and budgets,” the draft report said.
The final IPART report is expected to be handed down in February 2020.
The Department of Home Affairs has begun taking steps to outsource its visa processing to private service providers. This move has sparked an important national debate on transparency, accountability and profiteering in the immigration system.
*The proposed changes will involve private service providers processing certain “low-risk” visas, rather than department staff.
Home Affairs claims privatisation will improve efficiency and reduce costs. But it also comes with major risks, some we’ve seen already play out in the privatisation of immigration control through commercialised immigration detention, such as on Christmas Island.
These risks include corruption, consumer protection issues and damage to the overall integrity the visa system.
Why privatise in the first place?
Today, migration is big business around the world, with private corporations, contracted by governments, increasingly organising and managing migration across different stages.
The US and Germany, for instance, privatise various functions, including administering visa applications, guarding borders, and organising transport and detention.
Australia first attempted to privatise immigration detention centres in 1996 * as part of budget discussions, following an international trend towards arm’s-length management of public services. It was seen as a way to boost efficiency in detention services.
(During *John Howard’s government)
*Much of the argument for visa privatisation today is based on similar claims of cost savings and efficiency.
In theory, this model promises greater accountability based on clear economic incentives. If performance falls below agreed standards, private firms risk losing their contracts.
*But not only is accountability rarely enforced, several mitigating factors enable under performing companies to remain in business.
It’s also not clear what measures of oversight and surveillance will be applied to the private corporations.
Home Affairs claims visa decision-making will still be centrally controlled, but so far the information released has been scarce.
For an estimated A$1 billion of investment into this visa privatisation project, it’s important the government makes this clear.
Big business risks corruption
So who will be accountable if something goes wrong?
In the case of immigration detention centres, privatisation has meant blame is too often shiftedbetween the government and the private contractors.
And the Migration Institute of Australia has pointed to the possible misuse of a commercialised visa platform – private entities seek to generate multiple revenue streams through add-on and “premium” services, such as accommodation, transportation and deportation.
Champions of visa privatisation, Mikee Pezzullo and Peter Dutton launching ‘A History of the Department of Immigration–Managing Migration to Aust’ (Image courtesy @PeterDutton_MP)
This, too, has happened with Australia’s commercialised immigrationdetention centres.
And when these services are run in the interests of profit, rather than border governance – dubbed the “immigration-industrial complex” – corrupt tactics can be used to benefit the providers’ bottom line.
A privatised visa regime would similarly be more susceptible to corruption risks.
Regulating private companies isn’t easy
While close regulation and monitoring might seem like an easy way to keep these risks at bay, effective regulation is not that simple.
Private entities in immigration arenot just “economic actors”, but become critical players in agenda setting, negotiation, and enforcement.
*This means networks and alliances of giant multinational corporations, such as the Australian Visa Processing Consortium, can influence regulatory frameworks through lobbying, providing technical expertise and consulting on policy.
*Such a consolidation of companies monopolises the market and eliminates competition. This in turn makes governments overly dependent on private services.
What’s more, the corporate interests of private companies is to protect and expand their business.
*For instance, companies involved in the goverment’s visa modernisation bid include Accenture and Oracle. Both have allegedly been involved in tax evasion activities globally.
Yet, they continue to secure government contracts worth millions, because of the continued reliance on their services.
Such contracts also include “commercial-in-confidence” arrangements that conceal information on how taxpayer money is spent, the actual value for money to the public, and whether there are adequate protections against conflicts of interest.
The government also hasn’t been clear about the extent to which the privatisation partnership will be scrutinised under consumer protection provisions or government agencies such as the Ombudsman.
While various stakeholders have been involved in the privatisation consultation process,little attention has been paid to more rigorous governmental inquiry. This would involve, for instance, recommendations from the Productivity Commission or the Australian National Audit Office.
For so much investment, Home Affairs must provide sufficient information to the Australian public on their visa modernisation project, and address the many questions around risk mitigation.
Article by Marina Khan and Shanthi Robertson from Western Sydney University