19 November 2020

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (16:08:43): I thank the member for Maroubra for tabling this important petition. Now more than 80,000 have signed petitions in New South Wales voicing their concern and discontent against this State Government's cuts to public transport. I thank all the residents of Coogee and around the Eastern Suburbs and people across New South Wales who have signed our petitions. I also thank the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Unions NSW for their great advocacy for our constituents who desperately love these buses. I speak today on behalf of constituents in my electorate—people like Lindsay, a 76-year-old from my electorate who visited my office to tell her story of what the loss of the 373 from Coogee to Circular Quay would mean to her.

Most weeks Lindsay takes the bus to access cultural activities in the city because the 373 bus travels from Circular Quay via Museum. She is able to walk to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Sydney, the Museum of Contemporary Art and performances at the Sydney Opera House. She meets her two friends there and these trips are a big part of her social life and mean that she can stay vitally connected to her social groups. Losing this bus service will have a big consequence for Lindsay. She will need to take a bus to Randwick, cross several streets and wait for the light rail to take her to Circular Quay. The return journey home will take her an additional 20 minutes. Lindsay has also mentioned that she does not feel safe changing between the buses and the light rail either at Central or at Randwick Junction.

If the 373 bus service disappears it will have a huge impact on thousands of people just like Lindsay. This is just one bus service, and 16 bus services are slated to be removed, each with thousands of regular customers with their own individual story. Bianca is a small business owner in Randwick whose business was directly impacted by the years of light rail construction when Randwick became a no-go zone. Even now, as it is finished, she faces cuts to the bus services that bring clients to her salon and ensure her staff can turn up to work on time. Els is a resident of Coogee who came to see me to express her extreme concern and anxiety over the pending bus cuts. Els is visually impaired and cannot drive. She is completely reliant on the local services for her independent travel to access her medical appointments, attend social events and engage with her community.

The loss of these bus services will do far more than just inconvenience Els. It will critically impact her independence, which will dramatically reduce her quality of life. Currently the buses come to Els but with the lost bus service she will need to go to the light rail. Upon meeting Els, I wanted to do my own research over the disability accessibility of the light rail so I asked a couple of questions on notice. The first one was: Are there guards and/or support staff located at each light rail stop to support those who have a disability and other passengers needing support or assistance? The answer was that customer service officers are available across key locations during peak times. So at the majority of the stations for the majority of the time no-one is there to help the people that need the help. That is great! So billions of dollars have been spent on public transport infrastructure that is not disability accessible. That sounds fair, doesn't it!

I get it. I understand that this Government is running a protection racket for the Premier and it needs to justify the spend of this dog piece of infrastructure. I understand that the only way those opposite can justify it is by forcing people onto it, a piece of infrastructure that no-one wants to use. Why would they? It is double the travel time of the existing bus services. It does not take people where they need to go and it is unsafe, as we have just seen. It has no lifeguards on it and from day dot it has broken down. Within hours it had its first breakdown. Even for the New Year's Test it had a breakdown. It broke down twice. In my office we were able to get real-time information about this breakdown, as one of my wonderful staff, Jeremy, was trapped on the light rail. He was able to provide us with real-time information about the dangerous temperatures in the light rail as it was travelling. He missed the first ball of the test as well—what a shame!

Most recently, just last week, there was a huge malfunction when electricity infrastructure shattered a window. The electricity infrastructure smashed through a front window on the light rail service. After years of enduring disruptive construction the public was promised world-class light rail services but what they have been given is a complete and utter joke. No-one wants to catch the light rail, and rightly so. It is unsafe, it is slow and it does not go where people need to go. The Government has a responsibility to make the lives of people better. Removing these buses without any community consultation is doing the exact opposite. The Government is making the lives of people worse. People like Els who depend on these buses will have their independence stripped from them. Keep your hands off our buses and stay out of the Eastern Suburbs.