Newcastle Buses Employees

19th November 2015

Mr GREG PIPER: I point out that this is the reason I asked once before whether we could consider moving the Independent's question to an earlier part of question time.

The SPEAKER: Order! That is why we did that earlier in the week.

Mr GREG PIPER: And I missed out on a present. My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. In light of the announcement that Newcastle bus, ferry and light rail services are to be privatised, will the Minister guarantee that existing employees of Newcastle Buses will be provided with the options of both ongoing employment and redundancy?

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I am sorry that the member for Lake Macquarie did not get a present. I wish him happy holidays. I would wish members of the Opposition happy holidays—but they have been on holiday all year. This issue could not be a happier one for the Labor Party. It is the Government's intention to ensure that the existing jobs of people who work in transport in Newcastle are carried over to any new integrated operator. In other areas of the State—such as Manly, where there are fast ferries—transport services, patronage and customer satisfaction have increased, which is what this is all about. The Government has made clear that it will get this right. We are sounding out the market and we will make sure that the customer is at the heart of this project. I dare say that from our engagement with the market we will determine new bus routes and services, and will potentially look more closely at ferry routes in the area. Everyone must remember that this has come about because of the advent of light rail, and the tough decision that this Government made to revitalise Newcastle.

Public transport patronage in Newcastle over recent years has been in decline. There has been a 14 per cent decline in the number of patrons using buses. There is an opportunity for the transport workforce in Newcastle to grow. There will be a contract between an integrated world-class operator and the Government in the same way that Hunter Valley Buses or Port Stephens Coaches have a contract with the Government. The Government is taking this matter seriously. We have already talked to the unions and will have an ongoing engagement with the union movement throughout this exercise. It has been a joy to see the Government deliver great transport outcomes across the State in the past 4½ years.

What we are proposing to do in Newcastle is an Australian first. Engaging with the private sector in relation to transport happens elsewhere around the world. I am also grateful for the support the member for Newcastle has given to this exercise by voting in favour of the engagement of the private sector through the council motion. It is interesting and very telling that the shadow Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have absolutely zero to say about it since we made the announcement about a fortnight ago. I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question. We will happily work with him to get the best outcome for the people of Newcastle. We will be able to grow services, grow patronage, increase customer satisfaction and deliver a terrific result.

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