The following is a speech made in Parliament by Kevin Rudd the Federal Member for Griffith.
The business of government is largely about the delivery of government services. I rise this evening to speak about the decline in the delivery of basic state government services, which has become a particular concern to residents in my community on Brisbane’s Southside. The Liberal-National Party government in Queensland has taken a slash and burn approach to local services. Having put 14,000 public servants out of work—14,000 public servants out of work—cut funding to local community organisations and slash frontline health services, the Liberal-National Party have now decided to attack public transport.
Last week the Newman government released their long-anticipated review of South-East Queensland’s bus services, which, if implemented, will leave Brisbane residents standing in the rain as bus stops are closed and wondering what will be hit next. Bus services may sound very small beer to some standing here in the national parliament, but for people who depend on buses to physically get around to do their shopping, this is no small thing at all. It is a very big thing. The Newman government has confirmed that it will put profits before people and cut 111 local bus routes, significantly impacting on the lives of many in our community who are elderly or who have mobility challenges, as well as those who have no private transport.
Of particular note are two local us services, the 192 and the 198, which provide the people of Highgate Hill in my electorate with vital services to other parts of the community. The 198 is a hale-and-ride service that connects the people of Highgate Hill with the Mater Hospital, the PA Hospital and the Buranda shopping centre. It is the only bus from Highgate Hill that goes to the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Many of the people who rely on this service are elderly or have health or mobility problems or are one of the 17 per cent of people who live in the area who do not own private transport. The alternative for those living around Dornoch Terrace will be to walk more than 1½ kilometres up hill and down dale to the nearest bus station. It is not called Highgate Hill for nothing. This is a very hilly part of Brisbane and, when we are talking about the elderly, this represents a real new challenge. Then, of course, having walked 1½ kilometres further, they have to find their way back again when they eventually head back home.
The 192 is the only bus that runs along the length of Dornoch Terrace. It is essential for residents accessing the city and the University of Queensland and it is a school bus for at least 34 kids who attend St Ita’s Catholic Primary School.
One of those affected is 82-year-old Carol Crew. Without the 198, Carol, I am advised, will now find it difficult to attend Sunday mass at St Francis of Assisi Church on Dornoch Terrace, where she also plays the piano. Carol has told my office that many in her congregation rely on these buses to get to church and without them would have to miss this important opportunity for weekly fellowship. I am told that even the parish priest catches the bus to church as he has no car. Many like Carol will find it particularly difficult, if not impossible, to independently access their local shopping centres, meet with friends or even collect the morning paper. The decision will increase the level of social isolation in my local community.
The people of Highgate Hill are not the only residents in my community who will be affected by these cuts to vital services. Whole sections of Tarragindi and Annerley will be denied access to public transport when they lose their 114 and 112 services and the people of Seven Hills will lose the 212, a bus service that is often full of local hospital workers. Let us not be fooled. This is not about improving access to local bus services; it is a heartless exercise which will leave many in my community stranded—literally—on the side of the road.
In preparation for wholesale cuts to Brisbane’s bus network, the Liberal-National Party government conducted their consultation in the two weeks immediately prior to Christmas. That is right; they chose a time when they could guarantee that the public already had other things on their mind. The Liberal-National Party cutbacks in health, hospitals, education and now transport services are heartless—many people depend on those services. It was similarly heartless of the LNP to sack 14,000 good, honest public servants. These public servants also have families to feed and mortgages to pay.
This is a stark reminder of just how important the upcoming federal election is for the people of Queensland. As I have said before, in this parliament and elsewhere, the Newman Liberal-National Party government is very much just the entree. If Tony Abbot becomes the next Prime Minister of Australia, that will be the main course—we will see the slash and burn of services nationwide.