Stop the Sydney Bus Sell-Off

In support of the RTBU led campaign to stop the privatisation of Sydney’s last remaining publicly owned and operated buses, Abigail successfully moved a motion calling on the Government to stop the privatisation of essential services and keep our buses in public hands.


That private members' business item No. 344 outside the order of precedence be considered in a short form format.

Motion agreed to.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:15:39): I move: 

1.That this House notes that:

(a)the Government has announced that it intends to privatise the last remaining publicly owned and operated bus services in Sydney in regions 7, 8 and 9 (which includes the northern beaches, eastern suburbs, North Shore and Chatswood areas);

(b)this follows the privatisation of Sydney region 6 buses (the inner west) and the sell-off of all Newcastle public transport delivery (trams, buses and ferry) in 2017; 

(c)this move to privatise publicly owned services comes without any meaningful consultation for affected communities;

(d)that the privatisation of public transport services in region 6 has seen a decline in commuter satisfaction and on-time running;

(e)that the privatisation of public transport services in Newcastle has seen a decline in commuter usage of services, a significant reduction in available bus routes and lower overall commuter satisfaction; and

(f)that privatisation of essential services historically has seen a decline in the working conditions and pay of frontline workers.

2.That this House:

(a)commends the work of the State Transit Authority, which operates the bus services in regions 7, 8 and 9 and has since 2017 significantly increased on-time running compared to the now privately operated region 6 while also running at an operating profit for the New South Wales Government; and

(b)calls on the Government to immediately halt the privatisation of bus services in regions 7, 8 and 9.

The Greens stand with the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union and affected communities in opposing the proposed privatisation of the last publicly owned and operated buses in Sydney's eastern suburbs, northern beaches and the North Shore. This Government is obsessed with selling off public assets. It is a Government that is far more interested in outsourcing its responsibilities to the people of New South Wales than delivering the services it was elected to deliver. 

Essential services such as public transport should not be run for private profit. They should be run for the public by the public. Buses do not exist to line the coffers of a private corporation. They exist to connect our communities, to get us to and from where we need to go and they are a vital part of our economic and social infrastructure. Evidence has shown that there is little to no benefit to commuters and communities in privatising our public transport. There are two recent examples that drive this point home. Firstly, in 2017, the Coalition Government privatised bus services in the inner west by selling to Transit Systems and, secondly, the sell- off of all buses, light rail and ferry services in Newcastle to Keolis Downer. 

Until 2017 buses in the inner west of Sydney were publicly owned and operated by the State Transit Authority [STA]. More than a year after the sale the new private operator, Transit Systems, has failed every single month to meet its on- time running metric of 95 per cent. This is a much poorer result when compared to the publicly owned and operated services of the STA. That is even more remarkable when you take into account the fact that the STA's proposed service upgrades and changes to running times and timetables, funded by $5 million in operating profits, was rejected by Transport for NSW without any explanation. In Newcastle commuters have seen the number of bus routes slashed from 27 to 21, services run less frequently and the number of commuters drop sharply in the calendar year after all services were sold off. 

This sell-off occurred without any meaningful community consultation or consideration of the wishes of affected residents in the inner west or Newcastle. Time after time this Coalition Government has shown that it is more interested in propping up the profit margins of big business and corporations over building and operating world-class public transport. It has sold off services without any evidence to demonstrate the purported benefits of privatisations and has actively knocked back proposals from the publicly opened and operated STA to improve its services in order to remain competitive. 

It is almost as if the Government does not want the STA to succeed because that would get in the way of running services into the ground before selling them off to the highest bidder. Why should we trust the Government when it says privatising services in the eastern suburbs, northern beaches and North Shore will result in more efficient, robust and frequent public transport when all the evidence points to the contrary? Since inner west buses were privatised in 2017 the publicly owned and operated buses in the eastern suburbs, northern beaches and North Shore have comparatively shown significantly higher on-time running metrics and higher commuter satisfaction. And all of this occurs while maintaining an operating profit for the Government that is in the millions. 

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (The Hon. Trevor Khan): Order! I ask members to significantly lower the level of their discussions. The member is entitled to some courtesy.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: These buses that are performing better than their privately operated counterparts and at a profit are the buses the Government wants to sell off. That simply does not add up. The Greens believe that public transport is an essential public service that exists to connect communities and places and that it should get you where you need to go at the time you need to get there. There is absolutely no reason why public transport cannot thrive in public hands when operated by an effective and well‑funded public sector, yet the Government would have members believe that only the private sector can improve services. That is a lie told by a government so obsessed with becoming a business that it has forgotten its place in our society. It has no vision, no credibility and absolutely no right to sell off our bus services.

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