In 2015 those opposite, without the support of the community, privatised Newcastle buses.
The former Premier and transport Minister promised that the privatisation would deliver to the Hunter "a world-class transport network". Nothing could have been further from the truth. The network overseen by those opposite was and still is a basket case. The privatisation has resulted in cuts to services, longer travel times and children being left at the side of the road, unable to get to school. Since the privatisation of the Newcastle transport network, I have lobbied to restore the services cut by the Liberals. I wrote to multiple former transport Ministers, lobbying for the return of the 350 service.
This much-loved service ran directly between Swansea Heads and Newcastle and was used by workers, students and other travellers. It was cut by members opposite as soon as the service was privatised. Instead, passengers were required, originally, to transfer to three and then two different bus services. It has improved slightly in that commuters now transfer to only one additional service. But it is still unacceptable. Time and again members opposite have turned their backs on our communities and refused to restore those vital services.
Labor was elected to fix our broken transport system, and that is exactly what it is doing. In May the Government announced the creation of the Bus Industry Taskforce, which is to make recommendations to improve the reliability, quality and effectiveness of bus services right across New South Wales and definitely in the Hunter. The task force will make recommendations to the Minister to improve the performance of bus operators. It will examine the service delivery and asset management models, including the contract and performance management framework, transparency in activities and the related capabilities required; service planning, including equality of service—that is a notion that was never considered—right across the community and related community engagement; infrastructure and technology that supports the effective delivery of bus services, including the transition to clean energy; arrangements relating to the employment of drivers, mechanics and other key personnel; and other steps to improve performance, including legislative amendments, regulatory changes, and contractual and other related actions.
The task force will also consider the parliamentary committee's report into the privatisation of buses. The task force has already provided advice to the Minister for Transport to address the bus driver shortage. That includes convening a bus industry round table to bring forward practical solutions to the workforce shortages and suggestions to improve bus service delivery, making it quicker, easier.
The action taken by the Government in setting up the task force has already been quite successful. I was so pleased to join my good friend the Minister for Transport at the Newcastle bus passenger forum last week. How refreshing it was to see a transport Minister actually engaging with our communities! The forum was so well supported by the community, who are passionate about restoring our bus services and delivering for our community once again. I met with a lot of people from the electorate of Swansea who relayed to me the devastation that the privatisation of Newcastle bus transport has caused in their lives.
John, who lives at Marks Point, has a disability and works at Warabrook. He used to be picked up at 5.30 a.m. on the 350—I have mentioned the 350 already—and he would arrive at work a bit before seven o'clock, and he would get home in the evenings at about 4.30 p.m. His life has changed considerably. He now often has to get a taxi to get his workplace in Warabrook. In addition to that, on occasion he is now getting home after six o'clock. That is just one example. I provided hundreds of examples to the former Government, which literally took a "Talk to the hand" approach. The people in the community that I represent have been so let down, and I am so proud to be part of a government that is doing exactly the opposite.
There are so many horror stories since the service was privatised. Elderly people have been unable to get to local shopping centres. In the area around Valentine, Croudace Bay and Eleebana, there is no bus after 6.00 p.m. People there cannot go to church at Belmont on a Saturday night unless they get a lift with another parishioner, because church starts at 6.00 p.m. It has changed people's lives profoundly, and there was never any consideration for the people who use the service. As the Minister has told us time and again, the Liberal Government of yesteryear put money and profit before people. It has changed people's lives to such an extent that they are socially isolated from their communities and no longer participating as they did. The number of attendees at bingo at the 16-foot sailing club has reduced considerably. Some might laugh and think that is not a big deal, but seeing the same people each week is a big deal to those for whom it is their one outing. They are hugely important to our communities.
I am so proud that our Minister for Transport is in our community having genuine conversations with the people who are affected and saying to them, "We are going to try to change this mess". The Minister brought with her a team of professionals from Transport for NSW, all engaging with people and talking to them about their issues and how we can fix the problem. I am so excited to be part of a government that is actually working on the ground and doing the job that we said we would do. That is truly amazing, and my community are just so goddamned relieved.