This is the second petition debate we have had thanks to the concerted opposition of Inner West residents, commuters and our public bus drivers. I thank every one of the 20,000-plus residents who have lent their voice to the campaign to stop this transport Minister's ideological attack on our public bus services. Thank you to everyone who signed the petition to say, "Don't sell our public buses." Sadly, however, if rumours are correct, any day now we are likely to hear that the Government has awarded successful tenders and the most likely scenario is that this Government will sell our local bus services to a multinational company with a track record of selling commuters short.
Let us be clear: privatisation of public buses has not worked, either overseas or in New South Wales. Since the Minister announced this decision, I have been swamped with correspondence from residents across Sydney with privatised bus services. They have seen their bus stops torn out and their services cut. Residents have been left sitting on the side of the road waiting for a bus that never turns up. I have even been contacted by residents in the United Kingdom lamenting the terrible state of their privatised bus services.
If members needed further proof that bus privatisation does not work, they should look at where the Government is not rolling it out. This month the government-branded new B-Line bus services to the northern beaches will commence at a cost of $514 million. It will be run as a public service and retained in public hands. Both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education have spoken out about the failures of private bus services. They refuse to see public services in their blue ribbon Liberal electorates of Pittwater and Wakehurst sold off to the highest bidder. In fact, the Minister for Health told his local paper that he was "completely opposed to tossing the baby out with the bath water when generally the local bus system and drivers were doing a good job". The same can be said for the drivers in the Inner West, and if keeping public buses in public hands is good enough for Liberal held electorates, it should be good enough for Labor held ones too.
Over the course of this debate, the transport Minister's argument that complaints are higher in the Inner West than any other region has been completely and thoroughly debunked. Inner West residents and commuters know that if their buses are late, it is likely to be because of the congestion that plagues our local streets. They know that the last people to be blamed for delays are our public bus drivers. But still, this Government and this Minister have launched an unprecedented attack on our public bus drivers and their unions. This Minister has taken every opportunity to malign these hardworking people, who love their jobs and their communities, and who often are the first people that many of my senior constituents see each morning. They are the victims of this Government's relentless obsession with privatisation and the Minister's obsession with union busting.
It is pretty rich coming from this Government and from this Minister, who has so monumentally bungled his portfolio; it has been a constant disappointment to the people of my electorate, and, indeed, the people of the Inner West. I will go through the list. This Minister has overseen an eastern suburbs light rail project that is over budget and over time. He has built a light rail network that does not connect to the existing Inner West light rail network. He has abandoned light rail or other rapid transport options for the centre lanes of Parramatta Road, which means that the revitalisation of one of our city's major arterial roads is dead in the water. He sued the wrong bus union. He spent $220 million per kilometre to replace heavy rail in Newcastle. This is the clincher: he bought new trains for the Blue Mountains that do not fit the tracks.
This is an embarrassing record, but still the transport Minister thinks he is onto a good thing. Enough is enough. If it is good enough to listen to a poll and name a new ferry Ferry McFerryface, then it is good enough to listen to the 20,000-plus residents who have signed these petitions. It is time the Minister admitted his mistakes and left our Inner West buses in public hands.