The Transport Administration Amendment (Transport Entities) Bill 2017 will separate the transport entities responsible for the delivery of railway passenger services and those responsible for asset management.
This bill will realign the delivery of rail services in New South Wales, with Sydney Trains delivering metropolitan services, NSW Trains delivering regional passenger services, RailCorp acting as asset manager, and the Residual Transport Corporation winding up obsolete activities for transport agencies.
Finally, the bill will turn RailCorp into the Transport Asset Holding Entity and convert it into a state-owned corporation.
Like my colleagues I have significant concerns about this bill, and indeed the intentions behind it.
After six years the community has this Government's number. We know exactly what its priorities are and we are right to raise a red flag when it comes to this Treasurer getting involved in transport administration. New South Wales residents know that when it comes to offloading publicly owned assets this Premier and Treasurer are a double act.
This Government has not seen a public asset it does not want to sell. At the same time they are seeking to sell off the Land and Property Information office—something that the community now is rightly engaged with and very concerned about—and seemingly everything else that is not bolted down in New South Wales.
Today the Treasurer has presented a bill that converts the Transport Asset Holding Entity [TAHE] into a state-owned corporation. This follows the creation of the TAHE on 1 July 2015 as an off-budget public non-financial corporation required to make a commercial return of at least 7 per cent.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has warned that it is unlikely that the TAHE will make that return, given that rail assets are rarely profitable. The Government is relying on keeping the TAHE off the books as a way to preserve its cherished bottom line — something that the member for Rockdale very eloquently put to the House this morning.
It is clear the Government will do anything to stop the TAHE from going back into the budget, even if it means privatising it. Let us be very clear here—this bill is nothing more than a tricky fix designed to save the Government's bottom line, and nothing more than that. It is not about improving services and safety on our rail services.
The community will be worse off for this dodgy bill. The integration of public rail transport operations is not born out of political ideology; it is born out of hard evidence.
Inquiries that followed the horrendous Glenbrook rail accident in 1999—where seven passengers were killed and another 51 hospitalised—made the clear assertion that rail passenger operations should not be split up.
Safety is always compromised when we force rail providers to focus on commercial imperatives above their aim to provide safe, convenient and dependable transport options for all New South Wales citizens.
In the wake of the Glenbrook disaster the then Labor Government acted to integrate rail operations—a move which was later backed by former Premier O'Farrell and the now Premier who was then Minister for Transport. Disgracefully, we now see the Government turning its back on that evidence, all in the name of its precious bottom line and making a quick buck.
That is incredibly disappointing and I think it is pretty clear for everyone to see what this is all about. It is clear that the privatisation of our rail networking is clearly on the agenda.
Like my colleagues on this side of the House, and like residents who have spoken to me about this issue, I am troubled that our public transport system is slowly being eroded. Our public transport network is held in trust by this Government on behalf of the people because we know how important affordable, dependable and safe public transport is for social equality.
Effective transport removes barriers to participation in the workforce and the community, and it reduces isolation for the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with disability.
Effective transport is vital to ensuring that each and every person in New South Wales is able to reach their full potential.
I believe those clear principles are more important than selling off our assets to the highest bidder, which is what this Government is all about.