Ticket system fail deals another blow to public transport as Minister Ferguson runs Metro into the ground
2 March 2023
Metro have cancelled over a thousand bus services over the last few weeks, but commuters and the travelling public have just been dealt another blow by the latest Liberal Government public transport failure.
Today, in response to a question from Franklin MP David O’Byrne, it was revealed that the new smart transport ticketing system promised in 2018 is still missing, with Transport Minister Michael Ferguson refusing to tell the parliament how much it will cost and when it will be ready.
“It’s been nearly five years since former Premier Will Hodgman announced this Government’s plan for new smart ticketing scheme. All we’ve seen since then is five years of consecutive delays and a project budget that has quadrupled to over $30m without explaination,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“Today, Transport Minister Michael Ferguson today could not say when the new system will arrive, how much it will cost, and what it might look like. How much more time does he need?
“The only thing Minister Ferguson has to show for the five years his Government have been working on this is that his department has advertised for a strategic marketing role for the project.
“Perhaps this role is to assist the Minister explain to Tasmanian public why this promised upgrade is still nowhere to be seen.
“Much like this Government’s mythical underground bus mall, this project is yet another example of the travelling public being let down by broken promises and false hope.
“If this Government claims that public transport is the lone answer to traffic congestion, then this is an absolute fail. The traveling public deserve better.”
Self-titled “Solutions Minister” sits on his hands for 12 months on Metro fix
1 March 2023
Transport Minister Michael Ferguson has revealed that his only solution to fix the longstanding problems plaguing Metro is to set up a new working group, twelve months after a similar working group’s recommendations were ignored.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne said an intensive workshop was convened with Metro, Tasmania Police and the Department of State Growth 12 months ago to look into solutions to the antisocial behaviour which is now causing Metro drivers to leave in droves.
But after a year, not one solution has been implemented.
“Yesterday, as approximately 100 Metro trips were cancelled yet again, Transport Minister Michael Ferguson said he would set up a working group to begin to tackle the challenge of antisocial behaviour on public transport,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“What Minister Ferguson failed to mention is that a similar working group met a year ago and put forward solutions. He has either forgotten about it or chosen to ignore their recommendations.
“In response to my question in Parliament today, the Minister boldly proclaimed that he was ‘interested in solutions’ on this issue. We don’t need a Minister who is interested in listening to solutions, we need a Minister who is actually interested in implementing solutions and tackling these challenges.
“Meanwhile, Tasmanian bus users are being left stranded by the side of the road daily and Metro drivers are still fed up with their concerns being ignored.
“I welcome the fact that the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) is now being involved in these discussions after being left out. But why hasn’t the Minister been listening to RTBU’s concerns and recommendations until now?”
Transport Minister offers Tasmanians who have lost faith in Metro yet another committee
28 February 2023
After more than a thousand Metro services have been cancelled over the last month, Tasmanians using public transport are fed up with repeatedly being stranded by the side of the road.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne said Transport Minister Michael Ferguson has deliberately chosen to stand by and Metro being run into the ground, completely failing to tackle the core issues causing the mass exodus of bus drivers.
“Our bus drivers and the travelling public have been warning the Minister over the last few years that there are problems with drivers quitting due to low morale and safety concerns,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“Today in response to my question, the Minister made an insincere apology to those affected by cancellations and announced he’ll put together a working group to start to address some of these issues.
“This is just way too late for another committee – drivers have already quit and around 100 bus services are cancelled every day.
“Metro’s only response to date includes giving bus drivers a commemorative biscuit to celebrate a one-off survey result, and offering $50 vouchers if drivers refer a friend into the job. It has been completely ineffective.
“Tasmanians don’t want another committee that will buy the Minister more time. They want solutions right now so that our buses actually turn up.”
Minister’s Metro mishandling highlights lack of Liberal plan
8 February 2023
The first day of school has not started well for the hundreds of kids who were left stranded this morning after Metro was forced to cancel over seventy-eight bus services.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne described the cancellations as yet another blow to Hobart commuters who are fed up with this government’s lack of action over worsening traffic congestion.
“After nearly a decade in office, this State Liberal Government still don’t have a plan to solve the major chokepoints across Hobart’s road network including Macquarie and Davey Streets, the Brooker Highway and Tasman Bridge,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“Public transport is a key part of reducing Hobart’s congestion, but under Minister Ferguson’s watch, our public transport system is failing the needs of commuters.
“Metro bus drivers have repeatedly raised concerns about short-staffing and their own safety, but the Minister has chosen to ignore these concerns. Bus drivers are now considering walking off the job due to how they are being treated.
“It’s patently clear that Minster Michael Ferguson has no plan to fix traffic congestion, no plan to improve Metro, and no ability to actually deliver any of the missing transport initiatives his government promised, such as the underground bus mall or smart ticketing system.
“Now more than ever, Hobart needs solutions to its worsening traffic congestion and a reliable public transport network. But after nearly a decade in office, this State Liberal Government have clearly failed on both fronts.”
Consultants cash in on the Office of the Coordinator-General
7 December 2022
The Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG) has once again come under fire after documents released under RTI revealed the office has spent $845,578 on consultants and $92,112 on travel and accommodation over the last two financial years.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne said Tasmanians deserved to know what value for money they are getting from the Coordinator-General, who is paid more than the Premier.
“The Government claims the Office of the Coordinator-General has somehow facilitated over a billion dollars of investment in Tasmania in just three years, but to me this sounds farcical,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“I don’t believe the Government’s argument that Tasmania would otherwise miss out on all this investment if it wasn’t for the Coordinator-General and all this expenditure on consultants.”
One of the consultants commissioned by the OCG last year did a feasibility study for a glass bottling plant at Bell Bay, as was revealed in a separate RTI request from David O’Byrne. This study cost taxpayers $79,720 and found the Tasmanian market has 1/15th the scale required for a glass bottling plant to be viable.
“What value for money did Tasmanians get from this almost $80,000 study? State Development Minister Guy Barnett needs to explain to struggling Tasmanians why this sort of expenditure is necessary,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“Guy Barnett is also the Minister for Housing. Instead of spending nearly half a million dollars on consultants ever year, he should put this money towards caring for the 4,534 vulnerable Tasmanians languishing on the social housing register.”
- Expenditure on external consultants was $426,010 (in 2020-21) and $419,568 (2021-22).
- Travel and accommodation costs were $25,917 (2020-21) and $66,195 (2021-22).
- In 2021, OCG had 18 staff.
- The OCG does not have its own financial statements as the output is included in Department of State Growth financial statements. The costs associated with the OCG output group were $27.7m in 2020-21 and $13.9m in 2021-22.
‘Heartless’: Housing Minister doubles down on cruel debt transfer policy
24 November 2022
Housing Minister Guy Barnett has again refused to condemn social housing providers for transferring debts between registered tenants, after revelations that a tenant was threatened with an eviction notice for failing to pay another tenant’s debt.
For a second day in a row, Franklin MP David O’Byrne asked Minister Barnett in Parliament if he defended the policy and what he was going to do about it, but once again the Minister failed to offer any sort of solution.
“The Minister’s response to my question demonstrated that this government doesn’t see a problem with this needlessly cruel policy that has left at least one tenant in clear financial and emotional distress,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“In a written response provided to me yesterday, the Minister tried to justify this policy by saying that the tenant had ‘agreed to repay’ this other debt. But they only agreed to it because they were threatened with an eviction notice and were worried they would be thrown out on the street if they didn’t pay it.
“In what world is this fair? Why is it so difficult for this Minister to do what is right, call out the policy, and commit to ensuring this never happens again?
“Earlier this year the Premier committed to ‘leading a Government with heart’, but this policy is one of the most heartless and punitive examples of the government’s housing policy I’ve ever seen.
“The Government’s arms’-length Housing Authority hasn’t even been established yet, but already we’re seeing the Housing Minister refuse to take personal responsibility and fix this clear issue within our social housing sector.”
Minister refuses to condemn cruel social housing debt transfers
23 November 2022
A social housing tenant has been threatened with eviction if they fail to pay a rent debt belonging to another tenant in the same house, but Housing Minister Guy Barnett has refused to condemn the policy or commit to a fix.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne raised an example in Question Time about a constituent who has been paying off unpaid rent accrued by another registered tenant, out of fear they would otherwise face eviction if this debt wasn’t paid.
“This is a grossly unfair situation. Tenants shouldn’t be forced to pay bay another tenant’s unpaid rent, regardless of whether these tenants are related or not,” said Mr O’Byrne.
“This is a punitive measure that will put enormous pressure on social housing tenants, many of whom are in financial stress. This heartless attempt at recouping rental income completely undermines the core principles of public and social housing.
“Today in Parliament, Housing Minister Guy Barnett refused to condemn this cruel policy or offer any sort of solution for this particular affected tenant, who has already paid back a significant amount of this debt.
“The Minister’s refusal to take personal responsibility for this matter epitomises the arms’-length nature of the State Government’s controversial Housing Authority, which has only just been established.
“I wrote to the Minister about this concerning issue two weeks ago and hadn’t heard back. But in response to my question today, Guy Barnett claimed that he had responded to my concerns, which was patently untrue.
“It wasn’t until after I asked the question that the Minister’s response was sent, with him later having to correct the record. But, in the Minister’s letter, he again fails to condemn this policy and appears to blame this particular tenant for not filing the correct paperwork.
“What’s worse is that the Minister hopes that this individual is able to reach an outcome with their housing provider ‘that both the tenant and the housing provider can agree on.’ It shouldn’t be up to this tenant to bargain with their social housing provider to avoid paying a debt which isn’t theirs.”
Attorney-General doubles down on TASCAT interference, undermines ‘independent’ selection panel
22 November 2022
Attorney-General Elise Archer has doubled down on her decision to politically interfere in the ‘independent’ TASCAT candidate selection process and hand-pick candidates.
Franklin MP David O’Byrne asked the Minister in Parliament today as to why the recommendations from an expert independent recruitment panel was overruled, which led to the president of TASCAT taking the extraordinary step of writing to the Minister directly expressing deep concern.
“Today, the Minister failed to properly explain why her blatant interference in this important process was justified. Instead, the Attorney-General took the extraordinary step of blaming the expert independent selection panel for not doing their job” said Mr O’Byrne.
“Four suitable candidates recommended by the independent panel were stricken off the list. It’s appears that any candidate who has been even slightly critical of the Minister or the Government has been excluded from these roles. There is a long history of suitable members of the judiciary being appointed in roles when they have previously engaged in civil discourse.
“In response to my question, the Minister made the extraordinary assertion that this interference was justified to ‘preserve the perception of impartiality’ of TASCAT.
“What’s impartial about circumventing the recommendations of the independent selection panel and the Minister adding their own recommendations?
“In a further attempt to mislead and avoid responsibility, the Minister tried to claim that it is the Governor who makes the final decision on TASCAT appointments. But this statement completely ignores constitutional convention and the fact that the Governor takes this advice from the Minister in the first place.
“This information never would have come to light were it not for a Right to Information request. This Government love to talk about transparency, but their actions are anything but transparent.
“In an absurd attempt to defend her actions, the Minister made the bizarre suggestion in Parliament that I should ‘check twitter’ for facts relating to this matter.”
Media contact: George Cretan (0447 047 317)