Wednesday 2010 - Estimates Committee B (McKim) - Part 1






6.4  CSO:  Payment to Metro Tas Pty Ltd -


Mr FINCH - Minister, there is a lot of information in point 14 on page 6.9 about the increase in money provided for long-term capital requirement, increased cost and increased demand for services.  Is that allocation sufficient to cover people who need entitlements and concessions to be able to use the Metro service?


Mr McKIM - Are you asking specifically in relation to Metro?


Mr FINCH - Yes.


CHAIR - It is 6.4.


Mr McILFATRICK - The Government Prices Oversight Committee sets - sets a reference about the concession framework and how equitable it is, and we have made a lot of changes over recent years with school buses, et cetera.  If you are talking about the availability of the general concession, I think we have the right mix, but it is something that, as economic conditions change, we will be wanting to look at it to make sure that it continues to be the right mix.


Mr FINCH - I am curious about representations that might come to Metro in respect of people who find the fares are out of their range - perhaps people who use the bus more.  Is there a better allocation to them?


Mr McKIM - It would be great to be able to provide a free service for everything that Government does, but there is a significant CSO payment to Metro, and within the constraints of its operating framework Metro does a good job to keep prices down.  I am just wondering if I have my Green card with me, but I do not think I have - no, it is in my wallet in my office.  When you buy a Green card - and I have just signed off on a letter that you will all get to let you know about the benefits of Green card - when you buy $20 worth of credit on a Green card, Metro will give you an extra $5 for free, and when students put $10 on they get $12.50 instead of the $10.  If you use Green card you are getting some free travel, simply by choosing to use an electronic card. Every Metro bus has a swiper, and you just put your card on the tray on the way in, it reads the card and deducts the fare from your card.


There are things that Metro is doing to bring down the cost of passenger transport, but I accept that some people will struggle at times with the fares for public transport and that is  important, because public transport has a crucial role to play in addressing social disadvantage. Some people simply cannot afford to own and operate a motor vehicle and they actually rely on our public transport system to get around.  If those people are struggling with the fares, that is certainly an issue.


Mr FINCH - As we have heard from Mr McIlfatrick, there is a review of that and constant monitoring of it.   


Mr McILFATRICK - Metro is constantly looking at it.  It is probably more of a GBE inquiry, but they very much aware of them - they are providing a public service and I have found them to be very flexible in trying to meet customer needs.  One of our issues is to get more full fare paying passengers onto Metro, to take the pressure off and make it a more viable business all around. 


Mr FINCH - Yes, that is the thrust of what you were saying, Minister. The explanation of point 14 in respect of this output group refers to supporting Metro's long-term capital requirement, and increased costs, et cetera.  What things are we talking about with respect to capital?


Mr McKIM - For Metro?


Mr FINCH - Yes.


Mr McKIM - That would be buses, the maintenance equipment - the things you need to run a business enterprise such as Metro.


Mr FINCH - The increase we have had from 2009 - and we have something like $4 million extra in the Budget -  is that because of increased costs of buses?


Mr McKIM - Some of that would be due to increased costs but, as I have just indicated, Metro has recently ordered four new buses for its fleet, and that would have part of the general rollover of the fleet.  Metro makes decisions, and I am a shareholder minister.  If Metro is making appalling decisions I would want to know why, but I do not think it is.  I have every confidence in Metro and the CEO, Heather Hazelgrove, to make good decisions.  I think Metro has come a long way in the last five years or so, and is in the process of transforming itself into a twenty-first century public transport provider - I am very excited about Metro's future.  The expenditure of that money is effectively made by Metro, not by anyone sitting at this table, but the sort of things that it would be expended are new buses, and facilities, if needed - new bus shelter and those type things.


Mr FINCH - Thanks, Minister.  Thanks, Chair.