By Michael Swifte, Page Manager, The Translink Ripoff
Shortly before concession fares were brought in on April 3 we produced a briefing document outlining the failure of community consultation and consistent lack of accountability from the current Labor state government in regards to the process of fulfilling their election commitment to introducing concession fares for low income earners (which we managed to gain from Jackie Trad at a public meeting). The entire briefing which was shared with media and community services professionals has been published here for anyone who's interested in what the media and the advocacy groups ignored.
Labor Policy Platform 2014
“7.60 Labor will maintain public transport concessions and extend them to recipients of the Newstart allowance.”
Policy on the 2015 Election Trail
Jackie Trad promised us on 3 separate occasions that she would provide written commitments during the 2015 state election campaign including her party's commitments to extending concession fares to unemployed/Health Care Card holders. No written statements were issued.
Video: Michael Swifte seeking confirmation during 2015 election Politics in the Pub/Meet the candidates. In the video Jackie Trad reaffirms Queensland Labor's 2014 Policy Platform and acknowledges her party's commitment to introducing concession fares for unemployed/Health care Card holders. In the video she offers a meeting to The Translink Ripoff.
Pinned Post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TTRipoff/
Our Case for Reform in early 2015
In anticipation of our meeting with Jackie Trad, Tony Corbett secured an op-ed in The Courier Mail which is an abridged version of the ministerial brief presented ahead of our meeting.
The Courier Mail op-ed: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-brisbane-cant-be-worldclass-without-an-efficient-affordable-and-accessible-public-transport-system/news-story/a33158d4a012da34869c05f6fa1bdf94?nk=edc9bc18ba7fc11278a22ebc3e1bdd60-1487233872
MINISTERIAL BRIEF: THIS IS OUR AGENDA FOR REFORM
Commuting HCC Concessions and Burying the Fairer Fares Community Engagement
In our meeting with Jackie Trad she agreed with almost all our arguments regarding root and branch reform. Shortly after the meeting the premier issued her 'Ministerial Charter Letters' which were leaked to the media. In the charter letter to Jackie Trad there was no mention of introducing concessions for unemployed/Health Care Card holders. Thus it seemed HCC concessions were being passed over to the upcoming fare review. The below link contains the text of the charter letter.
In an interview on 612 ABC, June 22, 2015 Jackie Trad was asked why she couldn't reform concession fares policy now and bring Queensland into line with all other mainland states and territories and this was her response.
"Well we could but actually we have to have a look at some of the metrics around it"
"Well we could but actually we have to have a look at some of the metrics around it"
Jackie Trad was transport minister when the fare review taskforce was announced. She promised extensive community engagement. Not only did her government not engage extensively with the public they also did this after making their decisions and taking them to budget. Here's a quote from then transport minister Jackie Trad in a statement announcing the appointment of a Fare Review Taskforce.
“We will also engage extensively with the public, providing them with the opportunity to have their say before making a decision about the future of public transport fares in South East Queensland.”
Fare Review – Terms of Reference includes 'consideration' of concession fares.
“The scope includes consideration of: products, ticket types including concession classes.”
“Following on from public consultation recommendations will be submitted to government."
In February 2016 Stirling Hinchliffe released a statement titled: 'Statement on the Independent Fare Review'. In it he promised that:
“The review is expected to be handed down in the first half of this year and will be followed by extensive community consultation.”
The terms of reference were breached when the Taskforce Report, Government Response, and Community Engagement online 10 question survey were launched all at once with no “detailed options paper” presented for the promised “extensive community engagement”. The quote below is from the June 12, 2016 ministerial statement announcing the outcomes of the Fare Review.
“For more information about the fare change online, you can view:
Taskforce Report https://haveyoursay.translink.com.au/SEQ-Fare-Review/documents/37378/download (external site)
Government Response https://haveyoursay.translink.com.au/SEQ-Fare-Review/documents/37379/download(external site)
Zones Map https://haveyoursay.translink.com.au/SEQ-Fare-Review/documents/37380/download (external site)
Fare Calculator http://jp.translink.com.au/fare-review (external site)Taskforce report (external site)
For more information about the fare reform or to have your say, visit the https://haveyoursay.translink.com.au/SEQ-Fare-Review (external site)”
Below is the June 12, 2016 ministerial statement announcing the completion of the fare review. In it the time frame offered for the introduction of concession fares is listed as “from early 2017”:
“Concessions for Queensland job seekers: TransLink will work with Federal Agencies so jobseekers on Newstart or Youth Allowance will be able to access concession fares from early 2017. Concession fares for asylum seekers: In line with other states like New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT, asylum seekers in Queensland will be able to access concession fares to use public transport from early 2017.”
The Fare Review Taskforce Report, released on June 12, 2016 indicates that an “options paper” will be released. This aligns with the Terms of Reference, but no options paper ever appeared.
“Following consideration of the SEQ Fare Review Taskforce’s Options Paper, the Queensland Government will also engage extensively with the public, providing them with the opportunity to have their say before making a decision about the future of public transport fares in South East Queensland.”
Government fare review reforms were sent to budget on June 14, 2 days after the Taskforce Report, Government Response, and community engagement online survey were released.
An ABC article from June 14, 2016 shows the figure that will be taken to budget to cover the cost of fare and zone reforms.
“$210 million in public transport revenue to be foregone to fund new zone and fare structure in south-east Queensland”
Basic information about the reforms taken to budget.
On September 5, 2016 the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report was released with zero notification to the public through social media and minimal meta data listed on the downloadable PDF. There was one unreported mention of the community engagement outcomes in Hansard, but no ministerial statement.
“The community feedback on these changes has been overwhelmingly positive. During the consultation period, there were 30,756 visits to the Fairer Fares web page on the TransLink website, with 3,555 customers providing direct feedback via a 10-question survey to inform future fare planning.”
Our private correspondence with Translink Customer Relations/External Affairs revealed the dates of the only attempts to communicate the results of the community engagement process.
Text of email from Jesse at TransLink Customer Relations, 10/01/17:
“On Wednesday 31 August 2016, the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games, made a statement to the Queensland Parliament on the outcomes of the feedback process. A summary of the feedback from the community was provided in the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report, which was released to the public via the Fare Review website on Monday 5 September 2016. A copy of the report is attached for your reference.”
We questioned Taskforce member and public transport users advocate Robert Dow who acknowledged that he “stumbled” on the community engagement report and was not sent the report. We suspect that no member of the Taskforce was alerted to the release of the community engagement report.
Here are 2 quotes from Robert Dow tweets (@Robert_Dow) regarding the discovery of the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report roughly 3 months after it's release, December 8, 2016:
“@TransFixSEQ I stumbled on it last week!”
“@TransFixSEQ...They did not even tell the fare review task force!”
Here is a link to the web page where the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report can be downloaded:
On December 14, 2016 it was announced that the Fairer Fares package of reforms would be brought forward to December 19 with no concessions to be brought in until an unspecified time “in 2017”.
“Concessions for Queensland job seekers: TransLink will work with Federal Agencies so jobseekers on Newstart or Youth Allowance will be able to access concession fares in 2017.”
“Concession fares for asylum seekers: In line with other states like New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT, asylum seekers in Queensland will be able to access concession fares to use public transport in 2017.”
A January 25, 2017 update from Mark Henley, CEO of the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) indicates that in “mid 2017” we may see concession fares. This means that the most important decisions and design elements are likely being set in place as I write.
“Our most recent communication with the Department of Transport is that the transport concessions for job seekers and asylum seekers is more likely to be implemented mid-2017 rather than early.”
Advocacy from QCOSS?
Our fare comparison table features in this QCOSS Transport Disadvantage forum report from August 2011.
Mark Henley from QCOSS has only ever provided what we would describe as a soft message for the state government on concession fares. At each stage he has indicated support for the introduction of concession fares but has not sought to hold the government to a timetable and has not articulated any need for an open and accountable process.
The section titled 'Better Targeted Concessions' in the QCOSS 2016/17 Pre Budget Submission includes this statement:
"QCOSS believes that a review of the level and targeting of concessions for people on low incomes in Queensland would identify a range of opportunities to most effectively use the concession spend. This might include concessions for people on low incomes who use public transport"
QCOSS 2016/17 Pre Budget Submission:
In a June 13, 2016 media release from titled 'Job seekers and asylum seekers on the move with concessions announced' QCOSS made the statement:
“We look forward to continuing to work with government throughout the implementation of this initiative and seeing these concessions applied across the state,”
Hansard from June 15, 2016 contains this statement from Labor MP Curtis Pitt attributing a supportive position to Mark Henley and QCOSS:
“Mark Henley from the Queensland Council of Social Service says there are some good things in the state budget. He says the decision about transport concessions for jobseekers and asylum seekers is good news.”
No submission was made by QCOSS to the Fare Review Taskforce and we gather from our January 18 meeting with Mark Henley and Kamil Shah, and through subsequent email exchanges, that if any communication took place before or during the fare review, the only item communicated was the existence of a 2013 QCOSS submission titled 'Review of public transport fares for the TransLink public transport network in South East Queensland' suggesting a fare review.
Below is a quote from our private correspondence after our meeting:
“It is my understanding there was not an additional submission prepared. I know we made sure they had access to the 2013 submission. To be honest I don’t recall whether there was an opportunity to provide written submissions at the time.”
Below is a link to the previously mentioned 2013 QCOSS submission to the Queensland government. It was prepared with the help of Rail Back on Track, Council of the Ageing (COTA) and the Multicultural Development Association (MDA). It contains some excellent arguments for bringing in concession fares and provides some useful case studies to explain some of the challenging circumstances of low income earners in accessing public transport. An updated version of this report would have served the taskforce well in their deliberations.
Jackie Trad and her allies
Queensland Community Alliance along with the Multi-Cultural Development Association, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane successfully lobbied both Jackie Trad and Stirling Hinchliffe for the extention of concession fares to asylum seekers. Below is a link to the online petition hosted by Queensland Community Alliance and a link to Jackie Trad's Ministerial Diary for December 2015 indicating that a December 3, 2015 meeting was held.
On June 12, 2016 Jackie Trad wrote the below quote in a post on her Facebook page, at this stage she was no longer transport minister. In the accompanying poster Labor claims concessions for “asylum seekers” and “job seekers” as part of “Public Transport Reforms” that “#LaborDelivers”. Jackie Trad copied Queensland Community Alliance into the post. The message in the poster and particularly the #LaborDelivers hashtag is an assertion that change has been delivered. The reality at the time this Facebook post was being viewed, and at the time of writing (13/03/17) was that none of the “promised” policy on concession fares had been delivered. We could not find the poster art or #LaborDelivers messaging outside the Facebook silo.
“Worked hard as shadow transport minister to have developed & promised this policy. Proud to have delivered it in Government. #LaborDelivers Queensland Community Alliance”
Community Alliance welcomes the concessions for asylum seekers promised at the announcement of the Fairer Fares Package.
“The Queensland Community Alliance welcomes the Queensland Government's announcement that they will extend public transport concessional fares to asylum seekers. Alliance leaders Kerrin Benson, Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Owen Doogan have all indicated their support for this announcement.”