OXLEY ELECTORATE RAIL SERVICES
(Oxley) [6.22 p.m.]: I wish to speak about proposals by the management of Countrylink to cut jobs and services from stations and travel centres in country New South Wales. In the electorate of Oxley, stations targeted for the cuts include Wauchope, Kempsey and Macksville. In total almost 10 full-time permanent positions will be lost in towns which have already suffered job cuts imposed under the economic rationalist policies of the Carr Labor Government. Recently all of the three towns I have mentioned lost hospital catering and linen jobs, whilst Wauchope and Kempsey lost jobs in State Forests and TAFE arising from the State budget.
The introduction of compulsory competitive tendering in local government also threatens many more jobs in those same towns. The Government has overseen a systematic stripping of resources out of country New South Wales with Sydney and the Olympics being the beneficiaries. Meanwhile country towns such as Wauchope, Kempsey and Macksville are losing permanent jobs and local pay packets hand over fist. Unfortunately, as the public sector pulls out of these towns that have already suffered so much, the private sector, especially small business, is hit hard. Where are the social and economic impact statements about these harsh policies which are exacerbating the disadvantage which is permeating country New South Wales? Where is the breakaway Labor faction which pretends to care about country people?
Another impact of the proposed cuts by Countrylink is to greatly reduce the level of services to residents. Passengers, particularly the elderly and disabled, will be forced to board and disembark at the stations without any assistance whatsoever for night services. There is also a major safety issue on unattended stations later at night. The night services, particularly the XPT, are very strongly patronised by many pensioners who have retired to the beautiful coastal villages in Oxley such as South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads, Scotts Head, Stuarts Point and also Port Macquarie.
Those cuts are also proposed in the context of an average 8 per cent hike in fares. This Government seems to be saying "pay more, get less" to a section of the community which can least afford it. Countrylink is not simply about profits, although the review talks about Countrylink making a profit and the documentation I have seen shows that it is at least partially profit driven, but it has a community service obligation. The Government has an obligation to provide a service to people, particularly country people, many of whom travel to the city almost exclusively by train. The review under way by Countrylink seems to be a revenue-raising exercise, which is consistent with the rise in fares.
In conclusion, that outrageous proposal by Countrylink involves the axing of jobs in country towns which have already been hit hard with cuts to government departments. That flies in the face of the Premier’s much-vaunted jobs plan. It also involves a withdrawal of services to the very people who are most in need, just after they have been slugged with a steep rise in fares. My constituents are vehemently opposed to these penny-pinching plans. I have already presented petitions in this House stating their opposition. Prior to the election the Minister promised that there would not be cuts to services or jobs at Countrylink stations. I, therefore, call upon the Minister to put paid to the latest proposals by Countrylink forthwith.