May 18, 2017

Horse 2272 - The Minister On The Bus Goes Cut, Cut; Cut

The bus drivers of the Tempe, Burwood, Randwick and other southern Sydney bus depots have gone on strike for 24 hours today because the NSW Rail And Bus Union wants to protest as loudly as possible, their objection to the Berejiklian Government's plans to privatise NSW's buses and then hold a franchise process for the provision of bus services. Last night, the Transport Minister Andrew Constance was adamant that the government would not change it's position and that it wouldn't be strong armed by the union.
To the Transport Minister Andrew Constance and the Premier Of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, I have this to say: Please resign immediately. If you do not want to run the government of New South Wales, then please get out immediately.
When Frances De Groot of the New Guard upstaged the then Premier Jack Lang, and slashed the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with a sword and on horseback, he did so "in the name of the decent and respectable people of New South Wales". To be perfectly honest, I can't think of a more visible display of brilliance in this state's history. Right at the opening ceremony for one of Sydney's two most iconic landmarks, we had a protest which should serve as a permanent warning to every government who wants to live at Macquarie Street, that they should be subject to the people of New South Wales and that those same people of New South Wales don't like to be dictated to by someone in an office block.

There has been talk of recycling capital by this government, which as far as I can tell means that their intent is to flog off every single asset owned by the people of New South Wales, to their friends, who will then jack up the prices for the services which are provided whilst at the same time providing a worse quality of service.
Specifically the excuse put forward by the Transport Minister Andrew Constance that there has been an increase in the number of complaints about travel times and late running services, is a reflection that there has been a chronic shortage in the provision of Infrastructure for the past forty years and that this should be taken as a signal to properly fund infrastructure and build more; not sell off what already exists. The fact that Sydney had the world's second largest tram network in the world, and tore it up and still hasn't replaced it, should be seen as a filthy black stain on the NSW State Government and all governments from Cahill onwards have been criminally culpable in their refusal to put back that which was stolen. The subsequent privatisation of the various utility companies, should also be seen as direct theft from the decent and respectable people of New South Wales and I personally would like to see several former state government ministers and premiers brought before the courts for prosecution of corruption and larceny at a grand level. This intent as announced by the Transport Minister Andrew Constance, is no different to any of those former instances of thievery.

If we assume for a second that the bus networks are making a loss, then that should be seen as a public good. The whole point of a public service is that it provides a service to the public. A public loss making entity such as this, provides a service many times that of the losses incurred because of the value of the goods and services which are produced as a result of people going to work. As for the notion that there might be obvious loss making bus routes, there is the fact that they happen to pass through places where people rely on them.
If we assume for a second that the bus networks are making a profit, then that should also be seen as a public good. Public services which return revenue to the state government in terms of profits, help to defray the cost of government.
On either side of the economic argument, the provision of a public good should be seen as something which is good for the public. Placing something which should be the responsibility of the government into private hands, instantly makes that thing subject to the demands of the market, which prunes those things which are unprofitable. It should never be forgotten that the market is only capable of determining one thing and one thing only: price. The market can not and does not understand or care about the usefulness and goodness of anything unless there is a dollar amount attached. If this is the basis by which the usefulness and goodness of the bus networks has been determined then this only serves to prove that the current Transport Minister Andrew Constance knows the price of his portfolio and knows nothing about its value. It is exceptionally rare that a cabinet minister retains same portfolio for more than a decade, but the decisions that a cabinet minister can make can have effects that rattle on for many decades. Long after Andrew Constance's tenure as Transport Minister has expired and been forgotten, the ramifications of a decision like this will continue to affect the lives of ordinary people.

There is also the rather annoying problem that the state government doesn't expect any savings from the sale of the bus networks as private contractors are still paid statutory amounts from providing a service. The only goal as far as I can see is that privatisation is an attempt to break up the union and in doing so weaken the opposition Labor Party's voting base. There doesn't seem to be any changes predicted to immediate bus service levels caused by this change, merely the company and conditions that the driver work for.

This is why I am absolutely 100% behind the decision of the NSW Rail And Bus Union to go on strike. The drivers haven't necessarily gone on strike because they want more money but because the very viability of the bus network itself is at stake. As far as I'm concerned, not only should they be on strike but they should be parking a whole bunch of buses right down Macquarie Street and blocking the street entirely. If possible the entire public gallery should be filled with bus drivers. Strike action mostly only happens when one party refuses to yield; in this case, the state government has simply made an announcement without warning and it's not just a slap in the face to the union but a boot to the head of the "decent and respectable people of New South Wales".

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