Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:28): My question is to the Minister for Public Transport. Minister, I am sure you are well aware of the plight of Gippsland commuters, who have to endure ongoing disruptions to V/Line services, including weeks and weeks of buses replacing trains, regularly late and cancelled services as well as unscheduled interruptions, which have had a massive impact upon many frustrated and angry Latrobe Valley individuals, students, seniors and families. Minister, V/Line commuters in my electorate feel they are significantly disadvantaged in comparison to our regional counterparts in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo in not only the quality of rail services but the cost of train fares. So, Minister, my question is: should Latrobe Valley commuters, including seniors and students, be paying more to utilise V/Line services than those in other major regional centres?
Ms HORNE (Williamstown—Minister for Ports and Freight, Minister for Public Transport) (12:29): I would like to thank the member for his question, and I would just like to make note that this is my first question in question time, and it has come from an Independent.
Ms HORNE: I recognise that people in Gippsland have put up with an awful lot of planned disruption as we have got on with the job of upgrading the Cranbourne–Pakenham line. We are investing $530 million in upgrading the Gippsland line, and those Gippsland passengers—last year they did have to put up with over 100 days of disruption. That is why we provided them with free travel during that period in recognition of us getting on with the job of delivering better rail lines and improved services.
Mr Northe: On a point of order, Speaker, the minister has failed to answer the question specifically, which was: should Latrobe Valley commuters be paying more for their fares than other major regional centres? I would ask that you direct the minister to provide a written answer to the question. The SPEAKER: Order! The minister has already concluded her answer.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:32): Minister, on 13 December 2018 you released a media statement titled, ‘Cheaper and easier public transport travel for students’. Within the media release you said, and I quote: This will make it simpler and cheaper for students to get concession fares on public transport. Many students around Victoria rely on public transport to get them to school and to get them around town—we’re making it easier for them. Minister, if you are making it simpler, easier and cheaper for Latrobe Valley students, then why are parents of students like Peter writing to me and saying that fares for Latrobe Valley students are, and I quote, ‘absolutely outrageous, compared to other regional centres’. For example, students in Bendigo can obtain a regional student pass at a cost of $235 per annum, yet Latrobe Valley students are ineligible and are forced to pay nearly three times this price. Minister, will you do the right thing and fix this unfair and inequitable fare structure and ensure Latrobe Valley students do not have to pay more for public transport than students in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo?
Ms HORNE (Williamstown—Minister for Ports and Freight, Minister for Public Transport) (12:33): Thank you very much for your question, member for Morwell. If you would like me to talk at length about the government’s achievements in public transport, investing in regional Victoria, when I started work in transport 15 years ago it was on a legacy of a government that had—
Mr Northe: On a point of order, Speaker, in terms of relevance, the minister has failed to even talk about the fare structure that disadvantages Latrobe Valley students, and I direct you to ask the minister to come back and answer the question as it was asked.
Ms HORNE: Back to where I was, there are a couple of things that this government has done in terms of improving public transport for regional students. Members interjecting. Ms HORNE: It’s better than closing train lines. Ms HORNE: We have already put on the record that regional V/Line fares will not rise by more than 2.2 per cent. We have introduced savings on regional fares, where passengers on monthly and two-monthly passes now get the same as—
Mr Northe: On a point of order, Speaker, I renew my point of order. The minister is not relevant to the question that I asked: why Latrobe Valley students are paying higher fares than Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, and when will she fix this inequity. She has failed to answer that question, and I ask you to bring her back to answering the question that was asked.
The SPEAKER: Order! The minister is being relevant to the question that was asked.
Ms HORNE: I am sorry, I am talking about—let us actually talk about fares and what we have delivered in fares. We have got rid of a 2.5 per cent—