Mr NORTHE (Morwell) — I rise this afternoon to speak on the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Amendment (Abolition of the Penalty Fares Scheme) Bill 2016. Fare evasion, I think, is very frustrating for all commuters who do the right thing and pay their way around public transport. I suppose in my experiences over a period of time using public transport, whether it is on V/Line services or particularly around trams in the city, it used to absolutely frustrate me no end, before there was free travel on the trams in the city, the amount of people who would get on after you or at the same time as you and would never use their myki card or, even before that, pay their way. When someone does that and does that deliberately, it means a cost to all of us in the end, so any ways and means that we can tackle fare evasion I do support.
I do note what we are talking about here today is the abolition of a particular initiative and system that was implemented by the coalition to tackle fare evasion. As the member for Croydon said, it probably came at a time when fare evasion was very high in Victoria. The rationale and reasoning for introducing an on-the-spot fine I think at least had merit in saying to the Victorian community and to those who deliberately fare evade that that would not be acceptable and we needed to do something about it. That introduction of an on-the-spot $75 fine hopefully had some impact upon that.
As other members have said in their contributions, I understand maybe there were some unintended consequences for certain commuters. There may have been some perverse outcomes, and as the member for Croydon said, the coalition’s position is to not oppose the bill. But I think in many respects, unfortunately, the introduction of myki as our ticketing system probably did lead to an increase in fare evasion, and I will talk more about that during my contribution.
As the member for Croydon also said during the course of debate, on one hand the government is saying, ‘We’re pleased that we have seen fare evasion come down over time to now 4.1 per cent’, as articulated in the second-reading speech. You could actually suggest that one of the reasons for that was the introduction of on-the-spot fines. How you rationalise those two things is for others to comment on, but you could suggest that the on-the-spot fines did have an impact upon fare evaders. Indeed if you have look at the second-reading speech, on the second page it says:
This ‘one size fits all’ approach to compliance and enforcement goes against behavioural economic research that shows that only about 8 per cent of people who fare evade do so deliberately.
So 8 per cent of people who do fare evade do so deliberately. You could draw a conclusion from that and say that 92 per cent of people do not know how to use the public ticketing transport system effectively. I think there have been massive problems, particularly with myki, and I say that because it is a common issue that still comes into my office back in Morwell on a regular basis about how you do that if people are visiting the city, in particular for a short period of time or have not been there for some time, particularly older people within the community who are not familiar with the system. It has had an enormous amount of challenges and issues over a period of time, and I do not think we are there yet. That comment about only 8 per cent of people fare evading deliberately would suggest to me that there is a whole range of other people out there who do not do it deliberately but do not know how to use the myki ticketing system effectively, and that is of some concern.
In terms of using a ticketing system, as I have said, over time I have been able to use the trams in the CBD and outer suburbs, but quite often I will catch the train to Melbourne. The V/Line services generally I would say are okay, but the Gippsland line itself has had its fair share of what I would deem as disasters over a period of time. One cannot forget the first few months of this year when we had a massive disruption to our V/Line services on the Gippsland line, where effectively they were replaced by buses for a long period of time. Again, from a ticketing and fare perspective, that cause was only part of the grief for people who were trying to get from destination A to destination B in the most effective way, but it did create massive challenges and issues with the ticketing system that was in place at the time.
In terms of the services that we have on the Gippsland rail services, it is a massive disappointment for people in our community that in 2009 we had the announcement of the regional rail link project — which was fantastic for Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo; absolutely no doubt about that — where dedicated lines were constructed into the city, but Gippsland was completely left off that rail link project, and we are now experiencing enormous capacity and punctuality issues on our line.
We have had strong growth in patronage on our rail services, but more needs to be done to support people from the Gippsland region in getting to their destinations with better services and infrastructure. I note that today the government has announced additional VLocity carriages, and that is a good thing, but what we really need to know from the government is what, if and how many of those carriages will actually be dedicated to this rail line. That is what our commuters need to know.
We need more peak services. One of the commitments that the coalition made before the last election was to have additional peak services, because that is where the challenges are with capacity and punctuality. Whilst the government has announced a couple of off-peak services, we desperately need additional peak services to come online as soon as possible for our rail commuters.
One of the other challenges when we are talking about capacity and indeed the ticketing system is the fact that when we enter the system from Gippsland we have a number of Metro train commuters who jump on V/Line trains and carriages. That causes great consternation, particularly on those return trips, when you can have many elderly people who might have a train trip for 4 hours and be forced to stand for 11⁄2 hours or 2 hours. Then when the V/Line train stops at Pakenham we have this mass exodus, and many of those commuters — I have witnessed it firsthand — simply do not pay for the privilege of being on that train. More needs to be done to look after Gippsland commuters instead of commuters in the metropolitan and outer suburban areas where they have access to Metro trains as well. That is a massive issue.
One of the other major concerns of course, as has been put forward by the regional citizens jury, was the proposal to transfer Gippsland commuters at Pakenham for interchange, and that is something that has been rejected very strongly by Gippsland commuters.
In terms of fare evasion on buses, it is obviously harder for people to evade fares on buses. At the moment in the Latrobe Valley region we are going through a bus service review. I know that four or five years ago the coalition government was able to introduce about 800 new weekly services across the Latrobe Valley, which was fantastic. But it is time again to review how effective those services are. Certainly from a Traralgon perspective I know there is a massive push at the moment from businesses in the east of Traralgon to have new routes go into that area, where there is a whole range of new businesses. It is good for workers and good for those people who are wanting to shop and spend their money at the east end of Traralgon. So that is something that we would pursue as well.
We have just recently got some figures back on the Night Network. It is a new initiative by the government that goes from Southern Cross station to Traralgon in the early hours of the morning. It does not seem to be too effective in terms of its numbers, and we will watch that very closely. But in terms of the legislation, as the member for Croydon said, our position is to not oppose the bill.