LABOR has slammed the Baird government’s ‘‘Transport for Newcastle’’ announcement as a shock privatisation that should have been tested as an election policy.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced its ‘‘Transport for Newcastle’’ model in a snap visit to the city early on Thursday morning.
Mr Constance said the government wanted a single private operator to run Newcastle’s light rail, bus and ferry system.
Senior bureaucrats from Transport for NSW (formerly the department of transport) briefed Newcastle Buses staff on Thursday morning, leaving Labor MPs Tim Crakanthorp and Jodie Harrison out on the footpath to blast the government’s ‘‘underhanded’’ tactics.
Ms Harrison said there had been no briefings or warnings from the government that it was considering privatising the buses or ferries, let alone seeking a single operator to run all three.
Ms Harrison said Labor opposed the privatisation outright, and feared its impact on jobs and on bus routes that were ‘‘marginal’’ financially but an important community service none the less.
Mr Crakanthorp said the privatisation plan was a ‘‘huge shock’’.
‘‘There is no good reason why the government cannot provide these services,’’ Mr Crakanthorp said.
‘‘You don’t just throw up your hands and say ‘we can’t do it’, we will we give it to the private sector.’’
‘‘We believe in a government-funded Hunter transport authority to manage transport in Newcastle and the Hunter.’’
The Baird government privatisation follows an early 1990s attempt by the Greiner Coalition government, which eventually failed after months of fighting.
A Rail, Tram and Bus Union organiser with a prominent role in that campaign, Dave Winwood, said on Thursday that the latest privatisation proposal was also capable of defeat.
‘‘In all of these cases, Redgum had things right,’’ Mr Winwood, now retired, said.
‘‘If you don’t fight, you lose.’’
"Privatising buses, like raising the GST, will penalise low income earners the most, because they make up a great number of our passengers.’’