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They’ve taken Oaks Estate? Is NSW eating the ACT? Yes, Minister

By 31 May 2012 38

[This is the text of a letter from the office of Joy Burch MLA, Member for Brindabella, Minister for Housing, to me.]

Dear Mr [name],

Thank you for your email of 19 April 2012 regarding the lack of bus services to and from Oaks Estate, Queanbeyan, NSW.

Minister Burch has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and to inform you that the issues you raise fall under the portfolio responsibilities Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, Chief Minister. I have forwarded your correspondence to Ms Gallagher for her attention and consideration.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

So Oaks Estate is part of NSW.

Someone should tell ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. Then tell the seven MLAs for Molonglo.

Does Joy Burch really think Oaks Estate is part of Queanbeyan?

More likely is that Minister Burch never even saw my letter which asked for her views on the total lack of ACTION services to Oaks Estate.

The way correspondence is handled, my letter would have been dealt with by her office staff and passed up to an advisor to respond to, as per office protocol for ministerial correspondence.

Why did I write to Joy Burch?

Because as Minister for Housing, she is responsible for the approximately 90 people in a suburb population of 242 who live in the seven blocks of public housing in Oaks Estate. (Refer to table 8, line 122, on the excel spreadsheet for Population Estimates by Statistical Local Area.) When I discovered that there were no ACTION services to Oaks Estate, I thought it was both wrong and unfair. I saw several glaring contradictions between the actual state of affairs in Oaks Estate, and ACT Labor’s 2011-12 policy platform regarding public housing and transport. 

Given that easily accessible public transport would be very helpful to public housing tenants (it costs several thousand dollars a year to own a car), I would have expected the Housing Minister to pursue an ACTION bus service rather than leaving some of the most disadvantaged people in the ACT stranded on the border. It makes sense to have a stack of public housing connected to public transport, so the tenants can commute to jobs and training, right?

No, Minister.

Instead, because my letter had the word ‘bus’ in it, the advisor palmed my letter off to the Minister with portfolio responsibility for ACTION bus services, Katy Gallagher. The advisor ignored all my references to Joy Burch’s portfolio and the public housing in Oaks Estate, and ignored my questions specific to the housing portfolio.

This advisor then would have crafted their response according to rules of standard practice:

  1. Make no promises (in politics, you never give anything away for free – it’s all about leverage – so you wait for an ‘issue’ to become a ‘problem’ and then you ‘solve’ it through two-way deals)
  2. Say as little as possible (so your words won’t come back to haunt you)
  3. The Minister must appear to care (the truth would damage the facade)
  4. Get the response out quickly (there are so many other letters from other constituents whose concerns you have to ignore and palm off)

So we have a member of the ACT’s Legislative Assembly whose advisor is not even clear on the location of an entire ACT suburb where a bunch of people live – people that this advisor’s Minister is supposed to be looking after.

Presumably, this would be one of a small group of advisors to Joy Burch.

So Minister Burch, I’d like to know:

  1. Are all your advisors this rubbish?
  2. Does this advisor repeatedly get key details of other issues completely wrong when they brief you?
  3. Is the standard of this specific advisor general to all the advisors in your office, or in your party?
  4. Are you aware that there is an election this year (or did this advisor tell you that was for NSW too)?

 

Not impressed.

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38 Responses to They’ve taken Oaks Estate? Is NSW eating the ACT? Yes, Minister
#1
damien haas4:56 pm, 31 May 12

Dont feel too bad, the ratepayers of Hall and Tharwa dont have ACTION services either, and they had their schools closed as well.

#2
p16:23 pm, 31 May 12

damien haas said :

Dont feel too bad, the ratepayers of Hall and Tharwa dont have ACTION services either, and they had their schools closed as well.

How many public housing tenents live in Tharwa/Hall? Arguably, those residents choose to live there for lifestyle reasons.

As much as it must suck on the occasions you are in Oaks Estate and *want* to catch a bus to Canberra, I suspect if there was such a service, it would often be pretty empty.

#3
A_Cog6:45 pm, 31 May 12

Yes, p1, the service MAY POSSIBLY be empty… but the ACT govt doesn’t even try or care to find out. FYI, the red rapid 200 from Fyshwick DFO is often empty, so the ‘dead running’ argument for a potential oaks estate bus service isn’t good enough because ACTION are already happy to eat the dead running costs of the red rapid 200 service.

#4
cranky6:54 pm, 31 May 12

A_Cog,

Thank you for a post I would have been proud to have written.

Burch is a loser, and it appears her staff are even less competent.

We do not deserve these oxygen thieves.

#5
POK7:04 pm, 31 May 12

I don’t know the area very well..is it possible to use whatever services Queanbeyan has? She might not care that its an election year- she might gain more votes by bashing the entitled minority in Oaks’ Estate than by announcing more money for a service that is already quite terrible in suburbs much larger and closer to city centres. That its terrible already wont exactly sway pollies to make it *more* terrible.

#6
spinact7:06 pm, 31 May 12

“More likely is that Minister Burch never even saw my letter…” Correct, and the adviser who signed the response probably didn’t read your letter either.

The response is clearly a format acknowledgement letter more than likely prepared by the departmental ministerial correspondence unit/section. I would say the Queanbeyan error can be attributed to some poor low level officer who has to process 100′s of referral letters every day. You probably should be thankful they didn’t refer your letter to the Queanbeyan city council!

#7
PoQ9:11 pm, 31 May 12

I’m on Henderson Rd, and if ACTION came to Oaks Estate, I’d be catching that bus every day. Deanes and their $6.80 fares would have kittens, though. I suspect that’s why there’s no commuter service to HMAS Harman either. (and they didn’t have their school shut like Tharwa, because they didn’t have one to start with).

#8
EvanJames10:41 pm, 31 May 12

There’s a regular and very empty bus (route 10) that does Civic to Majura Park and Fairbairn many times a day. You could have a few of those go a bit longer and do Oaks Estate at peak times. But Deanes would possibly ram the action bus!

#9
qbngeek8:55 am, 01 Jun 12

The way Oaks Estate is shoved in a corner and forgotten is disgraceful. Especially since it was the beginning of the ACT and housed all the workers who went on to build the capital.

Out of interest, do you have anything to do with the signs that keep changing with updates for the last few months? You list a website with no information on it and I have been quite puzzled about what you are planning to do. My curiousity was really given a nudge when the original sign said ‘Shame Overall, Shame’ and I was trying to figure out what the mayor of Queanbeyan had to do with an ACT suburb.

#10
VYBerlinaV8_is_back9:26 am, 01 Jun 12

cranky said :

A_Cog,

Thank you for a post I would have been proud to have written.

Burch is a loser, and it appears her staff are even less competent.

We do not deserve these oxygen thieves.

So stop electing them, Canberra.

#11
p19:42 am, 01 Jun 12

A_Cog said :

Yes, p1, the service MAY POSSIBLY be empty… but the ACT govt doesn’t even try or care to find out. FYI, the red rapid 200 from Fyshwick DFO is often empty, so the ‘dead running’ argument for a potential oaks estate bus service isn’t good enough because ACTION are already happy to eat the dead running costs of the red rapid 200 service.

I wasn’t saying that it shouldn’t run, just the probable reason it doesn’t. I think ACTION really should service Oaks Estate. A loop via the airport monstrosities Brindabella Business Park, Oaks Estate, Queanbeyan centre, Fyshwick and Civic, running both ways a couple of times in the morning and evening would probably be more profitable then a lot of the other routes.

As has been said though, Deanes would man the barricades.

#12
Womblenet11:20 am, 01 Jun 12

It would be fantastic to have a bus service in QBN that doesn’t stop at 5:45pm, if you can fanagle an oaks estate action bus I am sure it would be well populated especially if it went to QBN town centre, and to civic or some such.

#13
poetix1:21 pm, 01 Jun 12

‘Fear not, until Oaks Estate. Do come to Queanbeyan’
Macbeth

#14
A_Cog7:06 pm, 01 Jun 12

Thanks rioters, some good ideas. FYI, when I wrote to Joy Burch, I also wrote to 11 other MLAs to ask them questions specific to their portfolio/shadow/spokesperson role about this issue. I asked transport, education, police, health and housing. They all stepped sideways except Rattenbury, the only MLA who actually read my letter and pursued this issue. More on that in a later post. But I raised the point that the first four and last four services of the Red Rapid 200 come from the depot, so there is no reason ACTION can’t extend to Oaks Estate. But neither Labor nor Liberal were interested. All Labor/Liberal MLAs palmed it off to their respective talking head for transport, and they said, ‘yeah, we’ll get to that in ’13′. What a joke.

#15
I-filed8:40 pm, 01 Jun 12

The only Oaks Estate mullies who need an ACTION service surely are those who have lost their licenses through DUI. I’d love it if the Freakonomics folk could tell us how it is that people on the dole, sorry, invalid pension more likely, somehow always seem to afford to run a car … and tailors … and expensive mixed drinks in a can.

#16
Sir Pompously2:00 am, 02 Jun 12

You will never get the 200 out there. The 200 is a rapid service designed to use major roadways. You will never get the 200 to Oaks Estate, especially with its little population it would not be able to sustain a high frequency service like the 200 (and I would say it would not be able to handle the larger 14.5 metre rigid vehicles running on the 200). The best idea for the 200 is to complete the route at either end, DFO to Woden and Gungahlin to Belconnen.

The 10 may be a possibility though. You may be able to extend select services to Oaks Estate from Fairbairn Park. It may require a re-write of the timetable (turn around time) and driver shifts (To ensure turn around times are kept within the EBA) but it is a possibility. You would not be able to provide a 30 minute frequency though (due to population size and expected demand) but a 1-2 hourly frequency could be done. The problem with an extension of the 10 is you would have no service after about 16:45 and before 9 ish in the morning. The current extension on the service is to provide a service to workers at MJP, BBP and FBP who mostly work between the hours of 8am and 6pm and anything after that is not seen as viable to run.

The main problem you have is Deane’s. Chances are they have a contract with the Government to provide a service to the public of Oaks Estate (And the service they provide is route 838, the on and off Local Link). So the ACT Government may not provide a service run by ACTION as the service is already provided under contract by DBL. I am sure there also used to be a provision in a ticketing section of a Transport Act for a special Oaks Estate fare which also allowed holders of such a ticket to get a transfer onto an ACTION bus on arrival in the ACT. From what I can see this is no longer the case, but I cannot be certain as I cannot find the exact document I am looking for.

#17
jasmine11:25 am, 02 Jun 12

I was told that in one very high profile department they were looking at automatic readers to read the multitudes of correspondence (especially emails) and pick out key words to ‘facilitate’ (don’t ya love that word) easy referral to the relevant portfolio without the unnecessary burden of employees.

What is funny is that key words don’t necessarily tell the whole story and are often throw away words or ‘asides’ to the actual meaning and content of the letter. Eg. Someone could be writing about the lack of support for pensioners and mention that ‘whales’ get more attention and WULLAH off the letter goes to the Minister for the Environment.

Strange but true. Don’t know if it went ahead but there were all sorts of consultations going on a couple of years ago.

#18
youami12:39 pm, 02 Jun 12

I just did checked Google Maps and you are ~1.7km from Queanbeyan town centre. I live in Inner South Canberra and I have to travel further to get to shops than you! So your problem is? Oh you want to go to Canberra? Well walk 750m to Henderson Rd and get a Deanes bus. You want to go to hospital? Oh walk the 900 mtrs. You want to go to Woolies? Walk the 1.2km. Get over it, you have more facilities and services in your immediate proximity than most other ACT suburbs, just so happens to be these services are in NSW and Deanes isn’t as cheap as ACTION. Sometimes life is unfair. I appreciate mobility-impaired people might find it difficult to walk around and carry shopping etc. but seriously though, do you expect a bus at your front door so you can go wherever you want and take you two or three times the distance to services you already have less than 2km away? There are many many other places in and around ACT suburbs that are more than 1.7km away from the things that are so close to you (and I am not talking about Hall/Tharwa). You have everything close by, granted, not at your doorstep but also not unreasonably that far away. Granted you might have to walk a bit –or ride a bike? –or share a cab with your neighbours and split the $5 fare between 3 of you. Of course, I don’t know your circumstances so I could be wrong… happy for you to refute my logic.

#19
IrishPete7:28 pm, 03 Jun 12

youami said :

I just did checked Google Maps and you are ~1.7km from Queanbeyan town centre. I live in Inner South Canberra and I have to travel further to get to shops than you! So your problem is? Oh you want to go to Canberra? Well walk 750m to Henderson Rd and get a Deanes bus. You want to go to hospital? Oh walk the 900 mtrs. You want to go to Woolies? Walk the 1.2km. Get over it, you have more facilities and services in your immediate proximity than most other ACT suburbs, just so happens to be these services are in NSW and Deanes isn’t as cheap as ACTION. Sometimes life is unfair. I appreciate mobility-impaired people might find it difficult to walk around and carry shopping etc. but seriously though, do you expect a bus at your front door so you can go wherever you want and take you two or three times the distance to services you already have less than 2km away? There are many many other places in and around ACT suburbs that are more than 1.7km away from the things that are so close to you (and I am not talking about Hall/Tharwa). You have everything close by, granted, not at your doorstep but also not unreasonably that far away. Granted you might have to walk a bit –or ride a bike? –or share a cab with your neighbours and split the $5 fare between 3 of you. Of course, I don’t know your circumstances so I could be wrong… happy for you to refute my logic.

You miss the point – Deanes are private and expensive. And do not integrate with Action (e.g. transferrable tickets). Oaks Estate residents must travel to somewhere in the ACT to access ACT Government services, as they are ACT residents. Walking into Queanbeyan doesn’t provide that access.

IP

#20
poetix9:04 pm, 03 Jun 12

jasmine said :

?..

What is funny is that key words don’t necessarily tell the whole story and are often throw away words or ‘asides’ to the actual meaning and content of the letter. Eg. Someone could be writing about the lack of support for pensioners and mention that ‘whales’ get more attention and WULLAH off the letter goes to the Minister for the Environment.

Strange but true…

Given that ‘wullah’ means I swear (to God or Allah) in Arabic, at least according to the linguists who submit to Urban Dictionary, it’s possible that your aside has attracted some interest too. Did you mean ‘voila’ by any chance?

#21
youami9:20 pm, 03 Jun 12

IrishPete said :

You miss the point – Deanes are private and expensive. And do not integrate with Action (e.g. transferrable tickets). Oaks Estate residents must travel to somewhere in the ACT to access ACT Government services, as they are ACT residents. Walking into Queanbeyan doesn’t provide that access.

IP

Granted I probably did miss the point. But I did ask for people to refute my logic. I accept Oaks Estate is in ACT and therefore ACT services apply but most welfare services are provided by the federal government and there is a Centrelink/Human Services office in Queanbeyan so it would only be Oaks Estate specific administrative things I would have thought (ACT Housing etc.) that one would need to actually go to Canberra for. I also accept that Deanes is expensive when compared to ACTION but doesn’t welfare recipients get fare discounts? And if you take a look at concession fares (and Deanes explanation of how they work out their fares) it is inline with NSW Government limits on fare pricing. I would argue that they are not expensive but it is all relative. http://www.deanesbuslines.com.au/queanbeyan/faresandsections.html. Oh and Deanes accept (some) ACT government concession cards –http://www.deanesbuslines.com.au/queanbeyan/concessionfares.html.

#22
A_Cog9:55 am, 04 Jun 12

So the tone and content of reader comments degenerates to an attack on people who use Centrelink… what a joke.

Part of what they struggle with is their own baggage. Part of what they struggle against is us demonising them. And part of what they struggle with is being stranded in the middle of nowhere, unable to access jobs and vocational training as easily as the rest of us can.

My letters to the 12 MLAs was about providing ACT residents with access to ACT public transport so they can access ACT training and ACT jobs. Queanbeyan ain’t the best for jobs and training, especially since the market for Queanbeyan (population 50,000) is much smaller than Canberra (population 350,000).

So the vicious amongst you smack down these unlucky people for being at the bottom of society, saying they don’t desreve is or suggesting they p!ss off over the border… and when I showed you one effort I had gone to by contacting MLAs and suggesting buses go to Oaks Estate, the heartless amongst you continue to hammer them, implicitly saying they don’t deserve the buses.

So just how are they supposed to climb out of the hole you hate them for being in? Why should they be lumbered with the additional burden of being cut-off from the transport network? Surely they should be given more access to overcome their disadvantage? What can they do to overcome your prejudice? And what a sad world we live in when half of their struggle is us, saying they don’t deserve anything.

#23
jasmine1:26 pm, 04 Jun 12

Quote: “Given that ‘wullah’ means I swear (to God or Allah) in Arabic, at least according to the linguists who submit to Urban Dictionary, it’s possible that your aside has attracted some interest too. Did you mean ‘voila’ by any chance.

Mmm… yes perhaps I did mean ‘voila’ but this baby boomer has always said WULLAH – the phonetic translation. :)

#24
jasmine1:31 pm, 04 Jun 12

poetix
Mmmmm…yes I think I did mean ‘voila’. This baby boomer has always spelt it phonetically. I always thought it was one of those made-up words that became urban norms, that is everyone knew the meaning. Live and learn. :)

#25
jasmine1:32 pm, 04 Jun 12

Oops I repeated myself because I did not think the first one took.

#26
youami1:36 pm, 04 Jun 12

A_Cog said :

So the tone and content of reader comments degenerates to an attack on people who use Centrelink… what a joke.

Part of what they struggle with is their own baggage. Part of what they struggle against is us demonising them. And part of what they struggle with is being stranded in the middle of nowhere, unable to access jobs and vocational training as easily as the rest of us can.

My letters to the 12 MLAs was about providing ACT residents with access to ACT public transport so they can access ACT training and ACT jobs. Queanbeyan ain’t the best for jobs and training, especially since the market for Queanbeyan (population 50,000) is much smaller than Canberra (population 350,000).

So the vicious amongst you smack down these unlucky people for being at the bottom of society, saying they don’t desreve is or suggesting they p!ss off over the border… and when I showed you one effort I had gone to by contacting MLAs and suggesting buses go to Oaks Estate, the heartless amongst you continue to hammer them, implicitly saying they don’t deserve the buses.

So just how are they supposed to climb out of the hole you hate them for being in? Why should they be lumbered with the additional burden of being cut-off from the transport network? Surely they should be given more access to overcome their disadvantage? What can they do to overcome your prejudice? And what a sad world we live in when half of their struggle is us, saying they don’t deserve anything.

Not sure if you were referring to my posts but just for the record I never said Oaks Estate didn’t deserve public transport (I most certainly support the concept as I think public transport is important no matter where you live). I just said there are alternatives that you can make use of in the absence of a dedicated service. I also accept that not everyone who lives in Oaks Estate are on Centrelink books nor live in public housing. But you also need to consider my logic, you *do* have major community services close by, the fact that it is interstate should be irrelevant, and the fact that you can get to Canberra on public transport (in an indirect way) is still nonetheless fact –yes it is more expensive and slightly less convenient than ACTION but deal with it.

So to actually get back to your OP, I think the MLA response to your complaint was totally poor form and you need to go back to the Minister. I would highlight in your follow-up letter ACT Labor’s public housing and transport policies that you mention and how Oaks Estate doesn’t meet them etc.

#27
poetix1:40 pm, 04 Jun 12

jasmine said :

Oops I repeated myself because I did not think the first one took.

I thought you were deliberately repeating yourself, like Bart Simpson writing lines on a blackboard…(-:

#28
ToastFliesRED3:22 pm, 06 Jun 12

But they do have easy access to public transport, honestly, not those stinky vacant buses though, Oaks Estate is just across the rail lines from historic Queanbeyan Railway Station and I am sure there is at least the occasional random Countrylink service that still runs through there. Given the line us used so irregularly surely some entrepreneur could find a way to run a train from there to the bussling heart of Kingston Railway Station
/sarcasm

#29
PoQ3:59 pm, 06 Jun 12

youami said :

I just did checked Google Maps and you are ~1.7km from Queanbeyan town centre. I live in Inner South Canberra and I have to travel further to get to shops than you! So your problem is? Oh you want to go to Canberra? Well walk 750m to Henderson Rd and get a Deanes bus. You want to go to hospital? Oh walk the 900 mtrs. You want to go to Woolies? Walk the 1.2km. Get over it, you have more facilities and services in your immediate proximity than most other ACT suburbs, just so happens to be these services are in NSW and Deanes isn’t as cheap as ACTION. Sometimes life is unfair. [...] … happy for you to refute my logic.

Being relatively young and healthy, I don’t go to hospitals. Being a latte sipping bogan, I shop at Supabarn to undermine Coles’ *and* Woolies’ duopoly (also as I have shares in Metcash). What I do do is work in Civic.

My issue with Deans is that for the $13.60 in Deanes fares there and back, I can drive into Civic, park, and not have the inconvenience of public transport. As the 8.12 from Uriarra Rd goes on a Cook’s tour of the Canberra suburbs, it takes an hour to get to Civic Bus Interchange. I can ride my bike in quicker than that.

So to implement ACT Government policy of getting cars out of the city, you could extend the ACTION buses to Oaks Estate and get (as they were called on a separate thread altogether) “Yellowtails” to walk across the McEwan St bridge and take the bus, or I can make your commute worse by driving my car into your town.

#30
qbngeek4:43 pm, 06 Jun 12

ToastFliesRED said :

But they do have easy access to public transport, honestly, not those stinky vacant buses though, Oaks Estate is just across the rail lines from historic Queanbeyan Railway Station and I am sure there is at least the occasional random Countrylink service that still runs through there. Given the line us used so irregularly surely some entrepreneur could find a way to run a train from there to the bussling heart of Kingston Railway Station
/sarcasm

Hey, this could work. Extend the line back into the city (with a decent bridge this time, or a tunnel would be even better) and run it via Fyshwick. Put a free park and ride in Quangers, another in Fyshwick with on/off ramps straight to the highway and away we go. 3-4 Trains running during peak hour on 15 minute intervals, you could move the entire population on Quangers and a large part of southern ACT into the city with minimal fuss and much reduced traffic.

I reckon theres money to be made in there somewhere.

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