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Barr’s budget: no free rides for Canberra’s poorest

By A_Cog - 8 June 2016 27

A lonely bus stop in Oaks Estate

The Barr Government’s announcement yesterday of a free City Loop bus in Civic highlights the utter contempt and disregard shown to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Canberra residents.

Oaks Estate, the government’s own ghetto, continues to have no ACTION bus whatsoever, free or not. But Civic, already saturated with ACTION bus routes providing abundant access will now benefit from a free, 5.2km City Loop bus provided 49 times a day to people over distances they could easily walk. In most cases, it will take people less time to walk CityLoop distances than to wait for the meandering bus.

Oaks Estate needs public transport far more than most areas: Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, compared to an ACT average of 7%. Functional (real) unemployment is over 40%. Since 2010 the ACT Government has concentrated a rehabilitation and reintegration program for parolees with complex mental health issues in Oaks Estate. There are currently 50 parolees dumped into remote public housing and abandoned, left to fend for themselves, and the ACT Government shows little interest in helping to rehabilitate or reintregrate them.

This parolee program needs to be treated far more seriously by the government.

Canberra’s failed jail has been overcrowded since opening and was 25% over capacity for years, making AMC far more violent. Inside AMC, drugs are abundant but the government refuses to take effective measures to curb drug use. The Auditor General shredded the operation of the jail last year as “ineffective”, “inadequate” and “compromise[d]”, citing the yawning chasm between the 30 hours of diversionary, drug treatment and rehabilitation programs inmates should be offered, and the 5 hours they actually get. Rehab programs matter, when 73% of AMC inmates have substance abuse issues and 69% have experienced suicidal ideation.

And now an inmate who was viciously bashed in jail last year and feared for his life has died there, in a tragedy made more so by how easily it could have been avoided had the government simply responded to the alarm bells ringing for years.

That is what parolees emerge from – an overcrowded and violent environment with drugs flowing freely and far too little education and counselling available to help inmates break the cycle.

They emerge into the parolee program in Oaks Estate, a remote suburb ringfenced by the current ACT Government’s refusal to provide public transport. Crime doubled since the program started in 2010. There is precious little access to jobs or training, to medical and support services, to cultural institutions, to family and friends. The link between social isolation and mental health is well known, as is the link between clustering disadvantaged men and crime. Simon Corbell made this last point in parliament, but it appears to have been no more than lip service.

So the government’s dogged refusal to provide an ACTION bus despite dumping scores of parolees in Oaks Estate should be seen for what it is: setting these guys up to fail, out of sight, out of mind. People coming out of prison should not be cut off from society and left to fend for themselves. How society treats them defines who we are. This budget makes clear who Andrew Barr is.

The five key things parolees need in order to break the cycle, and successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate are all secured and reinforced by ready access to public transport: education, employment, access to healthcare, transitional support services, and appropriate housing.  Ring-fencing such a high-risk high-needs cohort should never have happened, but this budget should have stopped that disaster from continuing.

Sure public transport costs money (as does a free City Loop bus), but the return is significant: reduced recidivism and improved employment and treatment outcomes. This should matter in Canberra, given the ACT has the highest rate of recidivism in Australia by a mile (table C4). And the government should be serious about reducing recidivism, given that the ACT Police have the lowest clearance rates for crime of any police force in Australia (table C7).

How tragic that another alarm bell has been ringing for years but the government remains deaf to it, preferring instead an unnecessary and expensive free bus in an area which needs it least at the expense of those who needs it most.

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27 Responses to
Barr’s budget: no free rides for Canberra’s poorest
dungfungus 2:08 pm 09 Jun 16

Roksteddy said :

dungfungus said :

bd84 said :

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable, not that Action is financially viable anyway. How often would one need to go into Civic from out there, when a shopping center is located only a little over a kilometer away? Despite the border location, you might as well accept the fact it is basically a part of Queanbeyan.
It’d be like asking residents of Narrabundah for a bus service into Queanbeyan.

Actually I think there might be one; at least for the part of Narrabundah towards Canberra Avenue. I have seen Dean’s buses going along Canberra Avenue.

QCity Transit (formerly Deanes) operates daily bus services from Bungendore to Queanbeayn/Civic return. They are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

They can operate routes within the ACT. What they cannot do is pick-up passengers in the ACT and drop them off in the ACT. So CBR bound the cannot pickup passengers on the ACT side of the border and QBN bound cannot drop off until on the NSW side.

Two further points, Oaks Estate is not far from Uriarra road, so nothing stopping people walking over the border to get a bus from there. And besides, except for the purpose of making cheap political shots, done does anyone seriously think the demographics of Oak Estate will be regular bus users?

To me the bigger issue for Oak Estate is not the lack of a bus service, but who is out there. Would probably be better for the ACT as a whole and the residents to close all public housing in the suburb down and move them into the suburbs proper.

“They can operate routes within the ACT. What they cannot do is pick-up passengers in the ACT and drop them off in the ACT.”
I think you have just contradicted yourself. The operative word is “within”.

dungfungus 1:57 pm 09 Jun 16

dungfungus said :

sportsmum said :

…For me, this would be reason not to want to go out there. If I knew there was a huge amount of crime I’d be scared, as a bus driver, about what may happen to me.

The TWU is supportive of an ACTION bus to Oaks Estate, with full awareness of the current situation.

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable….

ACTION are specifically geared to not require profitability. Community Service Obligation funding comprises about half of ACTION funding. I cannot think of a community that the ACT Govt could be more obliged to service than a ghetto it has deliberately created.

dungfungus said :

QCity… are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

Qcity operate a loop service between Oaks Estate and Queanbeyan CBD twice a day, at 840am and 415pm, preventing Oaks Estate residents from getting to work in Canberra before 10am (after transferring in Queanbeyan) or from getting home unless they leave work at 315pm in Woden or Civic, or getting to education/training/health care at any other time. The Qcity timetable is entirely inappropriate for Oaks Estate, making the Qcity bus useless. The ACT Govt has known this for years, and has been warned repeatedly of this, including by the out-sourced parolee program service provider.

But at a deeper level, the ACT Govt is obliged to provide services to ACT residents. To palm us off on Queanbeyan is beyond a joke – what’s next? Stop policing and insist that Queanbeyan do it instead? … hang on, that might not be such a bad idea…

Geographically, it makes sense to cede Oaks Estate to Queanbeayn.
It could be done by moving the railway line.

A_Cog 1:40 pm 09 Jun 16

sportsmum said :

…For me, this would be reason not to want to go out there. If I knew there was a huge amount of crime I’d be scared, as a bus driver, about what may happen to me.

The TWU is supportive of an ACTION bus to Oaks Estate, with full awareness of the current situation.

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable….

ACTION are specifically geared to not require profitability. Community Service Obligation funding comprises about half of ACTION funding. I cannot think of a community that the ACT Govt could be more obliged to service than a ghetto it has deliberately created.

dungfungus said :

QCity… are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

Qcity operate a loop service between Oaks Estate and Queanbeyan CBD twice a day, at 840am and 415pm, preventing Oaks Estate residents from getting to work in Canberra before 10am (after transferring in Queanbeyan) or from getting home unless they leave work at 315pm in Woden or Civic, or getting to education/training/health care at any other time. The Qcity timetable is entirely inappropriate for Oaks Estate, making the Qcity bus useless. The ACT Govt has known this for years, and has been warned repeatedly of this, including by the out-sourced parolee program service provider.

But at a deeper level, the ACT Govt is obliged to provide services to ACT residents. To palm us off on Queanbeyan is beyond a joke – what’s next? Stop policing and insist that Queanbeyan do it instead? … hang on, that might not be such a bad idea…

JC 12:02 pm 09 Jun 16

dungfungus said :

bd84 said :

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable, not that Action is financially viable anyway. How often would one need to go into Civic from out there, when a shopping center is located only a little over a kilometer away? Despite the border location, you might as well accept the fact it is basically a part of Queanbeyan.
It’d be like asking residents of Narrabundah for a bus service into Queanbeyan.

Actually I think there might be one; at least for the part of Narrabundah towards Canberra Avenue. I have seen Dean’s buses going along Canberra Avenue.

QCity Transit (formerly Deanes) operates daily bus services from Bungendore to Queanbeayn/Civic return. They are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

They can operate routes within the ACT. What they cannot do is pick-up passengers in the ACT and drop them off in the ACT. So CBR bound the cannot pickup passengers on the ACT side of the border and QBN bound cannot drop off until on the NSW side.

Two further points, Oaks Estate is not far from Uriarra road, so nothing stopping people walking over the border to get a bus from there. And besides, except for the purpose of making cheap political shots, done does anyone seriously think the demographics of Oak Estate will be regular bus users?

To me the bigger issue for Oak Estate is not the lack of a bus service, but who is out there. Would probably be better for the ACT as a whole and the residents to close all public housing in the suburb down and move them into the suburbs proper.

dungfungus 11:25 am 09 Jun 16

bd84 said :

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable, not that Action is financially viable anyway. How often would one need to go into Civic from out there, when a shopping center is located only a little over a kilometer away? Despite the border location, you might as well accept the fact it is basically a part of Queanbeyan.
It’d be like asking residents of Narrabundah for a bus service into Queanbeyan.

Actually I think there might be one; at least for the part of Narrabundah towards Canberra Avenue. I have seen Dean’s buses going along Canberra Avenue.

QCity Transit (formerly Deanes) operates daily bus services from Bungendore to Queanbeayn/Civic return. They are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

Maya123 11:09 am 09 Jun 16

JC said :

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable, not that Action is financially viable anyway. How often would one need to go into Civic from out there, when a shopping center is located only a little over a kilometer away? Despite the border location, you might as well accept the fact it is basically a part of Queanbeyan.
It’d be like asking residents of Narrabundah for a bus service into Queanbeyan.

Actually I think there might be one; at least for the part of Narrabundah towards Canberra Avenue. I have seen Dean’s buses going along Canberra Avenue.

dungfungus 9:28 am 09 Jun 16

This innovation from Silicon Valley would appear to “tick all the boxes” for app-mad Canberrans.
It would certainly be cheaper than running ACTION buses with 1 passenger.
http://kalw.org/post/silicon-valley-experiments-public-buses-work-uber#stream/0

wildturkeycanoe 8:29 am 09 Jun 16

A population of less than 300 would hardly make a bus route financially viable, not that Action is financially viable anyway. How often would one need to go into Civic from out there, when a shopping center is located only a little over a kilometer away? Despite the border location, you might as well accept the fact it is basically a part of Queanbeyan.
It’d be like asking residents of Narrabundah for a bus service into Queanbeyan.

Kalliste 8:14 am 09 Jun 16

“For the last 5 years, the ACT Government has repeatedly refused to provide an ACTION service despite the explosion in crime and drug use.”

While I believe there should be a bus route out there (if we have them going to the prisons why not Oaks Estate?) I’m not sure this is the reasoning I’d use to promote it. Crime and drugs = we need a bus?

For me, this would be reason not to want to go out there. If I knew there was a huge amount of crime I’d be scared, as a bus driver, about what may happen to me.

Mordd 6:23 pm 08 Jun 16

The neglect of Oaks Estate has gone on with every Government the ACT has ever had. It will take a bold and confident Government indeed to dare to tackle this difficult issue of what to do with the Ghetto of Canberra that we all prefer to pretend belongs to Queanbeyan not us.

dungfungus 5:22 pm 08 Jun 16

gazket said :

Just another example of the contempt this mob have for citizen not in their beloved inner north. Even though the smell of bacon is wafting throughout other suburbs, Oaks Estate would be to small of a polling booth for these clowns to even care.

Advice: Get a few hipster coffee shops going in the estate and use the word ‘vibrant’ as much as humanly possible and at least they may bother to look on a map where Oaks Estate is.

Some randomly dumped 40′ containers would give the place and edgy aspect and it would cost less that $1 million.

rommeldog56 3:02 pm 08 Jun 16

I heard an interview with Rattenbury on the radio a while back, when he was TAMS Minister, and he didn’t even seem to know that Oaks Estate was part of the ACT !!!! It was about a public toilet block there that was not maintained – or broken. It was a bumbling interview performance.

But agreed, it needs attention and it is shameful on the part of the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t that it has got to that extent.

Here_and_Now 3:00 pm 08 Jun 16

“…over distances they could easily walk…”

Not that you don’t otherwise raise pertinent points, but…ableist much?

John Moulis 2:25 pm 08 Jun 16

To paraphrase former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, there is no such thing as a free bus.

dlenihan 12:16 pm 08 Jun 16

Just another example of the contempt this mob have for citizen not in their beloved inner north. Even though the smell of bacon is wafting throughout other suburbs, Oaks Estate would be to small of a polling booth for these clowns to even care.

Advice: Get a few hipster coffee shops going in the estate and use the word ‘vibrant’ as much as humanly possible and at least they may bother to look on a map where Oaks Estate is.

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