My adjournment matter this evening is also directed to the Minister for Public Transport, and it is in relation to public transport in Hamilton and the surrounding district. It has been brought to my attention that the Department of Transport has indicated to the Southern Grampians Shire Council that the Penshurst-Hamilton and the Hamilton-Mount Gambier via Coleraine and Casterton Transport Connections routes will cease at the end of this year. That made the front page of the Hamilton Spectator just last Saturday. This decision has come as a shock to the Shire of Southern Grampians and its community, which will feel the full impact of the negative social and economic effects of this decision.
Both of these routes were subject to trial, and through consultation over 18 months the previous government sat down with the community and worked out alternative routes, different timetables and different days to meet the specific needs of those communities, but it is unfortunate that this government has turned around and decided to cut public transport in the area.
The Transport Connections program was held in high regard across all of Victoria because it did address a transport gap, particularly for those in our community who are disadvantaged, such as those with disabilities, the unemployed and the elderly. The Southern Grampians shire includes a number of disadvantaged townships with a significantly high proportion of residents in their later years. The townships of Coleraine, Penshurst and Casterton will lose their public transport services because of this decision. They have high proportions of disadvantaged residents, and they are all included in the top 100 disadvantaged towns in rural Victoria.
As well as providing an important service for disadvantaged Victorians, effective public transport is vital given the centralised nature of services in rural and regional Victoria. The major service hub of the Southern Grampians shire is Hamilton. Public transport must be provided for rural and regional Victorians to access health, education and recreation activities. The Minister for Public Transport comes from regional Victoria. He holds the seat of Polwarth, which is in my electorate. He needs to stand up and say no to Melbourne-based formulas which are based on transport usage. This is a travesty happening in western Victoria, and I ask all members of this house who represent this region to stand up for the people who use and rely on this service and demand that this government stand up for rural Victorians, because that is one of the salient points of distinction between country and regional communities.