My matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Education, and it is in relation to the school bus conveyance allowance. In what is considered to be yet another blow to rural and regional Victorians, this government has made a change to the school bus conveyance allowance that will essentially deny thousands of Victorian students public transport access to their schools. In relation to regional students who receive the conveyance allowance, I am led to believe that their allocation will be slashed from $38 000 to $9000. Victorian parents will be asked to pay up to $1100 per student because of this change.
I understand that in the last parliamentary sitting week Ms Pulford raised this matter in this house and Mr Merlino, the member for Monbulk, raised it in the other place.
That was in relation to this issue as it pertains to residents around the Bacchus Marsh area according to students and parents. My intention tonight is to make sure that the minister knows that this issue is widespread throughout my electorate.
The dissatisfaction is coming not only from students and parents but also from school principals, and they have been very loud and clear in their contact with my office. For example, the principal of Baimbridge College in Hamilton, Robert Vecchiet, was quoted in the Warrnambool Standard of 22 November as having said:
“… some families felt ‘betrayed’ by the Liberal-National coalition, which promised to support the interests of country people.”
Des Trotter of Trotters Coaches in Hamilton, is reported in the Hamilton Spectator as saying:
“This is yet another burden lumped on us …
How do you attract people to Hamilton when they can’t even work out how to get their kids to school?
All it does is disadvantage smaller towns like us … yes it’s a kick in the stomach …”
The Hamilton Spectator goes on to brand this decision as another blow to Hamilton’s public transport system, as the Baillieu government made cuts to the public transport system there earlier this year.
What I seek from the minister is for him to immediately reverse his government’s decision to reduce funding of the conveyance allowance and ensure that Victorian schoolchildren, whether they be rural, regional or from interface communities, are not disadvantaged and are able to go to school as they were prior to this decision being taken by the government.