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Privatising Newcastle’s public transport services ‘a joke’, says council and unions

ON THE BUSES: Newcastle council has moved to oppose state government plans to privatise the city’s public transport services.STATE government plans to privatise the city’spublic transport services have come under heavy fire from Newcastle council which has voted to oppose any such move.

Labor and the Greens used their numbers at Tuesday night’s council meeting to support moves for a locally-based Hunter Transport Authority,and to also support the public ownership, maintenance and operation of the city’s trains, buses, ferries, interchanges and light rail.

The government’s recent announcement to privatise remaining operations was described as “a terrible joke” by Labor councillor and Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp.

Greens councillor Michael Osborne said the state government “wasn’t listening to what the people wanted”.

“When they come to Newcastle, all they seem to do is look around and see what they can sell off,” he said.

His Greens colleague ThereseDoyle said the city deserved a “proper light rail network and not some Tonka toy version” of it.

“It’s not your public transport system to sell off, Mr Baird,” she said. “It’s ours.”

The move by Labor and the Greens was opposed by the council’s Liberalsand independents.

The move essentially calls for any Hunter Transport Authority to be based in the region and “not in Singapore or Hong Kong” or even Sydney, Mr Crakanthorp said.

It also urged the state government to work with the council on building an integrated transport plan for the city, opposed any privatisation, and in the event that services were puton the open market, that Newcastle Buses and Ferries be allowed to tender alongside any private operator.

Hunter Unions secretary Daniel Wallace welcomed the move, saying the state government needed to listen.

“We’re now in a situation where both local councils have openly supported keeping our transport in public hands,” Mr Wallace said. “The [government] has a responsibility to listen to the needs of the community before it starts making changes that will impact local workers and residents.”

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