BY ALEX EUGENE
Local politicians and community members have ramped up their fight against the privatisation of Sydney buses this week, with a string of meetings and rallies held to resist the state government’s latest public asset sell-off.
The Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance announced in May that the region 6 bus network would be privatised. Region 6 includes the entire Inner West bus fleet.
The Minister also made an alarming comment in March, saying that in his view “In 10 to 15 years time government will not be in the provision of transport. [All forms of transport] will be private.”
The government will invite private companies to bid for the bus service in July, with protest groups scrambling to have the decision reversed before then.
The Greens held a community meeting for the public to voice their concerns on Monday night. The Leichhardt Town Hall was packed wall to wall with supporters holding up “Stop the Sell Off” banners.
Jenny Leong, the member for Newtown led the meeting and was joined by the Greens member for NSW Mehreen Faruqi, and Jamie Parker, the member for Balmain.
“There has been a groundswell of support in our community to keep inner west buses in public hands,” said Ms Leong.
“Sydney deserves world class public transport, and the bus system is a critical part of our public transport network,” she said.
An online petition started by the Greens has gathered almost 2000 signatures, while the “Don’t Sell Our Buses” Facebook page has over 1700 likes, which one person victoriously pointed out is “officially more popular than Andrew Constance…it only took us a week!”
Jo Haylen, the Labor member for Summer Hill, Darcy Byrne, the former Mayor of Leichhardt and Labor MP Sophie Cotsis held their own community forum just days earlier.
Herb Greedy Hall in Marrickville was packed with bus drivers and local supporters wearing bright yellow “Don’t Sell Our Buses” t-shirts.
Ms Cotsis said many residents had expressed outrage about the privatisation, and that she intended to send a “clear message” to the Berejiklian Government.
“People are fed up with the privatisation of public services and are drawing a line at losing our buses,” she said.
Ms Haylen said the government had plans to remove several bus stops from pickup areas at schools, child care centres and nursing homes, but as yet had given no reason for doing so.
“It’s clear that the stops are being removed to make the network more attractive to potential buyers,” she said.
“No matter what the Minister says, there’s only one reason they’re selling off the buses: Whenever they’re faced with a problem, the only thing this Government knows how to do is to sell their way out of it.”
At the forum, one bus driver from the Tempe depot filmed himself and posted the video on social media, saying “We are asking everyone to support us, not to sell public transport, this is our public asset.”
Yet another community assembly against the privatisation will be held on Wednesday June 28th, at Pitt St Uniting Church.