NSW Upper House calls for Taxi Transport Subsidy to increase

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Disability Services, has welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s call for the NSW Government to increase funding for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has been capped at $30 per fare for 14 years now. A 2010 Parliamentary inquiry recommended increasing the cap to $50, and the social service sector were disappointed that an increase wasn’t included in last week’s Budget,” Ms Barham said.

“This call from the Upper House to increase the subsidy gives a welcome boost to the campaign to assist people with disabilities to have affordable transport.”

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) assists people with disabilities with the cost of taxi transport. It covers 50% of the taxi fare up to a maximum subsidy of $30 per fare.

“The limited accessibility of public transport in many areas means taxi transport is often the only option for people with disabilities to get around. The subsidy cuts out as soon as a fare reaches $60, which means that passengers end up bearing the rest of the costs above this level. Some disability organisations have been calling for the cap to be doubled.

“NCOSS has estimated that lifting the cap by $20 would only cost $9 million per year, increasing the scheme’s budget by about one-third. Now that the Parliament has backed this motion, I hope the Government will find those funds to enhance the everyday lives of people with disabilities.

“We’re a long way behind some other states, but this is a promising sign of progress,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

BACKGROUND

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme expenditure:
2012/13 revised: $27.4 million
2013/14 forecast: $29.4 million
Source: NCOSS Budget Briefing

Additional cost of increasing maximum subsidy to $50 per trip:
Estimated $9 million annually (assumes 10% of trips exceed the current cap)
Source: NCOSS Pre-Budget Submission

Jan Barham motion; notice given 26 March 2013:

1. That this House notes that the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme’s (TTSS) current maximum subsidy level of $30 has been in place since 1999, meaning that it has gone 14 years without an increase.
2. That this House acknowledges that the 2010 Select Committee Inquiry into the NSW Taxi Industry reported:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘That NSW Transport and Infrastructure increase the value of the subsidy provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to half the total fare, up to a maximum value of $50.00 per fare.’ A $20 increase on the current subsidy, and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘That the Premier request the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to consider the value of the subsidy provided under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme as part of its annual review of taxi fares.’
3. That this House notes the Government responses at the time to the above recommendations were:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate the current Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap,’ and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate options for the future adjustment of the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap.’
4. That this House also acknowledges Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double New South Wales’ TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million.
5. That this House notes with concern that a recent survey of TTSS users by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and supported by the Physical Disability Council of NSW, NCOSS, and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia showed that:
(a) 32% of respondents said that taxis were their only mode of transport,
(b) 54.7% of respondents received the Disability Support Pension, 15.1% were in part-time employment and 12.3% were in full-time employment, and
(c) of those people receiving the Disability Support Pension, almost half (47.5%) spent between 11 and 30% of their income on taxis, and that this percentage was higher for those in part-time employment (50%) and slightly lower for those in full-time employment (35.7%).
6. That this House notes that:
(a) Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double NSW’s TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million,
(b) in 2008, Victoria increased its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60, an amount that it is double the current New South Wales subsidy, and
(c) NCOSS’s Pre-Budget Submission recommends the NSW Government ‘Review the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure affordable access for participants, and increase the subsidy cap from $30 to $50.’
7. That this House acknowledges:
(a) the $30 TTSS subsidy is inadequate today and has not kept pace with New South Wales’ rising costs of living, and
(b) the subsidy does not meet the needs of many people with a disability travelling throughout major metropolitan and regional on our taxi networks.
8. That this House calls on the Government to increase the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

Shocking evidence of Old Growth Forest destruction

North Coast Greens MP, Jan Barham, has called for the Government to act on photographs that show the logging of Old Growth Forest in Koreelah State Forest on the Far North Coast.

“During question time in Parliament today, I tabled photographs showing the devastation that has happened to six hectares of Koreelah’s Old Growth Forest. These trees are irreplaceable and their destruction is a travesty,” Ms Barham said.

Old Growth Forest destruction at Koreelah State Forest
Old Growth Forest destruction at Koreelah State Forest
(Photographs provided by David Milledge; Taken at compartment 27 of Kareelah State Forest.)

“I’ve asked whether the Environment Minister is aware that this logging has taken place, and that a further 17 hectares is at risk from planned operations. The Government must investigate and announce what action it will take to protect the biodiversity and heritage of our Old Growth Forests from any further planned destruction.”

The photographs, which were taken during a recent inspection by the North East Forest Alliance, show the aftermath of intensive logging that has felled trees approaching 2.5m in diameter. The forest provides habitat for threatened species and its destruction creates a risk of invasive species such as Lantana taking hold.

“I’m utterly shocked to see evidence that the destruction of Old Growth Forests is still happening. The public puts its trust in government to preserve and protect our natural environment. The loss of these great forests is like stealing from future generations,” Ms Barham said.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Push to improve Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme will continue

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Disability Services, today issued a renewed call for the NSW Government to increase funding for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) assists people with disabilities with the cost of taxi fares, which is essential in many regional and suburban areas where public transport isn’t accessible. It covers half of the taxi fare but this is capped at $30 per trip, which means that the assistance cuts out as soon as a fare goes over $60,” Ms Barham said.

“The maximum subsidy hasn’t changed since 1999, so it hasn’t kept pace with 14 years of rising taxi fares. Back in 2010 a Parliamentary inquiry into the taxi industry recommended increasing the cap to $50, and then having it independently reviewed each year.

“But last Tuesday’s Budget ignored the issue, despite strong lobbying from the disability sector and a motion I had put before the parliament in March.”

“This isn’t a big-ticket item in the Budget. The scheme cost $27.4 million for the current financial year and they’ve only allowed an extra $2 million for 2013/14.

“A little extra from the state budget could go a long way in helping people with disabilities to get on with their daily lives. The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) estimated that increasing the cap to $50 would only need another $9 million added to the scheme.”

Ms Barham confirmed she would renew her call for Parliament to support enhancing the scheme.

“My motion is still on the books and I will bring it up again in our last sitting week before Parliament rises for the winter. We’ve fallen way behind some other states in taxi fare assistance, and this is something the Government should find the funding to address.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

BACKGROUND

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme expenditure:
2012/13 revised: $27.4 million
2013/14 forecast: $29.4 million
Source: NCOSS Budget Briefing

Additional cost of increasing maximum subsidy to $50 per trip:
Estimated $9 million annually (assumes 10% of trips exceed the current cap)
Source: NCOSS Pre-Budget Submission

Jan Barham motion; notice given 26 March 2013:

1. That this House notes that the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme’s (TTSS) current maximum subsidy level of $30 has been in place since 1999, meaning that it has gone 14 years without an increase.
2. That this House acknowledges that the 2010 Select Committee Inquiry into the NSW Taxi Industry reported:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘That NSW Transport and Infrastructure increase the value of the subsidy provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to half the total fare, up to a maximum value of $50.00 per fare.’ A $20 increase on the current subsidy, and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘That the Premier request the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to consider the value of the subsidy provided under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme as part of its annual review of taxi fares.’
3. That this House notes the Government responses at the time to the above recommendations were:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate the current Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap,’ and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate options for the future adjustment of the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap.’
4. That this House also acknowledges Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double New South Wales’ TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million.
5. That this House notes with concern that a recent survey of TTSS users by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and supported by the Physical Disability Council of NSW, NCOSS, and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia showed that:
(a) 32% of respondents said that taxis were their only mode of transport,
(b) 54.7% of respondents received the Disability Support Pension, 15.1% were in part-time employment and 12.3% were in full-time employment, and
(c) of those people receiving the Disability Support Pension, almost half (47.5%) spent between 11 and 30% of their income on taxis, and that this percentage was higher for those in part-time employment (50%) and slightly lower for those in full-time employment (35.7%).
6. That this House notes that:
(a) Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double NSW’s TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million,
(b) in 2008, Victoria increased its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60, an amount that it is double the current New South Wales subsidy, and
(c) NCOSS’s Pre-Budget Submission recommends the NSW Government ‘Review the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure affordable access for participants, and increase the subsidy cap from $30 to $50.’
7. That this House acknowledges:
(a) the $30 TTSS subsidy is inadequate today and has not kept pace with New South Wales’ rising costs of living, and
(b) the subsidy does not meet the needs of many people with a disability travelling throughout major metropolitan and regional on our taxi networks.
8. That this House calls on the Government to increase the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

Progress on hospital planning welcome news for Byron Shire

North Coast Greens MP Jan Barham has welcomed the NSW Government’s progress in planning for the Byron Shire Central Hospital project.

Ms Barham has been involved in progressing the hospital since her election to Byron Shire Council in 1999 and was a member of the committee developing the services plan.

Today in the NSW Upper House, Ms Barham asked the Government for clarification about funding allocations for the project in this week’s NSW Budget.

“Last December the Government announced $500,000 to fund the next stage of planning, and I’m pleased that there has already been progress on this stage despite the Budget counting these funds toward the next financial year,” Ms Barham said.

“The community will welcome the news that Health Infrastructure opened tenders for architects and project managers this week and expects to award contracts by mid-July.

“I was informed that planning will be completed by the end of 2013, which will include Treasury review of the funding needed to implement the project.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Budget doesn’t deliver support for vulnerable families and households

The NSW Budget has fallen short on funding to address the risks of abuse, neglect and homelessness, says Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The Budget was an opportunity to deliver much-needed increases for services that support disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, but new announcements in this area were in short supply. It’s a disappointing underinvestment in prevention, which will mean too much of the burden continues to fall on crisis services,” Ms Barham said.

“We know from the experts and the evidence that early intervention and prevention services are crucial to long-term reductions in harm to children, and to tackling the alarming number of children in out-of-home care. But the funding to these services and the number of families they reach will be largely unchanged under next year’s forecast.”

Ms Barham also noted that the Budget offered little to address the housing needs of those most vulnerable to homelessness.

“Although funding to homelessness services will continue for another year under a transitional National Partnership Agreement, the long-term solution is to deliver more options for people to access social and affordable housing. The announcement of several initiatives, each of which will deliver only a few hundred dwellings, won’t do enough to help the tens of thousands of people on the waiting list for social housing,” Ms Barham said.

“Government must work to reduce the harm and hardship experienced by our society’s most vulnerable. Keeping families safe and together, and ensuring they have a stable home, are fundamental aims that needed more investment than this Budget delivered.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Creative Industries response fails to commit to the regions and training

The NSW Government’s response to the Creative Industries Action Plan falls short on tangible support for the regions and training for the sector’s future, according to Greens MPs Jan Barham and John Kaye.

Greens NSW Arts spokesperson Jan Barham said, “The Government’s response presents a lost opportunity. They have supported some important, big-ticket initiatives with a Sydney focus, including the Vivid festival and a Digital Innovation Precinct cluster in Ultimo and Pyrmont. But what is missing is support for regional communities, where economic and employment opportunities are desperately needed and where a lot of creative people are relocating.”

“As the creative success in the Northern Rivers demonstrates, there is a trend for creative people to move to rural and regional areas. This can revitalise regional areas and provide new opportunities for tourism growth through public art, vibrant music and handcrafted items such as fashion and jewellery. The increase in internet shopping and broadband availability is also providing major opportunities for regional growth in creative industries.

“As a creative hub, employment in the Northern Rivers’ arts and creative industries grew 25% faster than the rest of NSW’s regional economy, and more than doubled the Sydney growth rate between 2001 and 2006. This trend should be expanded on as a model throughout the regions, but the Government delivered no major financial support for this important industry sector.”

“The Northern Rivers has proven success stories in the creative industries. In recent years, the locally produced ABC series ‘East of Everything ‘ proved that the skills and talent exist in the region, and it delivered huge economic and employment opportunities. And this year the North Coast production company, Mememe Productions, were awarded an International Digital Emmy Award at Cannes in the category of Children and Young People for their Dirtgirlworld .. .dig it all project.

“New creative areas such as digital productions are at a crucial stage. The continuation of Government programs such as the Interactive Media Fund is vital to keeping NSW at the forefront of these emerging creative areas.

“The Government response has not identified any significant financial investment in this field and that could be a great loss for what is a vibrant and celebrated part of the cultural creative sector,” said Ms Barham.

Greens NSW Education spokesperson John Kaye said, “The government’s refusal to reinstate the $800 million it cut from TAFE makes their commitment to improve the creative industries in NSW a vacuous promise. Ending subsidies for Fine Arts TAFE courses and the resulting astronomical increases in course fees have made it increasingly difficult for those with a passion for the creative industries to follow this path.

“The government’s response also completely ignores the informal, cultural and social benefits of a thriving creative industry. Creative opportunities can provide stress relief, improve confidence, develop new skills, offer alternative income and enhance community vibrancy.

“The government is keen to exploit the financial potential of the creative industries yet the Minister is not prepared to invest to secure a pool of new talent.

“For many it takes a long time to make creative operations financially viable. The prospect of huge TAFE fees will undoubtedly discourage many budding artists.

“The O’Farrell government must reverse its cuts to TAFE and increase investment in the creative industries across the state,” Dr Kaye said.

Stop the cost-shifting: It’s time to increase state funding for libraries

The upcoming NSW Budget should support public libraries and reduce the burden on financially-stretched councils, says the Greens’ Arts spokesperson, Jan Barham.

“Successive state Governments have allowed the share of funding they provide for library services to decline, putting pressure on local government to make up the shortfall,” Ms Barham said.

“The state Government subsidy to local libraries has remained at $1.85 per capita for over a decade while costs have continued to rise and libraries have delivered new, 21st century services. In 1979/80, the NSW Government contributed 24% of the funding for public libraries, but by 2010/11 their share had dropped to less than 10%.”

A recent report on the National Welfare & Economic Contributions of Public Libraries, commissioned by the Australian Library and Information Association, estimated that every dollar spent by NSW public libraries brings $3.20 in benefits to communities.

“As well as their collections and services, public libraries promote social interaction, reduce environmental impacts through re-use and are a source of lifelong education and self-development. The contribution to our sense of community from libraries is something we can’t afford to lose.”

Ms Barham has launched a bumper sticker campaign and is calling on people to show their support for public libraries.

“Library funding is an investment in community and social capital. The Government’s contribution to libraries should reflect the valuable opportunities for learning and community connections they provide,” Ms Barham said.

Contribution of Australian Public Libraries report

Stickers available from Jan’s office

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061