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Speech on why public transport should be free

On Wednesday 29 May 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about why public transport should be free. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


On Sunday, Queensland Labor Premier Steven Miles announced a six-month trial of fares of 50c per trip on all public transport. For a long time Labor politicians have been telling Queenslanders that public transport could never be free, and now they've done a near complete 180. This is a win for the Greens. It shows how we're really breaking up the status quo and raising expectations of what's possible. It shows that clearly Labor know they'll keep losing seats to us if they don't act to seriously tackle the cost of living and traffic congestion. Of course, people are right to be cynical when measures like this are announced just before a state election—measures paid for by a temporary rise in coal royalties that will soon run out, leaving Queenslanders to face the full force of the cost-of-living crisis. But why 50c when you could just make it free and eliminate the cost and inconvenience of the ticketing system? That's what the Greens are calling for, and federally for a 12-month trial of free public transport across the country.

Public transport is already heavily subsidised by state governments. The steep fares people are paying currently only cover about 25 per cent of the operating cost of public transport. At 50c per trip, it would be cheaper to just switch off the fare machines—those expensive privatised ticketing systems. If the government's going to slash public transport fares, it needs to be to zero and it needs to be permanent. In the Greens national proposal the federal government would step in to fund the remaining 25 per cent that your ticket would normally cover. The Parliamentary Budget Office has shown that this would cost the government only $2.2 billion. This latest budget, by the way, had $50 billion in it for fossil fuel subsidies.

We're in a cost-of-living crisis. On top of spiking rents, mortgages and groceries, families are currently spending $100 a week—each week—filling up the car. Collectively Australians spend over $50 billion in petrol every year, but public transport is often still more expensive than driving. We can make public transport free, save families thousands a year if they switch even 25 per cent of their car trips, and help take cars off the road as well, reducing congestion and emissions. That's a win, win, win. Wouldn't it be great to see Labor pick up some of our other ideas to help Australians with the cost of living, such as freezing rents and making public schools and health care genuinely free?

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