I've called on on the federal government to implement a 12-month trial of free public transport across the country in their May budget.
Watch my announcement video
Cost of living relief
We’re in a cost of living crisis, and currently families are spending nearly $100 each week filling up the car. Fuel prices are set to spike again, causing households more pain. But public transport is often more expensive than driving. Imagine hopping on the bus or train and not having to check your GoCard, MyKi, Opal or bank balance!
If we make public transport free, families would save $3311 a year even if they only switched 25% of their trips to public transport. It would also help take cars off the road, reducing congestion and emissions. The potential for savings if public transport was free for everyone are enormous. The savings from ticketing machines alone would add up to hundreds of millions, then there are the savings to the justice system: instead of policing fare evasion, they could focus on serious crime.
Easier and cheaper than you may think
Public transport is already heavily subsidised by state governments. Fares currently only amount to about 25% of the operating cost of public transport. The Greens proposal would mean that the federal government steps in to fund the remaining 25% that your ticket would normally cover. The Parliamentary Budget Office has shown that this would only cost the government $2.2 billion a year (they’re about to spend $17.1 billion on the Stage 3 Tax Cuts for the mega-rich in a single year).
The federal and state governments cooperate to fund essential services already. An agreement to make public transport free-to-ride for everyone would open up opportunities to re-think government spending priorities. Instead of building cities designed for moving cars, we could invest in better public transport infrastructure and build cities for people!
But what about... ?
We've been car-centric for so long that it's hard to imagine something different, and that's where most of the objections to this idea come from. Here are my thoughts on common questions about this proposal:
Why not just expand concession fares?
In the end it works out cheaper to just abolish all ticketing than to have complex fare structures. Having multiple ticket pricings creates enormous bureaucracy, and that’s on top of the hundreds of millions the states spend on often privatised ticketing systems already! Free public transport for everyone also brings a sense of shared ownership - just like our Medicare or public schooling system.
It's not the cost, it's the service!
It is the cost for many people - but I agree, in most cases the public transport service isn't up to scratch. Services need to be free and frequent to be of most use to the most people.
The Greens at the last federal election proposed investing $25 billion over 10 years to upgrade and expand public transport across the country and we’ll keep fighting for that. But those upgrades take time, whereas free public transport can be implemented overnight - giving immediate cost of living relief to the people who need it and getting more people feeling ownership over our public transport system. And with the savings, we can invest in the infrastructure we need. Regional areas desperately need decent public transport services.
We need tickets to pay for a better service
Public transport is an essential public service. We can easily fund the cost of building the infrastructure and running the service if we make billionaires and corporations pay tax!
Isn't this middle-class welfare, only benefitting fairly rich people in inner cities?
We definitely need to expand public transport through the suburbs and regions, and the Greens are also calling for an investment of $25 billion to rapidly expand our networks. But there are so many people struggling with the cost of living in the city and suburbs at the moment and this is something we can do right now. A universal scheme like this disproportionately benefits the poorer and more marginalised communities living in the cities and suburbs. Zone-based fares penalise the poorer outer-suburban population, and fare evasion amongst poorer populations is criminalised.