Rundle ‘underwhelmed’ by State’s response to school bus report
The State Government tabled its response to the report into School Bus Services in WA just before Christmas but the Nationals WA Member for Roe Peter Rundle says he is “underwhelmed”.
The report, entitled Bus Fair, was sparked by the instability of rural bus services in many areas including Munglinup west of Esperance.
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti requested the review to ensure School Bus Services and the Public Transport Authority’s Student Transport Assistance Policy Framework continued to meet the needs of the community.
The review was undertaken by the Public Accounts Committee and included more than 200 written submissions from local governments, bus contractors, school representatives and community members on the orange school bus service, 25 hearings and regional visits to Wagin, Narrogin, Dumbleyung and Jarrahdale.
Ms Saffioti thanked the committee and the wider community for their efforts in producing the report.
“It’s been nearly 25 years since a review into School Bus Services was undertaken, and we want to make sure the needs of the community continue to be met,” she said.
“We’re committed to improving school bus services for the community and will work across government, with families, and industry to implement the recommendations.”
Some of the key recommendations accepted in principle by the State Government include enhancing collaboration between the Department of Education and Public Transport Authority; providing greater notice to the community when Transperth services expand to replace school bus services; enabling families to keep their child on a wait list for a seat while also receiving a conveyance allowance; and creating a formal process for parents and caregivers to appeal decisions made by School Bus Services.
Other recommendations also accepted in principle include establishing a dedicated complaints management process; improving School Bus Services advertising and application processes for families; making information for applications more accessible, including providing information in languages other than English; and updating guidelines to include information on conduct of school bus contractors and drivers.
Mr Rundle told the Kalgoorlie Miner he was disappointed by the State’s response which predominantly featured “in-principle support”.
“I would say that I’m overwhelmed by the response from the minister,” he said.
“We made 40 recommendations, and certainly not all of them have been followed through with, and probably the ones that I’m most disappointed about, were, to me, the most important ones.
“Two or three of the most important recommendations that we made don’t appear to have been acted on at this stage, they’ve been handled back to the Treasury, Department of Education or the Public Transport Authority to further investigate.
“These were about ‘nearest appropriate school’ and also the ability for parents to determine which school their child goes to when they’re locked in a place that puts them in multiple school districts.
“I don’t know how long a review by the PTA and DoE is going to go on for. Is that a year? Or is it two years? I was hoping for those families that are on that borderline that they would be able to put their case forward for this school year.”
Mr Rundle acknowledged while the “nearest appropriate school” recommendation did not affect a large proportion of families, he said it was hugely significant for the families it did affect and was the driving force behind the inquiry in the first place.
“We’re trying to set up a process where you could put your case with financial and economic benefits forward. And this is one that seems to have been, once again, put to the sidelines,” he said.
“I can’t begin to tell those who are not in this situation, how crucial the orange school bus is to the economic and social strengths of our rural communities.
“I would suggest that for the 2023 year, not a great deal has changed — that would be my perception.”