Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:46): (1832) My adjournment debate is for the Minister for Public Transport in the other place, and the action that I am seeking is for the minister to introduce a more effective framework for authorised officers to use in order to fine those who fare evade or misuse public transport. Recently I was speaking with a public transport driver in my electorate as well as fellow passengers on public transport who are getting pretty frustrated with the amount of people who walk on and off without paying. Public transport operators, such as bus drivers, are obviously not in a position to confront fare evaders, even though it is exceptionally frustrating for them. The responsibility to penalise fare evaders is left with the authorised officers. However, what I am being told is that this is simply not happening. AOs have responsibility to the passenger transport company, but they also have a responsibility to the Department of Transport. By not fining anyone on public transport we risk undermining the integrity of the system and everyone just gets a free ride, literally.
Authorised officers attending regional cities like Geelong are not even there for long periods of time. From what I am told, they usually operate a shift in the middle of the day, which clearly does not account for the breadth of fare evading. I am also told that they usually just sit there on their phones rather than monitoring commuters. These officers need to be employed for more hours and need to actually fine fare evaders to deter future offences. Whilst this may be a matter for the individual companies that hire the AOs, I wonder whether they are being provided with enough funding for such positions or how this funding relationship actually works. I believe that if AOs had a framework provided by the department on when they should penalise commuters, it would make the consistency of penalties much higher. The system being utilised at present is a bit beyond a joke.
Lastly, public transport operators, specifically buses, have buttons fitted in their vehicles for registering commuters to track how many people are catching public transport. They have buttons for both concession and full-fare customers, but there is no button for fare evaders. This means we do not actually know the extent of the issue, but from what I am hearing from the community, it is huge. I understand there are some people who cannot afford full fares, but that is what the healthcare card and concession options allow for—cheaper public transport. Everyone should pay their way, and if not, there should be enforceable penalties that make the rules clear. I look forward to the minister’s response about how a framework could be introduced that would specify when AOs are encouraged to penalise commuters who fare evade.