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Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly

Full Day Hansard Transcript (Legislative Assembly, 3 April 2012, Proof)
Proof
Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard and Papers Tuesday, 3 April 2012 (Proof).
ASSISTED SCHOOL TRAVEL PROGRAM
Mr GEOFF PROVEST: My question is directed to the Minister for Education.
The SPEAKER: Order! I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he is already on three calls to order. The
member for Tweed has the call.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST: How is the Government implementing the Boston report recommendations on the
Assisted School Travel Program?
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI: I thank the member for Tweed for his question. Before I answer it, I acknowledge
the presence in the gallery of West Wyalong High School students and teachers—proud constituents of the
Murrumbidgee electorate. It is great to see them in Parliament House. To the boys from Joeys: I know that
quite a few fine young men from the Riverina also attend St Joseph’s in Hunter Hill. On 31 January 2012 Dr
Ken Boston was commissioned by the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to
conduct a review on his behalf, inquiring into and reporting on the circumstances by which transportation
under the Assisted School Travel program was not available to some eligible students on and from the first
day of the 2012 school year.
I apologise unreservedly to all parents and students who were affected at the beginning of this term. The
report made a number of recommendations. The New South Wales Government accepted all of those
recommendations. Former Deputy Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Mr Chris
Raper, was appointed by the Director General of the Department Education and Communities to drive the
implementation of those recommendations. Recommendations 1 and 2 recommended the establishment of
a new rates schedule for Assisted School Travel program contractors, and market testing of those rates. Mr
Raper consulted with a wide cross-section of operators to discuss their concerns. PricewaterhouseCoopers
was engaged to assist in developing rates options, and to market test with groups of operators.
This market testing has taken place to ensure proposed payment rates represent value for money and
provide a fair fee for the services provided. The market testing was conducted with six focus groups of
randomly selected operators. Focus groups were held in Orange, Liverpool, Ryde and Newcastle, as well
as via two telephone conferences. There was a short timeframe in which to market test these rates; they
need to be in place by term 2. I can advise the House that Cabinet endorsed the new schedule of rates
yesterday. I am pleased to announce today that the New South Wales Government will substantially
increase total annual funding for the Assisted School Travel program by nearly 57 per cent. The new rates
are a significant increase on the previous rates. They firmly establish a 30-kilometre minimum payment for
all runs. This minimum payment has been substantially increased.
They establish increases for all vehicle classes. Increases vary from approximately 18 per cent to 36 per
cent. In addition to the increases outlined, for all runs where a travel support officer is required, an
additional 15 per cent loading will be paid. We are advised, based on the market testing, that these rates
are fair and reasonable, and that they take into account the views expressed by operators in focus groups.
The department has commenced notifying operators of the new rates today. These new rates will be
effective as of 1 May 2012. Once these rates are accepted by operators, they will provide certainty and
stability in the daily routine for parents, students, carers and schools. During considerations, it was
identified that it would be more appropriate to classify the travel support officers as employees than as
contractors.
Therefore, the department is looking at arrangements to offer the travel support officers more certainty and
increase their rates of pay. This is the right thing to do for the carers who accompany the children to and
from school. During the consultation process operators raised a range of operational issues. These issues
have been referred to the department for consideration and appropriate action. The New South Wales
Government recognises that this was a significant problem, and we are dealing with it by implementing Dr
Boston’s recommendations, including by increasing the rates for all operators. Those were the key
recommendations of the Boston report, but I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on the
progress of implementing other recommendations made by Dr Boston in the report that was handed to the
Premier. [Extension of time granted.]
The member for Tweed recognises that this Government has responded, as it should have, appropriately to
the Boston report. But I update the House on the implementation of other recommendations.
Recommendation 3 was about the risk management of the Assisted School Travel program. This is well
advanced. A risk management team is assessing and managing the risks associated with the program.
Recommendation 4 was about the consideration of disciplinary action against two officers of the
department. These officers have been stood down until the disciplinary process under the Public Sector
Employment and Management Act is finalised. The investigation is being conducted by the New South
Wales Government’s Internal Audit Bureau. Recommendation 5 was about customer service. That is well
underway. The department has identified a customer service training provider to deliver a program to
enhance the customer service and communications skills of staff.
Recommendation 6 was completed by 22 February 2012, when all government school principals had
advised the department that the special requirements of children had been clarified and communicated with
parents. Recommendation 7 was about the payment functionality of the finance system, the Student
Transport Management System. The key changes have been implemented successfully. Recommendation
8 was about ensuring a contingency plan for the payment functionality of the Student Transport
Management System. The department has ensured that there is a contingency plan for alternative payment
arrangements should there be any issues with the system. Furthermore, I am advised that payments to
date have been made in line with contractual obligations. The O’Farrell-Stoner Government took this matter
very seriously. We are in the process of implementing all of those recommendations, which I am very
pleased about as they will be able to fully support children when they start the second term.

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