A Message for the Member for Manly

November 2, 2007 at 1:44 am (Uncategorized)

Here’s the letter I just sent to the State Liberal Party Member for Manly, Mike Baird, regarding the proposed axing of the Manly Jet Cat service:

Dear Mr Baird

I am writing to express my grave concerns for the future of Manly’s public transport network, specifically in the wake of the Sydney Ferries report. My husband and I moved to Manly having purchased our first home here, but that purchase and the decision to build our life in this community were entirely contingent on fast, efficient access to the CBD that enables both of us to pursue our professional careers.

The unique topography of Manly clearly requires unique public transport strategies. The existence of the 15-minute Jet Cat service has made the crucial difference, because it is the combination of the Manly Ferry/Jet Cat services that balances the needs of the community, not one or the other exclusively. By removing an entire service, as proposed by the report, this already precarious balance is lost.

I also find it frankly bizarre that the replacement being proposed offers a slower service – once docking and disembarkation times are added, the so-called 20-minute ride in the planned 800 person capacity ship is exposed as a blatant furphy. Docking and disembarkation on the current Freshwater class ferries can add as much as an extra 10 minutes each way, whereas the (smaller, faster, more efficient) Jet Cats experience much, much faster turnaround. And we do pay handsomely for the privilege of a decent PT option – it has to be among the most expensive rides around, but it’s a price Manly commuters have proven they’re prepared to pay.

We do not have a rail network. We do not have a tunnel. We do not have an expressway. What we do have on the roads between Manly and the CBD is chronic overcrowding, and both the Spit and Military Rd offer two of the worst bottlenecks in the whole of Sydney. Buses – the only public transport mechanism in place to service the entire population of the broader Northern Beaches – are already in a state of crisis. It doesn’t make any sense for the residents of Manly to become part of that traffic travesty, not environmental, not economic, not social, and not geographic. Because the fact remains that the special situation in Manly, geographically speaking, is that the water crossing is the only and obvious solution. It is literally not possible to get to the city faster than on the Jet Cat – so why, why on earth would this be the fleet to be scrapped when it is one of the best examples of efficient public transport in the State?

Because it’s expensive? Well, it is not the role of a public transport network to be a profit centre per se. Public services are supposed to be… public services. They are not supposed to be run with a corporate mentality because their remit is entirely different. The State Government, and I agree with you on this, is out of control. They seem to be winding back their entire range of responsibilities, basically eliminating themselves from their own job spec, and I find it galling in the extreme that their fondness for corporatising roads, tunnels, and now ferries is being allowed carte blanche by the Opposition because, well, let’s face it, the Liberal Party at federal level is extremely pro doing precisely the same thing with healthcare, education, and Australia in general. We are not a corporation, we are a country, and profit margins and a big fat surplus of taxpayer funds are simply not the only indicators required to argue that we as a nation are in good shape. It’s leaving out a lot of the (in some ways very alarming) picture to keep blindly insisting that it is.

The public transport network is not the State Government’s to sell. It belongs to the people of New South Wales: we paid for and continue to pay for it, just as we pay for many roads and transport services we might personally never use. That’s the way it is. That’s how society functions. You are the elected representative of Manly. The State Government is supposed to be in the service of the population of New South Wales – public servants – and you would all do well to reacquaint yourself with the definition of this term. I for one want more from all of you, both the State and Federal Government and the Opposition at both levels. I want a lot more for my money. Since everyone is so terribly fond of attaching business cases to all areas of government these days, allow me to compare being a tax and ratepayer to being a shareholder. I’d really like to see the books. I’d like to see how my money is being spent. Because what I can’t see, Mr Baird, and believe me I’ve been looking in earnest for quite some time, is any evidence that anyone is representing the best interests of the population they are supposed to serve. And you’re all accountable because that’s simply the job you’re there to do.

Your own website notes that almost 50% of the 50,000 residents in the Manly electorate are between 25-54 years old. Do you know what that makes the majority of your electorate, Mike? That’s right: commuters. How can we be talking about reducing public transport facilities in a part of Sydney – the Northern Beaches – that is already on its absolute knees where public transport is concerned? How?

Your answer had better be good, Mike – believe me, we’re all listening.

Yours,

Diana Jenkins

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