In his first visit to Port Stephens since becoming Opposition Leader last November, Michael Daley rolled into town on Thursday offering free public transport across the Opal network to all school children, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Labor’s commitment, should it win government at the state March election, will abolish all Opal charges for children under 16 years of age, or while they remain at school.
The party’s Fair Fares policy was announced in Medowie, the home town of Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
“Free public transport for school kids will make life so much easier and reduce the cost of living for families in Port Stephens,” Ms Washington said.
“Parents often contact me because their kids don’t qualify for school bus passes. They fear for their kids’ safety as they are forced to walk along main roads with inadequate footpaths to get to school. We’ll scrap those arbitrary rules.”
Mr Daley, a father of four, said that he and wife Christina had understood the challenges families continue to face through the rising cost of living.
“We’re going to make it really simple. If your child is at school, their travel on the Opal network will be free all year round. Instead of wasting billions of dollars knocking down and rebuilding stadiums in Sydney, we’re going to make public transport free for kids.”
The policy will not only allow local school children to use buses, trains, ferries and trams for free – including weekends – it will also abolish the antiquated boundary rules for school bus passes, which was music to the ears of a number of Medowie families who attended the policy announcement.
Mother-of-two Holly McKew said that the money saved from the free travel would go towards the children’s educational needs. “It will also be handy for trips to Newcastle where quite often we would catch a bus to Stockton, ferry across to Newcastle,” she said.
Medowie mum Susan Patten and her 13-year-old son Nick were equally impressed. “It will be great when Nick travels with his friends into Newcastle on weekends to go to the beach or cinema,” she said.
Leah Callaghan said that not having to pay to send her daughter, Ashley, by bus from Medowie to Wirreanda for OOSH of an afternoon would be a great relief.