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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Saffin: seniors transport card rollout a ‘fiasco’

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The new regional seni0rs transport card has been a bit wobbly ever since it was first mentioned over a year ago. Some folk even suggested the card was National Party trickery and a bribe to win votes in the last state election.

Now with the rollout of the card upon us, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin has labelled the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government’s rollout of the card as a fiasco, particularly as carers and disability support pensioners remain ineligible.

Ms Saffin says that the Government late last week caved in to sustained opposition and community pressure by extending the card to war veterans and war widows, many who are our locals here on the North Coast and the Northern Tablelands.

‘During last year’s state election, the Nationals and their candidate for Lismore Mr Curtin trumpeted this card as something really special for seniors, but the reality is that it is for a lucky few,’ said Ms Saffin.

‘I know our pensioners across my four Local Government Areas thought “great”, just as I did – a bit of relief for petrol, some need it to take their loved ones to medical appointments and for themselves.

‘In the country, we cannot always hop on a bus or a train like our city cousins can.

‘Firstly, there was a nine-month delay in making the card available, followed by disbelief from veterans that they, and others, would be treated as second class citizens.

Ms Saffin says to exclude veterans, who have given such great service to Australia, was just plain wrong and the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government had to be shamed into correcting this error of judgment.

‘To continue to shut out carers and disability support pensioners is cruel and hurts country folk and communities harder. These seniors are no less deserving of the card.

‘The Nationals claim they are the only ones looking after country New South Wales, which is bunkum anyway, and their mean-spirited approach to who qualifies for this card, shows how silly their posturing is.’

The regional seniors travel card provides eligible seniors living in the Lismore Electorate with a $250 prepaid card to help with the cost of everyday travel, and can be applied for through Service NSW.

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  1. Everything the state government does is a ‘fiasco’ at huge cost to taxpayers. No surprises there.

    If only the ALP had bothered to listen to Aged and Disability Pensioners (and thousands of the local community) when they were in power and provided the commuter train on the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) line everyone has been calling for, we wouldn’t need a $250 (!) travel card! But they allowed Eddie Obeid’s mate, Michael Costa, to cease services on the C-M line and deny Aged and Disability Pensioners (and millions of tourists) accessible train services.

    For over 100 years locals and tourists ‘could hop on a train’ that connected most large North Coast population centers and returned more money to the states’ coffers than Sydney trains. Instead of wasting billions making a mess of the construction of Sydney’s light rail, it would be much more cost effective to build the 22ks of line to connect the C-M line to Coolangatta. That would be of enormous benefit to all pensioners, (and millions of tourists) if the ALP had any real concern for them.

    Now Labor is making a huge fuss about a bloody travel card while at the same time allowing the state government to destroy the $4 billion publicly owned train line for a bike track! That’ll be a huge benefit to pensioners, especially in record heatwaves and rain events.

    Labors’ noises about ‘shutting out Disability Pensioners and Carers’ from a $250 travel card sounds like hypocrisy on steroids in this community.

  2. The suggestion that if the Government had reinstated rail services on the Casino Murwillumbah line we would not need a Seniors transport card is quite untrue . Over 80 % of public transport users in this region are seniors. The 2016 Census shows that overwhelmingly they live away from the rail corridor, with largest number of households without a car in the coastal parts of the Tweed and Ballina Shire’s. The largest concentration of households without a car is on Ballina Island, many older females. Reflecting those demographics the current public bus services in and out of Ballina and Tweed Heads get much better patronage than those that serve the younger households along the rail corridor.
    The Government needs to provide more regular bus services along all major routes including those along the rail corridor, but it has correctly concluded that the Casino Murwillumbah rail will not not meet the transport needs of this area.
    That leaves a corridor unused and choked with weeds. We can retain it as public land by repurposing it for a rail trail that will bring sustainable tourism along its length. Repurposing part of it for a tourist shuttle service is also being considered, but that has already been found to be incompatible with the rail trail on at least one stretch, (between Mullum and Billinudgel). It will be ironic indeed if the ostensibly Green Byron Shire is the last to embrace this healthy non polluting form of touring.


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