On August 11, the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, made all the NSW trains free. Bus, ferry, and light rail rides too. He announced that this boon will take place until midnight.
But why would Perrottet and his government be so generous? Especially after the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union went after their Opal card profits in August and early September? Whelp, it’s because Perrottet wanted to incentivise the public to celebrate the proclamation of King Charles III. “While our State and Nation, and the Commonwealth of Nations, continue to mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, it is fitting that we celebrate the accession of His Majesty King Charles III,” stated Perrottet.
He also declared, “The NSW Proclamation Ceremony is an opportunity for people to be part of a historic moment for our state.”
Okay folks, I’m not a royalist, but I am a fan of free public transport. This move would have made activities like getting the groceries or checking up on ill family members a lot easier. After all, we’re in a cost of living crisis, and every cent counts.
However, there was another important event that took place earlier this year that didn’t receive such gravitas. There were no free trains on this date. There were no such incentives to get people to its events around the state. And that day was National Sorry Day.
National Sorry Day takes place on May 26. Reconciliation Australia outlined that this day is about remembering and acknowledging “the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.” This day also encourages us all to reflect on the resilience of the Stolen Generations and consider what we can do to help these individuals heal.
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It’s safe to say that this day is incredibly important. Our leaders should be doing everything in their power to encourage folks to turn up to National Sorry Day functions. Ergo, if a king who isn’t even in our country can get a day of free train rides, then shouldn’t the same offer be provided for First Nation events?
Furthermore, I believe that Perrottet might be up for such a change. Back in June, the ABC reported that he was willing to spend $25 million on getting the Aboriginal Flag installed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At the time, he said, “I think it brings unity to our country, and I think it’s a small price to pay for that unification.”
Don’t get me wrong, even though the government ended up spending less than $25 million on said flag, that price tag would have been worth it. But 24 hours of free public transport for National Sorry Day would be a cheaper scheme overall. It would be a smaller price to pay for the same unification that Perrottet claims that he’s chasing after. It’s a win-win situation.
Now, will such free public transport transform Australia into a utopian land of peace? Absolutely not. The roots of colonialism run far and deep. The issue at hand is a grain of glass in a desert made of broken windows. There is so much work that needs to be done.
Nevertheless, King Charles III got free public transport today without even asking for it. If I can spend my August 11 calling for a minutely better system, then you bet your boots that I will.
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