Earlier this week, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced that in an effort to further improve Sydney’s transport network, the State government is replacing Opal cards with actual opals.
Ms Berejiklian expressed concerns over the smooth transition that took place in September from paper tickets to the new smartcard system, with more than 700,000 commuters having secured their card within the first week.
“When we introduced the Opal Card System we didn’t think that so many people would start using it so quickly,” said Ms Berejiklian.
“It’s been a problem, but I think that opals, being the national gemstone of Australia and all, will really help Australians understand that public transport is actually a privilege and not a right,” she said.
To introduce these changes the State Government has invested $5 million in a new advertising campaign of the “Opal Man,” an anthropomorphised opal with human facial features and limbs.
However, Sydney commuters were taken by surprise by the State Government’s scrapping of electronic cards. Many also experienced significant transport delays.
Brandon Smith, who commutes from Werrington to Town Hall on a bus and a train, said he was left frustrated with the added expense.
“The Opal card was already costing me more since some of my buses don’t have it yet,” the 33-year-old said. “But how am I going to afford a fucking opal?!”
“I’m anticipating customers who haven’t made the switch to opals may be inconvenienced,” Ms Berejiklian responded. “But we know that at least 90 per cent of our customers will be either the same or better off financially.”
“It’s got great incentives built into it,” she added, admiring an 18K black opal and gold ring on her finger, valued at US $5,000.
Concerns over whether the majority of middle-class Australian income earners will actually be able to afford the precious gemstones are widespread. A good opal can cost anywhere between $40-120 per carat, while an extra fine one ranges between $2,800-9,200.
“Bad luck, suckers,” Ms Berejiklian shrugged. “Earn or learn.”