Last week, I met with a group of local residents at Mount Seymour, in the Southern Midlands in my electorate. They were meeting on the Tunnack Road to voice their concerns over the unsafe and unacceptable state of the road surface. This was not your standard 2021 protest, as we have come to understand them; this was a protest in Lyons style. Good, polite, well-meaning people, many of whom have never been in a protest in their lives before, turned up on the roadside at Tunnack Road to make their concerns known. It was a local issue raised by local folk at a really local level.
The organiser, Sue Scott, kicked off proceedings by stating the gathering was not a protest against the road users—specifically, the freight trucks and their drivers—but rather it was an opportunity for people to air their concerns to decision-makers about how badly this local road, the main arterial route between Oatlands and Tunnack, had deteriorated over the last couple of years in particular, and the implications for all users of that road, which includes a number of school buses. It's a busy road with every kind of vehicle—log trucks, school buses, farm machinery, big trucks and ambulances. Indeed, on the day of our protest, an ambulance was stuck on the side of the road and had to be carted out. Every person who attended the protest had a story to tell. People told of damage to their vehicles, including punctures, broken windscreens and near misses on the narrow tarmac. I'm familiar with the road in question. At the end of the day, the consensus was simple: everyone who stopped by that Tuesday morning just wanted a safer road for people to enjoy. It does not seem like too much to ask for, yet we have seen so many times under the Liberal government federally and at the state level that regional roads are left behind, particularly when it comes to Tasmania.
The Liberal government has a track record of over-promising and under-delivering on road infrastructure. You need only look back six months, when a horde of blue-and-white chequered shirts flew down to trumpet the so-called new funding for the Bass and Midland highways. The Midland Highway was touted as receiving a $37.8 million upgrade with a focus on Ross, Oatlands and Campbell Town, but a little digging revealed the truth: it was not new funding; it was simply repackaged and reheated promises from previous budgets that had been spun into a new story. Eight years—that is how long the Liberals have had to finish the Midland Highway. What of the Bass Highway, a very busy highway in the north of the state? It took some sharp work from my Labor colleague Helen Polley in the Senate to reveal that touted upgrades to the Bass Highway between Deloraine and Devonport will not even start until late 2023 and are not expected to be completed until late 2025. In response to questions on notice asked by Senator Polley, it was revealed that the contracts for the upgrades between Deloraine and Devonport would not even be awarded until mid-2023.
It's just not good enough. This is critical infrastructure work. The Bass Highway is in dire need of more overtaking lanes and dual lanes. It just is not safe in its current form. We need a government that cares about regional roads. We need a government that listens to regional constituents. After eight long years, it is clear the regions do not benefit from another three years under those opposite.