IT IS   usual to describe Tasmania as being highly parochial with the main divide being North versus South.  Closer examination reveals that the North is further divided between the North East and North West and the populations in each area want everything they can get from government.  One only has to look at the furore over the Mersey Hospital to see that each little town wants its share of the action and the services.  The handing back of the hospital to the state government by the Feds seems to have taken the situation back to square one.  The locals want the hospital but no one wants to run it and staff cannot be found.  However, it promises to be an ongoing problem for health minister Giddy Giddings and a running sore on the body politic.

Despite the fact that Paul Lennon was a member from Franklin and before him, Jim Bacon from Denison, vested interests have demanded that the North obtains more from government, state and federal than south of the DMZ between Ross and Oatlands. Road funding in the south of the state is an absolute disgrace.  For years, major roads such as the Eastern outlet leading to the airport, which has been well and truly carved up by heavy transport, have been patched to the extent that in the section prior to the Mornington roundabout, there are more patches than original road.  A former senior manager of the New South Wales Department of Roads and Transport commented that all the repairs have been done in the cheapest way possible, hardly a surprise.  In summer the road gets hot, expands and cracks while in the winter, water widens the cracks and pot holes frequently deepen overnight.  Contrast that with the “Road to Nowhere” outside Launceston - allegedly the finest road in the state, which bears testimony to state and federal governments pandering to the north for electoral advantage.

At long last, so they say, work is about to begin on the Kingston bypass but there are many experts who have said that it is unnecessary and what is really needed is a Hobart bypass. To that one can also add that a bypass to the Bowen Bridge with a connection through Flagstaff Gully Road would ease the load on the Tasman Bridge, which is easily congested and not built to handle current volumes of traffic.  An acquaintance of mine has been trying to make the case for the Flagstaff Gully link road for years on the grounds that 80% of traffic headed into Hobart from the Eastern shore during the rush hour turns north to Moonah and Glenorchy.  There is no cheap or easy fix to the problem with the Tasman Bridge, which will have to be replaced within the next 20 years.  As politicians of all stripes think in electoral cycles only, long-term planning appears to be out of the question.  Yet this is the vital type of infrastructure that needs examination because export produce from the Huon, Margate and so on rely on quick passage to Hobart Airport.

While a spate of accidents earlier this year led to the Midlands highway being called the “Highway of Death” in the media, in terms of casualties per kilometre, the South Arm highway is a clear winner in this contest which no one wants to win.  Driving to South Arm itself is something of a nightmare and at various spots along the road, sad floral tributes are increasingly left at accident sites.  At this very moment, there is duplication of the highway from the Shoreline roundabout to Pass Road.  But why no further?  Why no Rokeby bypass?  Why no consideration of a divided highway all the way to South Arm?

After all, greedy developers and a compliant Clarence City Council appeared determined to turn the Eastern shore into a mirror image of the housing mess that lies behind Hobart city. Beyond Pass Road more developments are being opened up which might make an upgrade of the South Arm highway a matter of some urgency.  In any event, expansion on the Eastern shore has not been met by expansion of infrastructure that is taken for granted elsewhere. 

These issues bring into bold relief the problems of division in the South of the state.  If you’re fortunate enough to live on the Western shore of the Derwent, then you can pay for the installation of gas home heating. It’s not cheap but it’s available and cleaner than wood heating.  For the elderly and infirm, including asthmatics, gas heating is extremely effective and given the hike in electricity prices, with more to come, but further rollout in gas infrastructure around Hobart is a distinct possibility.

Through bloody mindedness, short-sightedness or lack of foresight by both the State government and the Clarence City Council, there is not a gas pipeline on the Eastern shore for domestic or business consumers.  Beyond Clarence, the municipality of Sorell, one of the fastest growing in the state, has poor roads and a crying need for modern infrastructure.

Then, there’s the fibre-optic cable being rolled out from Hobart to the North.  It passes through New Town, Moonah, Glenorchy and on up through Devonport.  The mirage of high-speed broadband access is dangled before the mug punters, yet we have Third World broadband speed. Various vague promises about ADSL 2 and blazingly fast speed abound but there’s no evidence to support imminent arrival.  It depends on the infrastructure and the fibre-optic cable is on the Hobart side of the Derwent.  But what about the Eastern shore?  If you contact the website of the local ISP TasTel, they offer “Lightspeed broadband” - high speed Internet for $29.95 per month.  Don’t bother making the call if you live on the Eastern shore.  Unless there’s a major change in government policy, we remain condemned to broadband that is not that much faster than dial-up speed.

With the amount of development on the Eastern shore, both gas and fibre-optic cable should be available. Even more so when you consider that the Clarence City Council and the State government in acts of incomparable stupidity have permitted the construction of not one but two Dumb Freaking Objects (DFOs) separated by a couple of kilometres and close to the airport, Prudentia at Cambridge and Austexx at the airport.  The Hobart City Council has very real fears that these mega-monsters will drain custom from the CBD.  Far more ominously, in a sign of what might be things to come in terms of hollowing out of the city and suburban shopping centres, Harvey Norman at Rosny Park has gone, relocated to the Cambridge near the Mitre 10/K&D complex.

There does not appear to be a public transport plan for either project, leaving private transport as the only means of reaching them.  With petrol set to approach two dollars per litre, once the novelty value has worn off, these concrete calamities will predictably become expensive liabilities.  One solution floating in the air sometime ago was for light rail from an unspecified transit point located somewhere on the Eastern outlet to the airport.  With the old Rosny golf course (the ideal location for a transit point) being scheduled for a caravan park or other development, this seems more like pie in the sky.  The famous bouncing Bob Cotgrove, sometime Tasmania University lecturer in urban geography and regular commentator on post-industrial society has been uncharacteristically silent on this matter.  With arguments about global warming being accepted and built into government policy, it should be obvious to all but the most blind that modern public transport is a matter of necessity, not luxury.

Who is to say what will become of the DFO’s? Clean and bright today, they face the prospect of poor winter sales and patronage.  Both will be swept by cold winds from the ocean and a combination of driving rain, low temperatures and high petrol costs could hardly be said to be enticing to shoppers.  In the future, there is a prospect that they will fail, become deserted at night or inhabited by transients.  Only relocated government departments or instrumentalities such as Aurora will cling limpet-like to their offices.  Meanwhile, those who have embraced the imbecility will never be forced to face the consequences of their actions.  In times when people are questioning the degradation of agricultural land, the Cambridge development in particular appears inappropriate.  If the developments fail, some could be used for addressing the state’s chronic shortage of housing but once again, why should people be stuck in the middle of nowhere without public transport.  Haven’t we learned yet what enforced social isolation produces in the way of aberrant human behaviour?

The state electorate of Franklin is represented by three Labor members, one most recently being the former Premier and Ministers Giddings and Wriedt but that has conferred no advantage to the long-suffering voters. Along with MLCs Allison Ritchie and Lin Thorp, I challenge these Labor members to state categorically what they have done for the long-suffering electors.  What we have seen over many years is the fact that the ALP, federally and at state level, live in a comfort zone knowing that their members are usually safe in the south of the state, although Ms. Wriedt got one hell of a shock at the last election and was fortunate that Green preferences flowed to her.  State Labor has focused on the North to the detriment of the South and on the western bank of the Derwent, leaving the “Easties” at a great disadvantage. 

Nothing that this has been said in this article is original or new.  I know of several people who have tried to campaign for gas and fibre-optic cable for the Eastern shore, along with better road maintenance.  Governments promise but do not deliver so nothing gets done.  For years the residents of Tasmania have been told that low wages and the expenses of living in the Island state are more than offset by the lifestyle. However, that lifestyle has become much more expensive in a relative sense and we are told the economy is booming by the Treasurer himself.  We the taxpayers need more bang for the buck.

The new Premier has stated that he wants to rule the line under the last 10 years of ALP government and commence anew.  That being the case, he would be well advised to take a look at what needs doing in the South of the state.  We surely need more than a relocated hospital, fancy remodelling of buildings and scarcely improved roads.  If Mr. Bartlett is serious about having an administration which is clever, kind and communicative then he surely needs to address some of these problems as a matter of urgency.  With him pushing the idea (slightly warmed) of Tasmania becoming a clever Island, its citizens need to be warm in winter and able to access the Internet at high speeds. And it makes no difference whether we are talking about the North, the South or any of the divisions within those areas.  Mr. Bartlett must govern for all and not just the vested interests of his two predecessors.

The upcoming state budget, described by a senior Treasury official as “locked in” will be the first and early test of how the new Premier intends to lead the state.

Nostradamus

The new Premier has stated that he wants to rule the line under the last 10 years of ALP government and commence anew.  That being the case, he would be well advised to take a look at what needs doing in the South of the state.  We surely need more than a relocated hospital, fancy remodelling of buildings and scarcely improved roads.  If Mr. Bartlett is serious about having an administration which is clever, kind and communicative then he surely needs to address some of these problems as a matter of urgency.  With him pushing the idea (slightly warmed) of Tasmania becoming a clever Island, its citizens need to be warm in winter and able to access the Internet at high speeds. And it makes no difference whether we are talking about the North, the South or any of the divisions within those areas.  Mr. Bartlett must govern for all and not just the vested interests of his two predecessors.

The upcoming state budget, described by a senior Treasury official as “locked in” will be the first and early test of how the new Premier intends to lead the state.