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Vehicle and Traffic Amendment (Driver Distraction and Speed Enforcement) Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Tags: Roads, Community Safety, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR - (Clark - Leader of the Greens) Mr Speaker, the Greens will be supporting the Vehicle and Traffic Amendment (Driver Distraction and Speed Enforcement) Bill 2022. We recognise that sole objective of these amendments is to make our roads safer and make sure that the technology we have available to us, is able to detect driver distraction, including the use of mobile phones and able to detect people who are not wearing their seatbelts. It is very difficult to understand how someone could consciously drive a car and not put their seat belt on. Obviously, the current regime where this technology can detect speeding, will also be maintained.

I also want to note with a heavy heart that the Tasmanian road toll this year is the highest it has been, as I understand it, in more than 10 years. Forty-one Tasmanians have had their lives cut short on our roads. Every one of those people was someone who was loved and had family and friends and lives that they were looking forward to the future in. As a parliament, we need to be collectively doing everything we can to make our roads safer. It should be one of those areas of public policy where there is really no significant disagreement about the measures that need to be taken.

I am very thankful to the Road Safety Advisory Council and Scott Tilyard for the regular briefings about the advisory council's work, and the way it engages across government, and across the parliament, to help us understand the road safety issues we are dealing with - but also the work program that Scott Tilyard and his team are undertaking to bring forward legislation like this. As we know, it is one thing to change the law, to potentially have a greater range of penalties apply, but as both the minister and Ms White have touched on, it is another to make sure you have the education and the training programs in place to help people be the best drivers they can be.

I am also thankful to the RACT for their work on behalf of the whole of Tasmania. They are such a great organisation. They are basically owned by members, and you do get a real sense of a very positive corporate culture at the RACT. Their regular road forums, and the forums that they have around election time, have been for me - who is really not massively in love with roads - a real education and enlightenment.

I am also very thankful to the RACT for the work they have done on mobility vision for Hobart and our other major centres. I hope minister Ferguson continues to look at that Greater Hobart mobility vision, but also the work that has been done by the RACT on Launceston, because ultimately what we need to be doing is getting more people out of cars and into mass transit.

Mr Speaker, when I was looking up the Tasmanian road toll for this year - remembering that we are only in September - I was struck by how high this number is. At the same time I also reminded myself that 182 Tasmanians have died this year from, or with, COVID 19. The contrast between a policy and legislative process that rightly seeks to do everything we can to keep people safe on our roads, and to save lives, with the way governments around this country are managing COVID 19 could not be more stark.

If 182 Tasmanians had died on the roads this year, the minister would have to resign. Yet 20 000 Australians, by the end of this year, will have died from or with COVID 19. The numbers are so staggering it is hard to wrap your head around them. As an Australian who grew up thinking we lived in a society, it is hard to understand how we have got to this point, where it is apparently acceptable to the federal Labor government - and to state and territory governments of both colours - that we have so little protection in place for the broader community from a virus which kills people, which leads to long-term health disability.

All governments, collective in their cowardice, have abandoned the Australian people to a brain-invading vascular virus. More than half of the Tasmanian population has been infected - and these are the ones that are reported. The reported cases sit at 250 000, in a population of 540 000, and we know that the reported cases are an undercount. I know a number of members of this place have contracted COVID 19. I know a number of members of this place have watched their children become infected from COVID 19. All four of my kids have had it. One of my children has purple toes, just developed in the last couple of months. What a coincidence.

I say this, Mr Speaker, because the opportunities to speak to ministers and governments about their betrayal are rare, and they are going to become rarer, because the daily COVID 19 statistics report will now be weekly. We have governments which, complicit in their cowardice, have gone against the evidence of independent experts and shortened the isolation period for COVID 19 infectious people from seven to five days - knowing more people will be infected, knowing more people will endure long COVID, and knowing more people will die.

How did we get here? What no-one in government has ever acknowledged is the trauma that is felt by people who live with a disability, or who are immunocompromised, or who want to protect their children from a brain-invading bat virus. There is genuine and deep trauma in the community because people feel abandoned by their governments - because they have been.

I am sorry if it makes other members in this place feel uncomfortable when we raise these issues, but we will not let up, because we listen to the experts, and we listen to the evidence.

We are disgusted by this cavalier attitude to human health that we are seeing from governments state and federal, Labor and Liberal. If only we applied, to this virus, the same level of care and concern that we do to road safety, we would be in a very different position - and a lot more of our fellow Tasmanians would be alive today.

May they rest in peace.