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 Alan Lucas


By Alan Lucas, SY Soleares

The worldwide reputation of Queensland's boating laws and the often arrogant ways in which they are enforced, led me to consider ways of democratising their policing along environmental lines. Perhaps, I thought, they could be linked to carbon share trading as a means of reminding our persecutors that on the subjects of safety and environment, they should be practising, not preaching.

The way things are, you are sailing along doing absolutely nothing wrong, when out of nowhere appears a large, high-speed patrol boat. As it draws abeam, a RIB full of armed Hollywood heroes launches off its stern then zooms across to your innocent little ship to carry out a terrorist exercise and/or search for infringements. Without niceties, the officers swarm aboard to finance their invasion and outrage your sensitivities. You are stunned and shocked by an invasion of privacy that is chillingly like the beginning of Nazism in the 1930s.

Now let's replay the same scene under my proposed democratic carbon trading system. This time, as the RIB comes alongside, a carbon share balance must be established before the officers can board your craft. Instead of shouting 'We're coming aboard', then rudely carrying out their threat regardless of your protestations, they must say, 'Subject to carbon share transactions, we may have to board your boat'. As a sop to their egos and in recognition that rules and regs are unstoppable - as well as a lament to the death of the assumption of innocence, you are automatically deemed to have committed an offence and immediately lose 1000 shares.

However, because many of today's rules and regs are linked to the environment, you countermand by pointing out that their mother ship and RIB are burning obscene quantities of fuel whilst you have burnt none all day. This automatically cancels out the deemed 1000 shares and produces a level playing field.

At this juncture lifestyle cruising sailors can increase their share portfolio by pointing out that they have not used a car for months (years in some cases); that they always walk or use public transport; they consume just five litres of freshwater a day against landlubbers' statistical squandering of up to 600 litres a day; they use wind and sun power instead of being connected to a fantastically wasteful grid and find at least three uses for every item aboard ship. Furthermore, they belong to one of the last western social groups in which obesity is virtually unknown, thereby easing the burden on present and future health budgets.

The officers - still bouncing up and down alongside in their RIB, now owe you 20,000 shares and are hanging their heads in shame. They promise to be better environmental citizens in future and will start by replacing their RIB with a gaff-rigged pinnace and the mother ship with a trireme and 120 rowers. They will also have sponge or Baby Wipe baths instead of long, hot showers, and will shred their copies of Mien Kampf. They even promise to join Jenny Craig and replace their 4WDs with pushbikes while planting native trees in their backyard. Furthermore, they understand that they cannot board you again until all share folios have tipped back in their favour.

Feeling magnanimous and without rancour about the tyranny of the pre-carbon trading days, you tell them to have a nice day then go and exchange your extra shares for an Al Gore DVD and a yacht charter holiday to see what sailing is like without a licence nor any obligation to comply in any way with dozens of hypocritical rules.

A return to democracy through environment-based shares would be mind-bogglingly complex but, hey, that's never troubled governments in the past so why should it now? But let's say the concept is rejected: there may be other ways to a return of democracy on the high seas - albeit, at the possible cost of a brief civil war. One way is to accept being demonised by marine officials in exchange for having all landlubbers subjected to the exact same treatment. Give police, customs and at least five state government departments the absolute right to enter any house at any time without warrant, warning or

pleasantries to issue on-the-spot-fines of up to $64,000 for aging electrical systems, leaking plumbing, LPG infringements and for not insuring a house for salvage costs when it becomes a public liability.

An alternative to the above is to adopt the Italian system that works on the basis that when rules and regulation-meltdown is reached, everyone ignores them - including the government. And don't be fooled by the fact that Italy has changed governments every ten months since 1945: this is not proof of a country in distress: far from it, it is proof that the country doesn't need a government. It works just fine without one.

Back in Queensland it has to be acknowledged that bullyboy boarding tactics seems to have decreased lately, so maybe anarchy is already clicking in. After all, marine officers are human too, able to endure just so much public anger before turning a blind eye to a mass of rules that make no sense. Nevertheless, Nazism may not have left us astern yet, as suggested by a recent incident. It is deliciously ironic that it happened to a retired boating officer from another state.

The retiree in question bought a cruising boat in the Burnett area. Steaming his treasure south, still in Queensland waters, he was shocked by the sudden appearance of officers jumping onto his side deck from an official boat whilst under way. There were no niceties, just the usual bullish attitude that stunned our retiree whose boat did not attract a fine because, predictably, she fully complied. Without apology, they left him in a state of shocked disbelief, so when it happened a second time (that's right, he was boarded twice during his few days in good old perfect-the-next-day-Queensland), he had his response ready: As they stormed aboard, he confronted them saying; 'Look, I'm a retired boating officer from interstate. I once had the same powers as you, but never boarded boats without permission, and certainly never under way. Don't you people get any training in civility?'

In telling me his story, he went on to say that towards the end of his employment most boating officers who came from a solid maritime background, like himself, were retiring and being replaced by young officers whose training is more about police tactics than understanding the nautical world. And although he felt 'his' state would never be as bad as Queensland, he held no real hope for overall improvement anywhere in Australia.

And I can't let this subject go without referring to an item on the ABC during early December 2007. Sydney Airport, now privately owned, complained that Australian Customs were causing unnecessary bottlenecks and delays to the flow of incoming passengers. This, they said, restricts profits and ruins our reputation with tourists who will go elsewhere. The company statement went on to promise that it will not tolerate it and will demand change!

So, there you have it: all we have to do to repel boarders is call ourselves tourists. The next time officers come alongside, just say that you have no licence, know nothing about boats and their regulations and are, in fact, just bare-boating. They'll probably say 'Have a nice day sir and enjoy your visit'.