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
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
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
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