From TCP # 10 Alan Lucas approaches
the subject from the perspective of a person having spent a life
time on boats and having much love for the lifestyle and the
sea. Alan is Australia's most prolific author on practical boating
issues and has numerous books currently in print.
By Alan Lucas, SV "Soleares"
I believe it was Joseph Stalin who said;
"One death is a tragedy, ten thousand is a statistic".
Well he should know. He killed eighteen
million of his own people in PEACE time! But what has this got
to do with the latest round of sewage laws handed down to us
from Queensland Transport?
It is this: When one live-aboard sailor
pumps his toilet once, he is liable to a fine in the many thousands
of dollars. If a large corporation dumps millions of dollars
of raw sewage into the sea, it is treated more as a statistic
than as an offence.
Look at a few Stalinistic official responses:
On the New South Wales Northern Rivers
regional ABC during April 2003, it was announced that Mullumbimby's
1962 sewage system commonly overflows into the Brunswick River
during heavy rain. A council spokesman just saw it as "inevitable".
Again reported by the same ABC July 7,
2004 was the 300,000 litre raw sewage spill into the Tweed River.
A few days later after that spill, a council EPA officer gave
the all-clear, saying that, "The River was safe again for
swimming, fishing and boating." because-wait for it- nature
had taken care of it and there was no sign of any pollution whatsoever!
And then came the hypocrisy's crowning
glory when ten million litres-yes, ten million litres of raw
sewage spilt into Toowong Creek, Brisbane during August 2004.
To this, the Lord Mayor's response on Channel 7 was, "There
was no serious pollution because the big high tide had carried
Now hang on a minute; if millions of litres
is no problem, why is one lonely little thoroughly macerated
stool emanating from a boat's toilet so bothersome? If we work
on the arbitrary figure of one litre per pump-out of a straight
through toilet, that means ten million yachts could anchor in
Toowong Creek and all pump-out at the same time, and there will
be no serious pollution. Sounds like cruising boat heaven!
Alternatively, we could all rock on down
to the Tweed and do it there with the same total absence of environmental
impact. Hey, this makes me feel so much better about being hounded
by bureaucrats whose double standards are as breathtaking as
the subject under discussion.
But let's back up here a moment or two.
That ten million litre spill in Brissy was caused by a 'fat blockage'.
Golly, does that mean that those landlubbers are at it again,
chucking things down the drain like cooking fat, industrial waste
and so on? Yachties are the only ones causing pollution, we all
This automatic persecution of the live-aboard
sailor is far from new. The subject of holding tanks and pump-out
stations was being discussed in the 1960's, with the United States
going down that track. It didn't last long and their expensive
stations fell into disuse almost the moment they were built.
Nor, would you believe, is political hypocrisy
new. In 1976, Sydney sewage workers struck for 31 days over higher
pay, during which time raw sewage was pumped into the sea in
its trillions of litres, raising a lot of public disquiet. But
don't you worry about that. The then Premier Lewis, after one
of his daily swims at Bondi Beach, was reported as saying that
he had not seen any evidence of pollution, nor did he expect
And so everyone lived happily ever after,
except us live-aboarders who were hunted almost to extinction
by the, then, Maritime Services Board.
As we all know, Sydney now pumps further
out to sea, so its massive daily output is nicely out of sight.
But it, like just about every other city and town in Australia,
has trouble coping with floods. Too much rain and everyone's
in the poo. Raw sewage goes everywhere, drains back-up and redirect
all those harmless fast food packs, cigarette butts, brake lining
dust, agricultural chemicals, bottles, ATM receipts and, heaven
forbid, native animal species faeces into the waterways.
The amazing thing is that waterways have
an extraordinary natural ability to repair themselves after such
onslaughts. Even an EPA officer of my acquaintance admitted that
he was always amazed at how quickly faecal coliform bacteria
disappear when doing tests after a major raw sewage spill. Does
this mean that those hyprocritical pollies are right after all?
If so, why are they hounding us?
Personally, I believe that nature is at
melt-down. She can't cope with humans and their destructive habits
and we all need to do something about it. I mean all, not just
a tiny minority of people who live on boats who, by virtue of
their habitat are far more conservative minded than anyone ashore-especially
those making laws that focus on us and not society at large.
So, am I promoting a continuation of the
old ways of direct thru-hull discharge? No, I am not. Those days
are over, but they should be terminated intelligently and with
at least as much compassion as multinationals receive. In other
words, if raw sewage is as big a threat as they say, then chuck
money in the right direction. Instead of hounding us, help us.
Governments, both national and state are
always generous with their money if you are a multinational company
threatening to leave Australia. They are even more generous in
funding for huge sporting events and illegal, undeclared wars.
And if just a tiny percentage of the half billion dollars they
forgave Iraq for its wheat debt were spent on pump-out stations,
then we could have half a dozen in every port by the end of the
But no, that's all too un-economical. Much
better to promulgate unworkable laws, send out the officers to
collect fines and to hell with the constitution. If we can't
catch them in the act, then we will deem them to be breaking
the law and still fine them.
It's this attitude that we, the boating
public totally reject because, not only are we being unfairly
targeted, but we are targeted with laws that are a frightening
reversal of democratic principles. If we can be deemed to have
used the shop's toilet when in fact we have just been ashore
to use a public facility, what is the point of true innocence?
It is beginning to look like the thousand
year old Magna Carta is to be replaced with corporate dictatorship
and that worries a lot of people in Australia-with or without
a boat. It is time to remind governments of all leanings that
they are voted in to represent the people, not corporate ladder
climbers who vote themselves a raise every time they tick off
yet another problem.
The solution to boats and raw sewage is
simple: Set up publicly funded and freely available pump-out
stations in easily accessed places. Do not presume marina owners
want to fund their own stations nor that sailors will happily
pay to pump out (especially at the end of a weekend when the
amphibious boat owners want to go home rather than jill around
waiting for their turn at the pump).
And if the legislators are so keen for
us to fit onboard treatment plants, then subsidise us. Not everyone
can fork out a few thousand bucks for a monstrosity that might
be banned a few years later.