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 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 it away".

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 know that.

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 to.

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 year.

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.