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 Alan Lucas articles


 License to Print money$$

  This 8-person hire houseboat had 12 people aboard, all of whom spent an afternoon at a local pub, then, after dark when hire boats are banned from moving, they moved to this bridge pylon which became their alongside berth for two days. The sign says: "Danger No Mooring". By Queensland Maritime Safety standards, these people do not need a licence.. Boat owners do. Who are they kidding?

By Alan Lucas, SV, Soleares

"Queensland recently considered extending its licensing net to include all boat owners whether their craft could plane at speed or not. To date it has not been implemented but, as we all know, bureaucracies never scrap a sound money-making idea; they simply wait until we have all forgotten about it and then they slip it in".(editors note, this article appeared in early 2005, very soon after Queensland government did exactly as Alan described/predicted they would.)

This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol's newsletter, "The Masthead" early 2001. It was a critical piece about Victoria's sudden swing from no boat registrations and licences to a total blanket law on all boats and their owners. It netted the new bureaucracy millions of dollars and was justified under that tired old heading of "Safety".

A couple of years before that, Queensland Transport was floating the same idea and opening it for public input. My input, in the form of a critical letter, did not even deserve an acknowledgement of receipt, let alone a response. It was the sort of public involvement we have come to expect of this department. So I changed tacks and wrote articles for the above newsletters "Modern Boating" and "Afloat", hoping to alert my fellow sailors of potential events. The response was one letter criticising my lack of concern for "safety" and another suggesting my attack was "cynical"!

So, how cynical is it now? Six years later, sure enough, Queensland is going down that track and, yep, they are calling it a "safety initiative". Victoria, in the meantime, has had a rise in boating fatalities since its inception of rules and regs; so who's kidding who here?

The fact is Queensland Transport's (Maritime Safety) blanket rules, obliging everyone with a boat of over 6 horse power to have a Recreational Marine Drivers License, is nothing short of a blatant and hypocritical grab for cash. It has absolutely nothing to do with safety and depends entirely on the assumption that we, the owners of plodding displacement vessels, have suddenly become a threat to life and limb. This is so patently wrong that it is downright insulting. Let's look at a few real life facts as against those dreamed up by the corporate ladder climbers who are now controlling us.

First, is the above mentioned rise in accidents since Victoria started down the track (reported in "Cruising Helmsman", October 2004). Second, is the fact that accidents amongst the displacement fleet are very rare, so much that they are almost non-existent compared to planing craft accidents - and planing craft drivers, never let it be forgotten, have been licensed since 1962!

This fact is damning evidence in itself that licensing does not produce safety. But the most profound evidence of the legislation's futility as anything but a money raiser comes from within the legislation itself. Unbelievably - and breathtaking in its hypocrisy, is the fact that holiday makers are exempt. That's right, if you've never seen a boat in your life but want to hire one for a week's holiday, you are miraculously deemed perfectly safe and do not need a licence!

  Maritime safety would respond to this by piously saying that hirees receive tuition before being allowed to venture forth. Oh yeah? Sometimes, sometimes not, it depends on circumstances. But even if the argument was valid, by inference it suggests that a person owning a boat learns nothing. Are the bureaucrats seriously trying to convince us that, having spent a fortune on our boat, we then treat it with contempt?

Using myself as an example, let's look at this subject from a human, rather than money-raising perspective. At one level or another, every boat owner will relate to its truth.

My sea time is 45 years plus. During that period I have always owned my own boat, have continuously sailed it and have never had an accident that could be sheeted home to an incident caused by lack of safety rules. Until Queensland Transport arbitrarily and without warning decided to strip all coaster masters of their in-perpetuum qualifications (another brilliant money-raising scheme), I was professionally qualified for 30 of those years during which time I skippered many a vessel in a variety of activities. Now, by the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen, I am incompetent and need to be licensed!

Contrasting that is the fact that if I were, say, a camel driver from Central Australia who had never seen a boat in my life, I would automatically be considered more than competent to take command of a large yacht, motor cruiser or monstrous houseboat for as long as I had the money to afford its hire.

And they tell us it's a safety measure? Give us a break. We may be silly enough to own a boat, but we're not silly enough to swallow huge doses of hypocrisy and we certainly don't believe the money raised will do anything but expand an already bloated bureaucracy.

As from September 2005, we can expect to be pursued by boating officers for yet another force-fed infringement. But let us not forget that they are just ordinary people trying to earn a living in the maritime environment that we all love. Some, I suppose are tin gods trying to rattle their armour at us, but most are embarrassed by the new law. Of a recent phone-around of boating officers, only one thought the law "essential" whilst all others recognised it for what it is - a hypocritical money grab.

So let's not shoot the messengers. It's the feather-bedders at the top who are treating us like fools with bottomless pockets. Before those pockets empty completely, perhaps we should club together and try a new law in court. Could any judge really believe that a boat owner is a greater threat too safety than a landlubber let loose at sea? I don't think so. Unless, of course he is thoroughly corrupt!