MSQ..Many claims but few facts
TCP asks MSQ to show its hand...
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Whilst I have been looking for some time for any/all information regarding marine sewerage as a pollutant, I have been able to access volumes of info regarding land based sources but nothing of substance regarding boat sourced sewerage as an environmental threat. I figured there had to be something of substance somewhere because I found it difficult to believe that government could be undertaking this kind of legislation in a vacuum of information or worse, relying on urban myth or so-called common knowledge. So, I was in contact with a media adviser/spokes person for MSQ on another matter so took the opportunity to ask about the foundation of the poo laws... and here is what I got:
To Jamie Collins,(media advisor MSQ)
I have a matter that I would like to ask the MSQ about. I would like an explanation as to the urgency of the marine sewerage legislation. Queensland boaties are being asked to relinquish important civil rights and large sums of money without compensation for the sake of a goal that does not seem to be clearly defined or justified. Surely for enforcement as radical as is the case of this legislation, a great justification must be involved. Please inform the readers of TCP, what event has occurred that might have caused such a drastic, many say, draconian response? In absence of that, what study has been made that would infer such drastic future consequences as to justify the act? If such a study has been made the public should have access to the entire report.
Can you supply me with, or direct me to such a report?
I look forward to your reply,
July 18, 2005
Marine sewage legislation - please (a) enlighten us as to why you think these laws were urgent and "draconian" and (b) specify the civil rights to which you refer. I seem to recall you addressed this issue in an edition of your publication last year. The sewage management laws have more impact on commercial operations than the owners of most recreational boats, who are welcome to contact the agency to get accurate information about whether
they need to upgrade and if so, to what extent, depending on their particular boating activities. They can also check the agencys website at <www.msq.qld.gov.au> for information. It contains fact sheets for the owners of recreational vessels and provisions as they apply to particular areas.
July 25, 2005
Lets not allow the important question to become lost in a dispute of semantics but to indulge your inquiry, I do infer urgency in the legislation in that Queensland Transport has spent many thousands of dollars in an advertising campaign to convince road users that "Every K over is a killer." That's a strong statement and the fine for such transgression is about $150 for up to twenty (over the legal limit) of those killer "K's." In that kind of context, or in any context, I think it fair to assume there must be some compelling urgency to legislation that specifies fines of any kind, let alone over $60,000 for having a bowel movement. As far as the "draconian" quote, that is the word that shows up with regularity in the flood of letters received at this office regarding the laws in question. (Several of those were copies of letters sent to the office of the minister, so am surprised you express ignorance of the subject.) While I believe the fines just mentioned are included in that description, I think it refers mainly to the act of boarding to inspect without warrant, as this is widely considered home invasion by boaties. This also address's your inquiry about the civil rights matter. The sanctity of ones home from invasion by arbitrary officials is understood by boaties, or anyone really, to be a fundamental right and the marine sewerage laws are seen to violate that.
Regarding your comment that the laws have more impact on "commercial operations," I beg to differ. Even if you say there is a different standard for the discharge from private craft, which I don't know to be the case, the expense incurred by individuals is, per person, far greater than that of commercial operators. A charter operator may spend little more to equip a boat to handle, say, ten passengers than the cruiser with a crew of two must spend. It gets worse for the cruiser, the charter operator will pass their operating expenses on in the form of increased fees, the cruiser can not. All this does not yet account for the space issue. A cruiser with a typical, say, 11 metre mono hull sailing vessel that must install a treatment system and/or holding tanks,(Provided my information is accurate.) is asked to sacrifice space in the vessel that would be equivalent to that of one of the smaller rooms in a suburban house. I could develop this argument further but I hope I've made the point.
So.. I've given what you want first and now for our readers, the question still stands, what event has occurred or what study has been made to justify the implementation of this act?
Since you have invited inquiry regarding requirements for boats, here is mine. I have a 12.2 metre sailing vessel with a normal pump marine heads. I intend to sail, as I have for years in past, the Queensland coast from Tweed Heads to Cairns including, but not limited to, The Great Sandy Straits, Morton Bay, the Barrier Reef and various Islands and inland water ways such as the Brisbane River. I welcome that "accurate information" you mentioned.
July 26, 2005
Be assured it's nothing to do with semantics. The state government is serious about protecting our waterways from vessel-sourced pollution and places a priority on minimising the risk of negligent and/or harmful discharges that threaten the health of the marine environment.
The legislation applies to certain clearly-defined areas, and therefore the general use to which a boat is put will determine what equipment might be required to comply with the law.
Maritime Safety Queensland extensively consulted boating and marine industry organisations and clubs about the legislation before its introduction at the beginning of 2004 .........
Comment by Bob Norson
It has everything to do with semantics. The response appears to me to be very carefully crafted and well practised in delivery. In part, word for word from letters received by boaties and quotes from those consultations mentioned. Heavy on inference but no foundation or support for the assertions at all. I edited out the remainder of the last letter as the content is very familiar by now and even defamatory to boaties. There was certainly no attempt to respond to my questions even though one of them was invited! If you look at the wording of the first paragraph above (Be assured..etc) it uses buss words ..vessel-sourced pollution..negligent.. harmful.. but stops short of actually stating that vessels do pollute but that MSQ is serious about protecting.. minimising the risk. Very careful wording that in my opinion could be in place to preserve deny-ability. And well they should because (I am now satisfied) there is NO research that proves boat sourced sewerage is a threat to our environment. I also doubt there has ever been in the history of Australia, an event involving marine sourced sewerage that would reasonably be considered to
threaten the health of the marine environment.
TCP has published reports by marine scientist, boating industry experts and notable boating community spokespersons all condemning this legislation as erroneous in fact and abusive in enforcement.