Last Sunday, i took my eight year-old son and father-in-law for an evening fishing trip on Sydney’s Middle Harbour. As we motored past a good spot for bream and flathead near Castle Rock beach, my father-in-law suddenly yelled to me to turn sharp right. Two guys were fishing no more than 20 yards in front of us sat in a little tinny anchored up in a main shipping channel. There were no lights on the boat, the only illumination coming from a hand-held torch inside the boat. Without the moon, Sydney Harbour is pitch black. It was a very near miss.
Early yesterday morning, a bunch of partying youngsters were not so lucky. Their boat was hit by a fishing trawler near Bradley’s Head and six of those on board died. It was a tragic accident. Our prayers are with the relatives of those who lost their children. I cannot imagine how they must be feeling today.
But a ‘tragic accident’ is not good enough for our salacious media. They need an angle and that means finding someone or something to blame. The local papers repeatedly quote a local fisherman, Andrew Ogle, who claims that he was ‘deeply concerned” about overcowding and too much alcohol and predicted that ‘there goes tomorrow’s front page story’. Already our sympathies are checked – alcohol? overcrowding? stolen boat? too fast? (‘the boat roared off engines screaming’). Bloody hoons.
But let’s save our damning commentary until the inquest is held. Let’s leave open the possibility that this might just have been a tragic accident where no-one is to blame. And please, for the love of God, let’s not introduce yet more regulations for those wishing to use Sydney’s beautiful waterways.
NSW secretary of the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, Andrew Williamson is clear that more regulation is needed. He won’t wait for the findings of the inquest to be aired. He knows who is to blame. “It is an indictment of NSW Maritime that we have had 10 deaths [on the harbour] in two years on their watch. If we want to stop people killing themselves on the harbour, reform is what has got to happen.”
Mr. Williamson – you are a fucking idiot and a fucking disgrace.
Update I – the inevitable cry of ‘something must be done’ just got louder.
It certainly is very easy to obtain a boat license in NSW. Applicants have to take a written test but unlike a car, no practical test is required. But this is a red herring. Boating deaths are not caused by new drivers failing to remember 100 pages of theory or being unable to reverse into a tight mooring space. They are caused by carelessness, drunkenness, stupidity and bad luck – none of which can be reduced by more regulation.