A Tragic Accident

 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. 

14 thoughts on “A Tragic Accident

  1. Not an “accident” at all to my mind. The reasonably predictable consequence of wilfully stupid behaviour maybe.

  2. Gabriel

    Maybe. Maybe not. But does it really help the parents of those killed for you to call their children ‘stupid’ and speculate with your ill-informed opinions until you know the facts? You’re no different to Mr. Williamson.

  3. I am inclined to agree with you pommy, it appears the press is just aching to find reason for more regulation before it is even assessed whether the present regulations were observed.

  4. Well put Jim and Pommy. It’s indeed disturbing that there are immediate calls for regulation.
    Futhermore, I believe the boat was stolen? Used without permission?

  5. There are always calls for more regulation when something horrible happens. As far as I have noticed they generally don’t lead to more regulation. It’s very telling of how the public views it’s government though. They are there to wrap us all up in cotton wool so nothing bad ever happens.

    People need to learn that this is not the proper reaction to something like this. The proper reaction is to feel sad and sorry for the bereaved families.

  6. It seems that whenever there’s an accident, the first call is for more laws. Ben – whilst they don’t always lead to more regulation (or even often), they occur frequently enough that more regs seem inevitable in the long term. P-platers have already copped a hiding.

    And don’t get me started on binge-drinking… Whatever their alleged motivations (for the children!), it’s telling that ALP’s first act is to increase tax. Libs should be pounding them on this (do we even have an opposition?)

  7. Morris Iemma was surprisingly impressive on the radio this morning. When pushed for the hundredth time by the interviewer about what he planned to do to increase safety on the water, he basically told him to shut up and wait for the verdict. He also added that existing regulations are adequate. Now how about finding some similar backbone to get that electricity privatisation thru Morris!

  8. Here’s a fun party-piece! Ask someone to name the current leader of the State Libs! Then any State Lib!!
    If we had a viable opposition, Iemma would have a dilemma! As it is, he’ll probably survive.

  9. Ben, there used to be such a thing, in the Good Old Days, about 15 years ago. I vaguely recall names like Greiner and Fahey, and the name ‘Liberal’ attached to them. They turned up to so many sporting events, maybe liberal meant sports-tragic. I think the party still exists (though I can’t prove it), but that they’re now media-shy, and hate any sort of limelight.
    If you spot one, or can recall a current name, let everyone know!

  10. Indeed. I’m skeptical about the existence of this “NSW Liberal party” you speak of.

  11. Well, I saw a reference to the NSW Libs today, with a reporter claiming the leader’s name is Barry O’Farrel! I still can’t prove it, but I’m not the only believer!

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