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Old 18-05-2006, 17:31   #1
Bob Norson
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Australian Customs/the new secret police?

Australian and visiting sailors should know the new tactics of what used to be a highly regarded public service. As editor of the Coastal Passage, the free paper for boaties, I have taken the unusual step of lifting a feature from a current edition and posted it on it's own html page to make it as easy as possible to access. The story is written by retired, now cruising attorney Chris ayers, describing a confrontation that he had that has become common along the Queensland coast. http://www.thecoastalpassage.com/dangerous.html

What do you think?

What are your experiences?

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Bob
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Old 18-05-2006, 18:33   #2
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Sounds to me like in their quest to be cops they ended up looking more like the robbers. Although I imagine that Australian law probably protects them, legally, there are many people in the world who are much more impulsive than Mr. Ayers. Such people are sometimes well-armed, too. Lotta good the legal protection will do, to anyone, when inviting a tragic incident.

It has been my experience when dealing with their land-bound law enforcement cousins that this sort of behavior gets modeled and encouraged by management. It continues to happen until either the alpha male (not trying to be sexist, here, just accurate) in charge gets replaced, or a tragedy comes about, the lawyers get in the picture, and large sums of money get spent by the government. Unfortunately, that also usually means that someone has died and someone else is spending a lot of time in jail.

Sad, because what the research on these things tell us is that one of the best deterrants to crime is easily visible, readily identified law enforcement. Bad guys run away and good guys aren't mistaken for something they're not.

One other comment: Being disrespectful to your customers is always bad business practice, in public business as well as private.

ID
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Old 19-05-2006, 06:47   #3
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The authorities really need to pay close attention to your last but one paragraph:

"If the authorities insist on alienating us yachts people they run the risk of losing the greatest source of intelligence they have to do their jobs"
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Old 19-05-2006, 10:14   #4
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Boarded

They boarded and they left, they did not act threatening, but the lawyer thought they were a little smarty pants. Then the lawyer listed a lot of things that they did not do, but imagined they could have.
Who was being antagonistic ? We do not know we only have one side of the story. Just like the Coast Guard boat hitting the runabout, depends what kind of spin you put on it. Lawyer already has a heart condition and is trying to not get stressed, sounds like he might be creating stress by worrying about non existant stuff.
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Old 19-05-2006, 10:26   #5
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yes agree with your interpretation, but still reckon that paragraph is one that is being ignored.
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Old 19-05-2006, 13:55   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BC Mike
They boarded and they left, they did not act threatening...
Having unidentified people from an unidentified boat board your boat is threatening enough without doing anything else.

Had their boat been clearly marked, and had they been wearing clearly marked uniforms, or even if they had immediately identified themselves, they would simply have been some annoying and smart-alecky bureacrats. As they were described, they could have been anyone - theives, pirates, drug runners, smugglers, or just really stupid government agents.
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Old 19-05-2006, 14:31   #7
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Actually I found it a non story. They did not request to board nor did they. They seem at face value to act strange and not clear with their intentions and failed to readily identify themselves. That was the worst that can be said assuming it was all as written. I doubt there was a part more juicy left out. Most of the story was just a lot of indignation on the part of a blowhard author that developed a code of ethics no one seems to care about hence the soap box.. On top of all that all he did was write an article no complaint filed because as he wrote he thought nothing of it later on. On that point I agree.

There may indeed be a story but it's not this story.
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Old 19-05-2006, 14:47   #8
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Paul, there is one important issue here though. You may not see this the same way as us down here. Because maybe this is how business is done up your way. Down in this part of the wrold, it is the norm that officials carry out business in the way that the Author outlined in the law of conduct that was originaly set. I would like to think that NZ authorities are doing it this way each and every time. Every now and then, us public get to hear of some story where it didn't happen that way, and the law upholder in question gets a thorough dressing down. Australia is no different. Yes you will always get someone that views power in a corrupt fashon, but most of the time, Authorities do it by the book. It's nice to live in countries like that.

In this story however, I suspect something very different is going on. This is very out of the norm and I would be even going as far as saying that these guys are doing something not entirely legal and certainly not in their Job description. Sounds very strange to me, and very out of the norm.
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Old 19-05-2006, 15:08   #9
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Well here the USCG generally does as you would expect, very business like very polite and direct with all requests. The local Marine Police are quite often less well paid and more full of themselves often don't know the rules of the road but quick to yell at you about something they think is important.

I live across the river from one of the USCG Trainning centers so starting this week for the next two weeks they do boarding trainning. They use recerational boats that happen to be around to train with and they carry automatic weapons too. They are permitted to board any vessle, any time, for any reason - period. The cadets have only boarded us once and were very cautious to be very polite as it is part of the trainning. They did an inspection that went about it as best you could expect looking here and there checking for required equipment and other USCG regualtions. They wrote up a report and gave me a copy. I had full compliance so they needed nothing more. They reboarded the dinghy and went back to the large cutter and headed to port for lunch.

I'm not saying that poor behavior is not serious just that I thought the author was more imposing on me the reader than the authorities were imposing on him. They didn't even make intentional contact at worst they loitered around a boat. I'm not ready to feel any outrage over it. From the story I don't suspect anything else was up and the author admits as much at the end.
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Old 19-05-2006, 19:19   #10
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No one seems to remember, was it only a couple of decades ago that the USCG's role in coastal waters was helping mariners in distress (rather than advising them to call Seatow)? There were, at least in my neck of the woods, no state police on the waters, no county police, no city police, few Parks & Wildlife police, damn few USCG patrols for that matter --- you could enjoy boating for years and years and never have occasion to deal with "the authorities." Was boating more dangerous for that egregious lack of "supervision"? I doubt it, and I for one miss those days. The Aussie lawyer is an anachronism apparently: a sailor who feels entitled to be left well enough alone.
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Old 20-05-2006, 00:28   #11
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Hey Bob!!

I guess you guys down under could start calling them guys, "Boat Nazi's!!"
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Old 20-05-2006, 04:20   #12
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Having at one time done a lot of boarding of various size craft whilst carrying a weapon, It was part of the training, and a part that I emphasised prior to each bording, that courtesy was essential, and aggression was counterproductive. We always got far more value from the information extracted, than any real possibility of a decent find (not that we didnt search as thoroughly as posssible in the time available). Its just that if you really want to hide stuff, it is normally possible to hide it sufficiently to pass a 30 minute search.
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Old 20-05-2006, 04:25   #13
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Greetings fellow boaties.. hey kev!

Good to hear from you capn Q. and J Garrick ... all of you.

Well done, excellent discussion so far....

Cheers

Bob
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Old 20-05-2006, 05:09   #14
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Quote:
No one seems to remember, was it only a couple of decades ago that the USCG's role in coastal waters was helping mariners in distress (rather than advising them to call Seatow)?
That was never true. What is true they will become involved when there is seriuous risk to human life and to some degree private property. They have always had the mandate that they do not perfom the duties that can be provided by commercial services.

There is a USCG head of an easternshore VA USCG Station being cout marshalled soon about this very issue of helping a boat being towed that got loose that he was specifically ordered not to assist. It's a very heated argument at this time since the trial has not yet begun. The arguments are as much about should he have helped the the second boat capture the the first and disobeying a direct order from a superior.

Where I live we have all authorities in huge numbers and have since the days when the Maryland Waterman used to fight with the Virginia Waterman over territories. With the Hampton Roads shipping terminals, the US Navy Atlantic Fleet, the USCG Trainning center and every other branch of the military with multiple facilities, plus a very large Waterman population we have lots of them and they are all over the place.

The problem with the USCG is that they have become part of the Dept of Homeland Security and been able to get a "budget increase" with less money. You can do that if you add the numbers right. Plus given a responsibility they never had - Homeland Security.

So even at that there isn't any more authorities on the water than there was 10 years ago.

What has been growing is the number of local authorities mostly as a response to te large increase in small boat activity in most all protected waters coastal as well as off shore. The drunks are killing hemselves and each other along with who ever gets in the way. It's hard to find a County that does not since they have to pull in the dead bodies.
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Old 20-05-2006, 14:48   #15
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I think Paul is the closest to the marker.The USCG have been in the busines a lot longer than our Aussie boys and from what I've seen and heard they are very profesional at what they do.Our water police and marine officers are very much the same as the USCG but to our customs team I think all this cloak and dagger crap brought about by "The war on terrorists"might just be a bit too overwhelming for them.We have one of the most sophisticated long-range coastal survailence capabilities in the world,hence,sneaking up on a yacht in the Whitt sundays"Mind you he did mention he thought he heard an outboard motor,deaf apparently in his old age,"Sounds just like the boys trying out their newly aquired skills and rights as "The guardians against global terrorism"As afforded to them by our safty concious govt.HarHar.Maybe if they snuck up on more illeagal fishing boats or Japanese whaleing ships their efforts to become more efficiant at whatever they are trying to accomplish might be more appreciated.The story was news to some degree,but for the most part all hot air and ego,NO boarding,NO guns,NO wrongfull arrests,A bit of rudeness and filled with clandestine secrecy.Yep we'll sure put the fear into people with that story.
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