Cutting Environmental Corners Boosts Our Exports

by Tony Sinclair

I'm watching a video of the oil tanker Shen Neng 1, grounded in the Great Barrier Reef off Rockhampton, N Queensland. The ship was 12km off course, attempting a known vessel shortcut to shave a few hours off the authorised shipping lane.

In their haste to import Australia's natural resources, it appears the Chinese won't even let a wonder of the natural world get in their way.

The analogy might be a little overcooked; and yet, it's also a little bit irresistible.

Reports of a 1km scar on the coral reef and oil leaked across the seabed affecting pristine wildlife sanctuaries, puts a spotlight on the unintended consequences of unfettered Chinese growth - and Australia's willing part in feeding resources to the world's biggest economy.

For as long as Chinese industry demands Australian natural resources, we're not providing any incentive for the captain of the next Shen Neng to behave any more responsibly. Fines for these gross environmental breaches remain less than prohibitive. The best insurance - a pilot tugboat to guide tankers through the reef - is available for a mere $8,000, but they're not mandated at State or Federal level.

Why does it always seem Governments have to wait for something to go wrong, before they legislate against environmental disaster?

-Tony S.

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