By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — Queensland environment minister Pat Comben has announced a plan for possible seven-year jail terms and $1 million fines for owners and operators of ships which pollute waters off the state's coast.
Penalties to make the polluter pay have been demanded widely over recent years, especially since a serious oil spill which hit Sunshine Coast beaches on August 26.
The heavier penalties would bring Queensland into line with other states. Comben said present fines here were "just pocket money".
"You have to deter them from doing it. Clean-up operations should be only a last resort."
Investigations are continuing into which ship was responsible for the estimated 30 tonnes of heavy bunker fuel dumped at sea, which washed up onto beaches near Caloundra, Bribie Island and elsewhere.
State transport minister David Hamill said evidence for prosecution was being vigorously pursued. He said the cost of the clean-up would be borne by the operators of the offending vessel.
Meanwhile, the government has also announced plans for companies and authorities responsible for toxic waste dumping and spills to be forced to pay for any resulting clean-ups. n