Gleeso: Jaws script playing out in real life


IN JAWS, the Hollywood blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg, the plot centres on a series of shark attacks at Amity Island.

The first is a young woman who goes skinny-dipping and is taken by a great white.

The medical examiner's ruling that she was taken by a shark leads police chief Martin Brody to close the beaches.

Mayor Larry Vaughn overrules him, fearing the town's summer economy will be ruined.

Under political pressure, the coroner changes his ruling, concurring with the mayor that it was actually a boat accident.

More shark attacks occur, but the mayor refuses to close the beaches. That is until the July 4 weekend when the great white strikes again.

Then, and only then, does the mayor accept there's a rogue shark on the loose and that's when the movie swings into action to have it caught and killed.


Murray Hamilton, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider in Jaws
Murray Hamilton, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider in Jaws


Fast-forward to the Whitsundays today and we have a real-life scenario unfolding.

This time those in denial are some Whitsunday politicians and, of course, the greenies.

There have been five shark attacks in the Whitsundays in the past 12 months - one fatal - and of those who survived, all were maimed.

Yet the sharks continue to be protected, given free rein to plunder the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, hurting people and seriously damaging the region's reputation as a safe place
to holiday.

On Friday evening, the best of Queensland's tourism attractions were honoured at a glittering ceremony on the Sunshine Coast.

What struck me was the commitment to excellence, the bold and innovative ideas and a fervent belief that Queensland is one of the best places on the planet to visit.

In other words, it is the content - the product - that attracts holidaymakers. How can the tourism operators of the Whitsundays promote their product - glorious sunswept beaches and some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world - when there's a chance you might not return back to the resort because a big shark decided it was meal time?



Let's take a look at what the recent Federal Court ruling in favour of the Humane Society means for those entering the water.

The Shark Control Program being run by the State Government was a "catch and remove'' measure, allowing rangers to kill the sharks once they'd been caught.

The new ruling is a "catch and release'' measure, which is non-lethal. Catching and releasing sharks will not make swimming safer.

Two independent reports make it clear that such a program will not be effective in the Great Barrier Reef.

Under the new permit, all sharks must be released wherever possible so the shark target list is no longer relevant.

The permit will be varied to ensure that when captured on drum lines, sharks must be released immediately.

The Cardno report found that there were significant challenges to catching and releasing sharks in the Great Barrier Reef.



Recent data shows bull, tiger and white sharks, tagged by vets, invariably return to the same location where they were caught and tagged.

In other words, if you tag and release a shark near a major resort, the chances are it will return.

There's something almost Monty Pythonesque about the Whitsundays shark crisis. Sharks are killing our tourists. What shall we do?

Oh, let's catch them and let them loose to do it again. Seriously?

It's up to the Commonwealth Government to now intervene in this debate.

They have the power to override state legislation and, in particular, orders made by the Federal Court.

The Whitsundays may not recover from another fatal shark mauling.

The best tourism slogans in the world can't influence that type of negativity.



Hillcrest Christian College is in the spotlight again.
Hillcrest Christian College is in the spotlight again.



Embattled college in spotlight



A FEW weeks back in this column, the governance troubles at the Hillcrest Christian College on the Gold Coast were laid bare and it wasn't pretty.

Unfortunately, these issues have gone from bad to worse. It is now incumbent upon the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board to have a look at this organisation.

The allegations of bullying against staff and parents have sparked comments from the Independent Education Union that it had "grave concerns'' about the college.

When it was reported by The Courier-Mail that the college had lost more than $600,000 in school fees and federal funding for its
ill-fated I Love Reading venture, the college said that it had sold the program to a Hong Kong-based company for $1 million.

This was despite its knowledge that the creator of the program had instigated legal action and withdrawn its licensing agreement.

The school has removed two chief financial officers and stood down its human resource manager. It has just made a claim that it is a top 100 innovative school in the world, despite falling NAPLAN results.

The school paid Cambridge University Students' Union 5000 pounds ($9313) to be part of its top 100 list.

The board is made up of mostly church members from the Reedy Creek Baptist Church.

This raises the spectre of the suitability of board members for bodies overseeing big budgets and complex educational challenges.

The parents have had enough. Strong-arm tactics by security at a recent AGM have been referred to the police.

It can't go on.