The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has seen several Australian warships and aircraft used to scour an area of the Indian ocean larger than most countries for debris. This is exactly what Australia should be doing as part of its role as a good international citizen and I am extremely happy that no one in Australia is criticizing it, or calling for the navy to bill Malaysia.
Criticising the search may sound like a callous move, billing the airline who lost a dozen of their own along with 200+ others, but that is the kind of reaction we get whenever a solo yachtsman is in need of rescue in Australia’s large varied search and rescue zone. Australia is the first responder for 10% of the Earth’s oceans.
So why no kickback this time? I suggest that several factors:
- The extent of the tragedy
- The innocence of the victims
- We see ourselves
200 plus people suffering an unknown fate is a tragedy. The victims did not do anything dangerous, nor anything we would not have done ourselves. Australians are some of the biggest flyers in the world meaning it could happen to any one of us.
Tony Bullimore, on the other hand, was a rich Brit, doing something risky. Sailing around the world in a solo yacht race, not relatable, not sympathetic. Many members of the public and media pundits called for payback. Something I always found vulgar. If a local here went missing, and I searched, when we found them I would not demand petrol and lunch money back, I would just be doing my part. If that person then sold their story and didn’t make a donation to the local SES, I would be miffed, but not demanding a bill be sent, unless they were faking the disappearance or breaking the law.
I take a possibly controversial view: we need to take on these roles. we are a first world nation who is capable of doing so, unlike our neighbours, such as PNG, Bangladesh, East Timor, etc. To be a good citizen, you need to help, and help in a way that you are good at. We appear to be doing more sea rescues than other countries because we have more sea. We hardly do any alpine rescue due to a lack of Alps, but if an Australian skier went missing in Austria or Switzerland we would be very grateful if the locals found them.
I also think it is good training. These exercises are a real activity that no amount of drilling can replicate. A real life rescue, or a difficult recovery mission, recreate the stress our navy personnel will need to be able to withstand during wartime. Heroes are not made in drills, they are made in times of challenge. And something as important as the greatest aviation mystery of the century is a challenge.
Australia is part of the global community, a member of the G20, a founding signatory of the united nations, it is good when we act like it. And if people still think our search and rescue zone is too much of a burden, feel then for New Zealand, theirs is half our size, but with 1/5th of our population to man it.
What do you think of the Malaysian Airlines Search & Rescue operation?