Monday, 13 August 2018
Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading
I rise to support this bill, the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017, which I believe will have significant benefits for my own electorate of Fisher. In particular, I believe that, as one of the nation's premier coastal tourist destinations, Fisher, along with other coastal regions in Australia, will benefit substantially from the additional tourism generated by the changes proposed to the regulation of superyachts.
While I do believe that my community of Fisher has been too dependent until now on the tourism and construction sectors, I also firmly believe that attracting tourists will always remain one of the central pillars of our region's economic success. After all, the southern and central Sunshine Coast is undoubtedly the greatest tourism destination in Australia. There is nowhere in our country, perhaps in the world, that can boast our unique combination of natural assets and our unbeatable lifestyle, and I'm committed to doing all I can to support and grow tourism in Fisher. Tourist numbers on the coast have been growing strongly, with international visitors up 20 per cent over the past three years. However, unfortunately, the average spend per visitor has not been increasing at the same rate. We need to do more to encourage high-net-worth visitors to Fisher who will spend big in our local businesses. One way that we can achieve that end would be to encourage more international superyachts to visit our community and to stay for longer. We have the perfect place in Fisher for these vessels to begin and end their cruises. That is at the Mooloolaba Spit, where facilities like the Browns Slipway operated today by the Rockliff family could offer just the place for these yachts to be maintained.
Superyachts fall into two broad categories. Some are operated by companies solely as charter businesses. They travel from port to port, picking up clients and taking them on short cruises. Others are owned by a wealthy individual or individuals, families or corporations and are primarily intended for private use. However, these too can often be chartered. When the owner has stopped at a port or during times when the yacht is travelling independently and the owner is otherwise occupied, the yacht is often made available to others to charter for short cruises. Each of these charter types can bring significant economic benefits to a particular region. For privately owned yachts which are being used by a wealthy individual or group of individuals, the presence alone of those people in a region can bring material benefits in terms of the money spent during their stay. In general, the longer the stay, the more money these individuals spend. If commercial charter opportunities are available for these yachts during their owners' visit, it will encourage them to remain longer within a region and spend more money.
Further, the very possibility of commercial charter opportunities will often make a port more attractive to owners, making it more likely that they will choose that particular city as a destination. In the case of yachts owned by companies purely as charter vessels, there are still substantial benefits to a local economy when yachts choose to operate from their port. On the one hand, the fact that a particular yacht is going to be available for charter from a port is often a strong draw to that place for high-net-worth individuals. Though primarily travelling in order to undertake the cruise, those visitors will commonly spend additional time in that city, bringing valuable tourism dollars to the local economy. However, the tourism benefits of the presence of these yachts to a community like Fisher goes beyond the income generated directly by the people who undertake the cruise. The word-of-mouth advertising created by these well-connected people can bring many more high-value tourists, while, for some, the perceived glamour of these vessels in itself can increase the attractiveness of a tourist destination. For many of the more than 300,000 people who visit the tiny city of Monaco every year, it is the image of rows of large luxury yachts and the glamour with which they are associated that make up a substantial part of the reason for going.
Finally, in both cases, the additional time that a yacht spends in a particular port due to its being available for charter substantially increases the likelihood that the vessel will undergo maintenance and repair at that very location. With some of the largest of these yachts costing millions of dollars to repair, the income generated by this activity can be significant. In February this year, for example, a single superyacht, the Dragonfly, docked at Gold Coast City Marina in Queensland for what was reported in the media to be more than $1 million worth of repairs and upgrades. However, a community like my own electorate of Fisher does not necessarily need a repair and dry dock facility to benefit from the maintenance required by superyachts. A ship which is charted requires supplies like food and consumables, fresh water and fuel. The longer a yacht stays in a port the more likely it will be to spend on these supplies and the more revenue generated for producers and dock facilities like those in Mooloolaba.
A December 2016 analysis by AEC Group, commissioned by Superyacht Australia and the Queensland Treasury, found that in total the superyacht industry already contributes about $590 million directly to Australian GDP, with $1.38 billion in flow-on activity. One hundred and ninety million dollars per annum is already generated by foreign tourists and crew expenditure, which would otherwise not have occurred in the Australian economy.
In total, more than 14,500 jobs are supported by superyachts and their supply chains. However, worldwide and particularly in our region, the demand for superyacht activities is increasing. With the growing class of wealthy individuals in China and Asia, along with economic development in other countries in the region and increasingly saturated waterways in Europe and the Caribbean, more and more people are interested in superyacht cruising in the Asia-Pacific. Countries in our region, such as New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti have moved to make their regulatory and taxation regimes more encouraging to superyacht visits, and as a result are currently set to reap most of the benefits of this growth.
In short, while many yachts visit Australian waters to see the Great Barrier Reef, far too few stop to enjoy the hospitality of our coastal communities. As such, at present the superyacht sector's annual contribution to the Australian economy is forecast to grow at a rate of 13 per cent to 2021. However, if we can reduce the regulatory barriers which discourage visits from these vessels, the industry modelling suggests that this contribution will grow by as much as 70 per cent over the same period, delivering a total economic revenue of $3.34 billion by 2021 and supporting 8,100 more jobs.
My own state of Queensland would be likely to be a particular beneficiary with our share of the global superyacht sector increasing by 10 per cent, contributing more than $1.1 billion to gross state product. It is just that reduction in regulatory barriers which this bill will achieve, and for that reason I believe it will make an important contribution to growing tourism income on the Sunshine Coast.
In our region, superyachts are charted for one or two voyages at a time. The number of individuals or organisations who have the financial means and the time to charter such a large vessel are certainly finite and their needs are often very specific. A voyage on a superyacht for most personal and corporate users is a very occasional activity with a particular purpose. As such, as these vessels move around the world they often stop off at a port for a single charter. However, at present in order to acquire a temporary licence to conduct coastal trading in Australia a superyacht must have a minimum of five specific voyages booked and listed on its application. Without a temporary licence an owner looking to offer their yacht for charter in Australia faces enormous costs associated with paying customs importation duty and taxes on these vessels. Any subsequent changes to these voyages need to go through a lengthy and uncertain variation process in order to go ahead. This bill removes that unnecessary, ridiculous government red tape, making it possible for a yacht to acquire a temporary licence in the much more likely scenario that it has one or two charter voyages planned.
Further, it is obviously in the nature of cruises for pleasure that many of them begin and end in the same port. These are not practical journeys designed to get a person from one place to another but short visits to a particular location, or simple round trip experiences, to be enjoyed. However, at present, to constitute a voyage for which a temporary licence can be acquired under the coastal trading act, a trip must begin and end in a different port. This renders ineligible a substantial proportion of superyacht cruises which could take place from ports like Mooloolaba. This bill removes that restriction by broadening the definition of a voyage under the act to include those which begin and end in the same port.
Finally, at present, the amount of refitting and maintenance of foreign flagged yachts that can be undertaken in Australia is limited by the fact that dry-docking is not included among the activities eligible for a temporary licence. Once again, this bill removes that restriction, meaning that more vessels will be refitted and maintained in Australia. This will potentially bring millions of dollars to the communities where repairs take place and further increase the number of tourists who visit all of our coastal regions.
Not only will this bill's amendments to the regulations regarding temporary licences improve our country's attractiveness to superyachts, but the minister and my colleagues have laid out a wide range of other benefits that will flow from this legislation. However, for communities like mine in Fisher and for coastal regions all over Australia, the billions of extra tourism dollars which will be generated by these luxury vessels are reason enough to enact the bill before us. I note that even the Queensland state Labor government have recognised the importance of these changes, and I welcome their support for the growth of superyacht visitation to our state. I would encourage members opposite to follow their Queensland colleagues in this matter and support the Turnbull government's practical and considered action to make the most of our nation's natural assets.
This bill is not about some form of class warfare. What is important to me is that this bill is about providing jobs to regional Australian communities. If those opposite are fair dinkum about Australian workers, they should be supporting this bill. This bill is not, as the member for Sydney would suggest it is, for the rich and famous, to advantage them. This bill will provide jobs to hardworking Australians. It will provide jobs in the maintenance sector. So often this is a sector which is doing it tough in shipping. I know that in and around Mooloolaba, where I live, the coastal fishing vessels are certainly doing it very tough. What happens with these areas is that, when one boat leaves a particular fishery, another boat might leave and then another boat might leave, and then we see infrastructure start to crumble, because infrastructure requires a certain degree of mass and, when boats leave, infrastructure also leaves with it. This bill will enable the infrastructure for marine vessels to remain in ports like Mooloolaba in my electorate of Fisher and throughout the coastal parts of Australia. It will mean jobs. It will mean towns will be able to provide for their communities. I commend the bill to the House.