Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019; Second Reading
It's a great pleasure to follow my good colleague the member for Mackellar. I also note that the member for Wide Bay is here. His little part of the world in Hervey Bay would be a very beautiful part of the world to park your superyacht for a week or two. It's with great pleasure that I rise in this chamber to speak on the Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019. As has been well outlined, the purpose of this bill is to allow foreign registered special recreation vessels, or superyachts, to apply for and be granted a special temporary trading licence to operate commercially on the Australian coast and charter in Australian waters. This bill will allow the owner, charterer or agent of the superyacht to apply for a special trading licence under the coastal trading act of 2012 to charter their vessel in Australia for a single voyage for a period up to 12 months.
Some might ask why that's important. Maybe some figures will help inform why this sort of legislation is important. Depending on the chosen route, a superyacht will travel more than 15,000 kilometres from the Mediterranean or the Caribbean or some 6,000 kilometres from major Asian ports to visit our waters. These vast distances they're prepared to travel to come to Australia are why this legislation is so important. A temporary licence granted will be for the sole purpose of recreational or sporting activities and not for chartering commercial cargoes to profit on voyages authorised by licence. This bill is needed because the current structure of the coastal trading act is flawed and prevents our local and small businesses in the maritime industry from harnessing the opportunities and potential of the global economy and Australia's status as a global destination for superyachts. Charter vessels now represent approximately half of the world's superyacht fleet, with some 6,000 registered superyachts. That number is growing every year. In fact more superyachts are being built than ever before and they are getting bigger. Currently 193 superyacht builds are underway or planned around the world. That alone represents a 26 per cent increase on 2018 numbers. Additionally the average length of these new vessels has increased substantially, 30 per cent, from approximately 45 metres to nearly 60 metres over the past few years. It is for this reason that this bill is so important.
This bill makes coming to Australia, presently, under the coastal trading act, extremely unattractive with importation duties and taxes, including GST. Because operators cannot operate commercially in Australia, they bypass Australia and go to New Zealand, Fiji and other places where the incentives are better and the ability to do business is better. This proposed legislation will finally allow us to catch up on the booming neighbourhood of superyacht economies so that we can compete for our fair share of the charter market.
The other side of the problem is that temporary licences under the coastal trading act require a vessel to undertake a minimum of five voyages from one port to another. This does not support the operating model of superyachts, which undertake a single voyage to offer boats for hire and usually depart and arrive back at the same port.
Our maritime and tourism industries are on the cusp of a great opportunity, one which we cannot afford to let sail by. Over the next 18 months, major sporting events will be hosted in the Pacific, including the Tokyo Olympics in July 2020 and the America's Cup in Auckland in 2021. These events are expected to bring around 160 superyachts to our region. But our local maritime industry, from discussions I've had with them, are already looking to bank on the business and economic opportunities that these superyachts will bring with them. All they need is the green light for these vessels to be able to sail into Australia legally and offer charters across this summer.
Why is this important for our local maritime industry? With already 6,000 vessels in service, global growth will require a similar expansion in superyacht support facilities. We already have one such facility on the Brisbane River at Murarrie, and there are also some smaller facilities around the country. But superyacht ownership is an expensive undertaking, and, to ensure that they meet the regulatory, insurance and safety standards, these superyachts typically undergo out-of-water routine maintenance annually and survey certification every five years, which can represent several months on a hard stand or in refit sheds. I recently had the opportunity to go and visit Rivergate Marina at Murarrie in Brisbane.
Further to this, when vessels are sold or the owner desires a refresh, a full refit is undertaken, which can typically occur every seven to 10 years. These refits can be significant, costing between $1 million and $1½ million per month and lasting, on average, six months. It is an economic opportunity that this bill creates for our superyacht fraternity and those visiting Australia for our businesses—already some of the best in the world in the maritime industry—to take advantage of.
This bill will allow those who own or charter a superyacht to apply for this temporary trading licence so they can offer single round-trip charter voyages or a number of voyages to different ports over 12 months and be exempt from the importation and duties. The temporary trading licence application will need to be submitted in writing, with specific provisions regarding the number of voyages, dates, loading and unloading port, the number of passengers and other information about the vessel. An application fee will apply, but, once a licence is granted, vehicles will be able to be offered for hire or charter.
As the member for Mackellar quite rightly outlined, this will unlock tourism opportunities all around the coast and particularly in regional Queensland, where destinations across northern Australia and down the east coast would welcome the business and opportunities these vessels bring with them. Superyachts can spend up to 12 per cent of their value each year on maintenance, service and repairs, as I've just outlined. We know that Australians want to see that money being spent here, creating local jobs and benefiting local business, as well.
Allowing superyachts to charter in Australia is expected to create approximately 12,000 new skilled jobs; to create more opportunities for our local small businesses that undertake yacht maintenance, refits and repairs; and to create more opportunities for our local superyacht charter market. Allowing superyachts to charter in Australia won't just create jobs on board; it will also create more opportunities for apprentices and traineeships in the boating industry, which will benefit young Australians like Lauren, who I recently met at the Australian Industry Trade College on the Gold Coast. Lauren is currently doing a carpentry and cabinet-making apprenticeship with Riviera at Coomera. This bill will give her, and others like her, the confidence to pursue a career in a trade and get on-the-job skills.
One of the reasons the superyacht owners want to bring their superyachts to Australia for refit and maintenance is that Australia has a world-leading reputation in this space. If you have a look at the businesses that I saw at Rivergate or the businesses that I have seen at the Coomera marine precinct, you can understand why. As I said, regions across the east coast of Australia, but in particular in my area of the Gold Coast and around Brisbane, will profit from this increased international marketing exposure, which then encourages further investment in locally based boatbuilding organisations, infrastructure and repair facilities.
As I've said, the reason for my recent visit to Rivergate marina was to see what their planned expansion to cope with these increasingly large superyachts is. The reason they are investing a very significant amount of money is directly related to the opportunity that this creates. Once approved and developed, the Rivergate Marina and Shipyard will be one of the largest facilities in the Asia-Pacific region. Most vessels can spend up to two years in our region, with permanent crews, which will yield long-term economic benefits to our local boating industry, so it is not just the passengers on board these superyachts but the crew of those yachts who stay in and around Brisbane or the Gold Coast, depending on where the superyacht is being refitted or serviced, who contribute to the local economy during their stay.
There is a clear case as to why we should pass this bill. The more vessels that visit Australia, and the longer they stay, the greater and broader the economic benefits. This means that our 150-plus small to medium businesses—The Boat Works in the Coomera marine precinct, for example—will invest in growing their capabilities, prosper and employ more people to meet demand. These businesses deserve the opportunity to take full advantage of the economic potential of the booming charter-boat industry, and they need the certainty that foreign registered superyachts can come to Australia legally and offer charters.
This government has again demonstrated, through this legislation, that we are focused on delivering opportunity for small to medium businesses across Australia. This legislation has the backing of business, with the incentive for them to create jobs and to invest in their businesses by breaking down the barriers to entry for superyachts to the Australian market, and it creates further economic opportunities in an area of high skill, high employment. We have seen—and I have seen across the marine industry in my area—the quality of work that is produced each and every day, whether it's at Riviera or whether it's at Maritimo on the Gold Coast. I note that Maritimo said recently in a media report that they require another 60 apprentices to keep up with their sales growth. They are not quite in the superyacht category, but the quality of work that is done at organisations like Maritimo, Riviera and many others is up there with the best in the world, and that is why this bill is so important to the House and to the country—because the skills and talents that are grown in our factories already on the Gold Coast and in our maritime precincts and our marine industry can service the biggest and best superyachts in the world for the economic benefit of our country, creating jobs and prosperity for the nation.