House debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2019


Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019; Second Reading

5:39 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

The Whitsundays are in an area that is the sailing capital of the nation. With this relaxation on bringing superyachts into this country and with superyachts not attracting a hefty tax in the process, the Whitsundays will ultimately become the jewel in the crown for superyachts heading into Australian waters. After the GST restriction on vessels is removed by this legislation, according to Superyacht Australia CEO David Good, the Whitsundays will be the jewel in the crown. That is what I want to talk about today. The Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019 is about allowing superyachts to get a temporary coastal trading licence for a single voyage, and that licence exempts these vessels from importation duties and charges, including GST. This is commonsense legislation which allows Australia to compete with other tourism destinations that bring in superyachts, like New Zealand and Fiji in our region, which are much more affordable for these luxury vessels to currently visit.

The superyacht market is a very, very lucrative market. It actually makes no sense to do what we're currently doing—what we have done for a long while—and that is hitting these visitors to our shores with a huge cost impost. These vessels are not being imported into the country; they're tourism visitors. They should be welcomed; they should be encouraged. I'd like to run through what this legislation will mean not really for the superyacht industry but for the Whitsundays and my entire electorate of Dawson, which is recognised as one of the great cruising destinations in the world.

I mentioned before David Good, the CEO of Superyacht Australia. He said he knows of two major players who are poised and ready to head to the Whitsundays as soon as this bill is passed, and this will be just a taste of what is to come. For vessels between 40 metres and 60 metres, the weekly spend for provisions and bunkers is $174,300. I'll say that again: the weekly spend—what they drop—is $174,300. That figure comes from the latest economic modelling done this year by the AEC Group, which undertakes economics, finance and market research in this area. Mr Good predicts that, with these changes to the charter rules, the big thing that will change is the length of stay. Fiji saw an increase to an average of 136 days once their laws came into effect. Based on that experience, we can assume that areas like the Whitsundays will see a similar sort of thing. This means that every vessel that comes in will be worth $3.38 million to the Whitsundays every year—that is, an extra $3.38 million will be pumped into the local economy and local businesses and it will create local jobs. Some of the places have 200 vessels a year coming to them. We probably couldn't keep up with that in the Whitsundays, but we could see a lot of money coming in.

Superyacht Australia conservatively estimated that there will be 30 additional vessels coming to the Whitsundays within the following year of the change to this legislation. That's going to be about $101 million in direct local spend. If we look at that picture nationally, superyachts will come to this country on a level playing field without the importation duties and charges, which include a GST. It could unlock about 12,000 jobs and about $1.64 billion in extra revenue for this country. Seventy per cent of that revenue is, thankfully, destined for North Queensland. It'll be divided up between Cairns and the Whitsundays. The member for Leichhardt should know that we are going to put in a very big pitch for a lot of it to go to the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays area is expected to be the bigger beneficiary because of its pristine cruising waters. If we look at North Queensland as a whole, it's an estimated benefit of about 8,200 jobs, close to about $1.15 billion. If we consider what the Whitsundays has faced over the past couple of years in terms of cyclones and reputational damage with some events that we've had up there, the benefits for the region are going to be immense.

Analysis in a report on tourism in Queensland shows that total tourism expenditure into the region for the first six months of this year is down by about $120 million. The flow-on effect estimated for the region amounts to an indirect economic loss of about $180 million, which is about 800 jobs impacted thus far. Superyacht Australia have advised me that there will be about 160 superyacht vessels in the Pacific region over the next 18 months. While our taxes and charges remain in place, only a very limited amount of them will come here. If we pass this Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019, all of them will head to Australia.

People might wonder 'What's a superyacht?' I've never boarded one. I don't know if my good friend the member for Hinkler has ever been on one. Indeed, I don't know if those at the dispatch box have been on one. We could only dream and wish, but they're identified as vessels with a master and a crew carrying 12 or fewer guests and no cargo, and they're greater or equal to 24 metres in length. That's a pretty big boat. In fact, I'm told that even their tenders are pretty big boats for most people.

Currently they enter Australian waters under a controlled permit, but they're faced with a range of import duties and fees, regardless of the length of time in the waters. As already mentioned, this bill is going to allow for a temporary licence for a single voyage. This will make them exempt from importation duties and charges and GST.

I talked about currently not competing in our region or around the world in terms of superyacht based tourism, because of the cheaper options in places like Fiji and New Zealand. This measure, as I said, will level the playing field. It really will level the playing field. It'll open the gateway for significant economic events for our marine based tourism industry and all the businesses which support them. The passage of this bill will support tourism jobs and create new jobs, and the benefits for the Whitsundays will be immense.

The money that the superyacht owners and crew drop in the regions for their superyachts is significant purchasing and supply chain requirements that come with that. They are in the market for everything, from food, supplies, fuel, fresh-cut flowers, luxury items and stuff being delivered daily on board these vessels.

It also goes to what the previous member, the member for Forde, talked about: repairs, maintenance and shore-side touring. I just wanted to touch on the repairs and maintenance. There's a little town called Bowen in my electorate that really wants to capitalise on this. There are businesspeople in the local council—namely Paul Darrouzet, who currently owns Abell Point Marina, and the mayor of the Whitsundays, Andrew Willcox—that really want to see established a major vessel servicing centre in Bowen. We've got a port with the opportunity. It could be for that. We've got a council that's got the will. We've got local businesspeople, and potentially the capital, behind them to actually make that a reality. If we can get these large vessels coming into the Whitsundays, we could potentially have more jobs created in North Queensland through a major vessel service centre in Bowen. It's for all of these reasons that I have been very, very pushy in getting this legislation to come forward. I have been battling the way for a long time. Unfortunately, this provision in this bill was contained within an omnibus bill in the previous parliament, and Labor opposed that. They're not opposing this on its own. I did note that there were some rumblings from the Labor Party against this idea of removing these imposts on superyachts, as if it was doing something favouring the rich when, really, it isn't. It's just about ensuring that local communities can get some of the coin that these people drop, rather than having it go to Fiji or New Zealand.

I've been very pushy. I've met with many different ministers over the years on this issue. I've gotten quite a bit toey with the current Deputy Prime Minister about it. Thankfully, he's put this bill to the parliament in relatively speedy time to get a fix for this and, hopefully, this will be passed by this House this week. It could potentially even be passed by the parliament if the Senate can do their job very quickly and this doesn't get shuffled off to some committee. We can only hope.

But the Whitsundays are ready and waiting to welcome superyachts with the passage of this legislation. Coral Sea Marina Resort—formerly Abell Point Marina—at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays has emerged as a premier superyacht destination. It's located at the gateway to 74 Whitsunday Islands, near the iconic Great Barrier Reef. It was just named the Australian marina of the year for 2019-20. It was also given the title of superyacht business of the year service provider in 2017.

We in North Queensland, and particularly in the Whitsundays, are gearing up right now to host the fourth Australian Superyacht Rendezvous in October next year. That'll be a big thing—from 16 October to 18 October. I hope you can join us, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews—and I open that invitation up to everyone in the chamber. The event's recognised internationally as the South Pacific's leading superyacht event. It's been staged at the Gold Coast since its inception but will make its move to the Whitsundays next year. It'll showcase the Australian superyacht industry, its capabilities and its economic potential. Events will be staged across three days for attending international superyacht heavyweights, superyacht owners and buyers, and tourism and industry professionals. It's a fantastic opportunity for the Whitsundays to showcase itself and also to showcase the potential the region has for superyacht cruising.

I've got to say that Paul Darrouzet, the owner of Abell Point Marina, does need to be noted here. He has been a lion on this—a ferocious one at that—and roaring at the gate for this to happen. Paul said:

Australia's prominence on the global superyacht stage continues to gain momentum and the 2020 Great Barrier Reef edition of Australian Superyacht Rendezvous is our opportunity to showcase to the world our unrivalled and pristine cruising charter grounds for superyachts …

Globally, more superyachts are looking to migrate to the southern hemisphere to capitalise on fresh charter destinations like the Great Barrier Reef and the … Rendezvous represents an exceptional opportunity to tell the international superyacht world we are ready to welcome them …

Superyachts are an exciting tourism avenue for Australia thanks to environmental cleanliness and standards of these vessels, they offer low impact but high yield tourism.

While international superyacht guests are intensely private, it is conservatively estimated that a single foreign guest on board a superyacht would spend in the order of $15,000 to $25,000 per day—and that is something from which the Whitsundays and the broader Great Barrier Reef could yield significant tourism impact.

Queensland is leading Australia's global superyacht charge and, in addition to having hosted the Superyacht Rendezvous since 2017—as I said, previously at the Gold Coast but next year in the Whitsundays—it was the first state in Australia to release a superyacht strategy. The vision is to increase our share of the global superyacht sector by 10 per cent by 2023 to see Queensland positioned as the hub for superyachts in the Asia-Pacific. The strategy recognises that Queensland boasts the largest concentration of marine trades within the Southern Hemisphere, with significant cruising grounds, such as the GBR, and some of the largest marina facilities equipped to cater for superyachts.

Statistics released by the Superyacht Group in March 2019 show that the superyacht fleet has increased from 3,906 crafts in 2009 to 5,646 this year, with around 150 new superyachts delivered annually across the globe. The 2018 Queensland superyacht strategy reports that about 200 are based in Australia, which is about four per cent of the global market. Hopefully, we are going to see a big upswing in that number with this bill. According to the superyacht industry, Australia's projected to grow its numbers to $3.34 billion by 2021. That compares to about $1.965 billion in 2016.

This legislation is very much welcomed by me because it will create local jobs in the Whitsundays. There will be flow-on impacts to places like Bowen if we can get a vessel-servicing centre up and running there. There will be flow-on impacts to Mackay, which vessels may want to visit as well, and all the way up the North Queensland coast right up to Cairns. It is going to be a jobs bonanza, actually, when these vessels come here. We can only hope that, once we have the passage of this bill, it is shouted from the rooftops by our marketing agencies, including Tourism Australia. I'd encourage them to do that, because this is great opportunity. We're going to get this through. We've already got settings changed from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, for them to go to some of the pristine areas and sail through the Whitsundays, checking out our beautiful area. It's going to be such a bonanza—so many jobs.


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