House debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2019


Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019; Second Reading

4:53 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019, which was introduced into this place last Wednesday. The bill establishes a means by which foreign flagged special recreational vessels, also known as superyachts, can opt into temporary licences under the regulatory scheme established by the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012. This will allow foreign flagged superyachts to be offered for hire or charter in Australian waters, thereby potentially securing jobs and contracts for Australian workers, service companies and suppliers of premium goods for these yachts in Australia.

However, improved access for superyachts must not be at the expense of Australian tourism cruise operators and must not facilitate the further eroding of pay, conditions and job prospects for Australian seafarers. It is why Labor has worked with the government to secure a number of amendments and conditions that I understand the minister, in summing up, will be moving. Indeed, the interaction of foreign flagged superyachts with the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act is a longstanding issue, and for years Labor has offered to work constructively with the government to try to resolve this matter. For years the government has been bundling these reforms in with other amendments to the coastal trading act that the opposition, frankly, would never support. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister finally introduced this bill, which discretely manages issues relating to superyachts. At the time the Deputy Prime Minister noted that the bill was urgent and must be passed this fortnight, and he cited industry advice that a large number of superyachts are expected in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 18 months for the Tokyo Olympics and mid next year for the America's Cup in the first half of 2021. Without these amendments it's argued that these superyachts will sail past Australia to New Zealand, Tahiti and Fiji and that we'll miss out on the associated economic benefits.

While the process is far from ideal, it is good that we in this place try to come together to resolve an issue that will potentially open a lucrative market for some Australian workers and small businesses along our coast. I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and his office for their engagement on this issue in the past few days. Labor has acted in good faith and sought to meet the government's deadline whilst also providing appropriate scrutiny for this bill. I thank stakeholders, particularly the Maritime Union of Australia, Maritime Industry Australia Ltd and Australian tourism cruise operators for their active engagement in what has been a very truncated process. I thank my colleagues, including the Leader of the Opposition; the shadow assistant minister for infrastructure, Senator Carol Brown, who has carriage of coastal shipping for us; the shadow minister for tourism; and our very passionate Queensland senators and MPs for their consultative approach.

Our Queensland senators and MPs in particular are understandably excited about the jobs and opportunities that this bill and this reform is forecast to bring for their home state. The Queensland Labor government has long championed the superyacht industry and released a superyacht strategy last year. The strategy aims to deliver a 10 per cent increase in Queensland's share of the global superyacht industry and for Queensland to be recognised as the key superyacht hub in the Asia-Pacific region. The Queensland government predicts benefits along the coast from Cairns and the Whitsundays in the north all the way to the Gold Coast in the south-east corridor. Off the back of their strategy, over 15,000 Queenslanders are predicted to work across the superyacht industry by 2021, contributing $2 billion to the gross state product. This work spans many roles on board vessels, as well as supplying goods and services and performing crucial maintenance.

Of course, superyachts bring employment benefits nationwide. Superyacht Australia found in their 2016 study that more than 16,000 full-time equivalent jobs nationwide were linked to the industry. While around 200 domestic superyachts were already operating around the Australian coastline in the 2016-17 season, there are more than 5,000 of these vessels globally. This bill does present a strong opportunity to attract more vessels to Australia and, with them, many high-wealth visitors to boost our coastal tourism industries. The superyacht industry predicts that around 160 superyachts will be in the western Pacific for the Olympics and the America's Cup. The industry argues that this bill has the potential to unlock over 11,000 jobs and over $1.6 billion in revenue to the Australian economy by 2021.

Labor will always back improving job opportunities, particularly in our regions; nevertheless, Labor's scrutiny of the bill is very important. There is concern amongst some existing operators of Australian owned tourism vessels that temporary licences could be a backdoor mechanism to allow foreign-flagged superyachts to spend considerable time in Australia, therefore undermining the businesses of Australian owned and operated tourism vessels—many of them, again, in Queensland but not solely in Queensland. I note the government has indicated that it will incorporate Labor's amendments into the bill. Labor's first amendment is to include a sunset clause on the legislation. The justification for the bill's urgent passage relates to two global events in the western Pacific in the coming 18 months: the Olympics and the America's Cup. It's therefore appropriate to include a sunset clause of June 2021 to ensure that the government actually considers the broader impacts of its new temporary licence regime and uses this period, in essence, as a trial to ensure that there are no adverse consequences for Australian businesses and that the wages and conditions of Australian shippers are not undermined by this process.

While we've successfully negotiated these substantive amendments with the government to improve the bill, there may well be unintended consequences for the Australian shipping industry from allowing further foreign flagged vessels to permanently operate commercially in Australian waters. The government, frankly, has rushed this legislation, and it must improve its engagement with the industry, unions and the opposition in the lead-up to the bill's sunset. It's not just marine tourism operators that may be negatively impacted by this bill. The bill as originally drafted also potentially undermines the Australian sea freight industry by allowing special recreational vessels on temporary licences to commercially transport cargo around the Australian coast. The government couldn't justify this proposal and has accepted Labor's amendments to amend references to commercial cargo from the temporary licence and to clarify the definition of cargo.

With these amendments the bill will now, as I understand it, mandate that superyachts cannot carry cargo for commercial purposes on voyages authorised by a temporary licence. Cargo can be carried only if it is incidental to recreational activities undertaken on the voyage. Whilst I welcome the government's adoption of the amendments put forward by Labor, proposed to the government by Labor, this flaw in the original drafting highlights the risks associated with rushing technical legislation of this nature through the parliament. Labor's final condition for passing the bill was to confirm the requirement under the coastal trading act for crews on these vessels to receive Australian wages and working conditions. I understand that the explanatory memorandum has been updated to reflect this and that the government minister will speak to this in summing up.

Without these amendments properly incorporated, Labor's support for the bill cannot be assured. Our concerns are not without basis. We know that the government has form on repeatedly misusing temporary licences to enable foreign flagged vessels, with crews paid just a few dollars a day, to regularly transport goods between Australian ports. I flag that at the end of my contribution I will be moving a second reading amendment that reminds the House that on this government's watch we have seen the demise of the Australian shipping industry. They have twice, under the guise of reducing costs, sought to rip up the reforms aimed at protecting Australian shipping made by the Labor government.

The parliament has twice rejected the government's so-called reforms, calling out the legislation as bad for Australian passengers and freight and bad for Australian workers, as well as being bad for Australia's national security. All the while, each and every coalition transport minister over the past six years has undermined the policy settings, put in place by the former Labor government, that sought to enhance and rebuild the Australian shipping industry. In particular, the repeated misuse of temporary licences by this government has enabled foreign flagged ships with foreign crews to trade along our coastline—work that can and should be done by Australian maritime workers receiving Australian wages and Australian conditions.

Three months into this government's third term the Deputy Prime Minister has come into this place and said that it is urgent because the international superyacht industry wants certainty. Well, Deputy Prime Minister, there are thousands of Australians, from Hobart to Cairns, who work in the Australian maritime industry and who also want some certainty. There is no certainty from this government for the captains and crew members of our vessels, for the workers who maintain and build our ships and for those aspiring to enter the industry. This government hasn't lifted a finger to secure our domestic shipping industry. Too many jobs from our maritime industries have already been lost on this government's watch.

Rather than present a vision to support and rebuild Australian shipping, the Deputy Prime Minister has embarked on a new round of consultation on coastal trading reforms. I remind the House that, rather than seeking to build on Labor's shipping reforms as soon as those opposite came into power in 2013, they began a concerted effort to undermine our domestic maritime industry. Labor's reforms would have supported the revival of Australia's maritime industry. Instead, through two failed rounds of legislation and the ongoing high use of temporary licences, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has done all it can to weaken and almost destroy the Australian shipping industry.

Six years—almost seven years—into the term of this government, it has now quietly contacted maritime industry stakeholders to begin looking for support to reform coastal trading. Whilst it notionally rules out opening the coast, it leaves open achieving this by stealth through further exploitation of temporary licences. While it claims that protections for Australian vessels are critical, it flags that new approaches are possible. Further, it explicitly rules out even a conversation on proposals put forward to save Australian shipping, like a strategic fleet, mandating use of Australian vessels or large tax concessions and high-cost subsidies.

It is just as bad for those working in the industry, particularly for those aspiring to get a job at sea. The Deputy Prime Minister's consultation fact sheet notes that the 2018 seafaring skill census forecasts a skill shortage of 500 seafarers by 2023. It then goes on to comment that 'Australian mariners are unable to get sea time locally'. The maintenance and development of a strong, skilled maritime workforce is vital for Australia's national security and the viability of our economy. We've got Australian seafarers who want to work and can't in this country. We've got a new generation dreaming of going to sea, but they can't get the sea time to complete their qualifications. And, even if they do get their qualifications, the jobs aren't there for them on the Australian coastline once they've finished. For many of them, working in this industry means living Australia. This in turn means no career pathway for Australian master mariners, tug masters, marine pilots or harbourmasters.

I remind the House that we are an island nation, and our economy includes the fourth-largest shipping task in the world. Strong management of shipping is crucial to our national security, our economic and our environmental interests. But, on this government's watch, we are now in a situation where less than half a per cent of our domestic seaborne trade is carried by Australian ships. That percentage is rapidly heading towards zero, with regular reports of operators removing Australian flagged vessels from service. On this government's watch, some in the industry report that the number of Australian flagged commercial vessels is now as low as 11.

For six years, the coalition government has stood idle when it should have been supporting our shipping industry. No nation should surrender its economic sovereignty in this way. But those opposite see no value in the existence of a vibrant domestic shipping sector—or any other part of the maritime industry, for that matter. Shipping is an important national strategic industry for our broader economy and our national security. Maintaining a domestic shipping industry is critical for Australia as an island nation.

Labor remain committed to working with all stakeholders to revitalise the Australian shipping industry. Unlike those opposite, we believe in a strong and vibrant maritime industry, and we will always support Australian seafarers, maritime workers and Australian flagged ships, as well as the Australian workers who maintain and build our merchant and recreational fleet. As I said in my contribution before, while the opposition have agreed to support this legislation—with the foreshadowed amendments and conditions—we would also welcome support in this chamber in standing up for Australian shipping and Australian maritime jobs more broadly.

We recognise that this bill does provide opportunities. It provides an opportunity for increased tourism; it provides an opportunity for increased jobs, particularly in Queensland but not solely in Queensland; and it provides an opportunity to have high-wealth individuals coming into our region and spending money in regional economies around the coast. For that reason, as I said, we've worked with the government to secure amendments that provide the opportunity, in this period of time before the Tokyo Olympics and America's Cup, to make sure that this bill does exactly what it says it does: it doesn't undermine jobs, it doesn't undermine working conditions and it actually generates income for traders and for businesses across the community.

As I said, I am moving a second reading amendment to this bill, and I do so now. I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes this Government's record of undermining the Australian shipping industry; and

(2) reaffirms that Australia's tourism industry, marine and coastal environment, and national security interests are best served by a viable and competitive shipping industry".

Labor has a proud history of supporting the vital role Australian maritime industries play in securing our economic, environmental and national security interests. We remain committed to revitalising the industry and supporting all workers and small businesses engaged in our maritime sector. Whilst we welcome the work the government has done with us on this bill to ensure its passage, I do reiterate that if our substantive amendments are not adequately incorporated by the government then we obviously will continue to have the concerns that we have about this bill. I thank the government again for working with us on those amendments and I look forward to the minister's contribution in moving those amendments to the bill and moving the changes to the explanatory memorandum that actually reflect the concerns that Labor has around the sunset clause, around the wages and conditions and around the issue of cargo being excluded from the operation of these superyachts.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the amendment seconded?

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

5:11 pm

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019. This bill has been put forward in this place by the government to ensure that Australia's tourism sector continues to thrive. Tourism is an important facet of the Australian economy, with over 300,000 businesses in this area directly contributing a total of $57.3 billion of GDP in the last financial year and employing over 650,000 people. This amounts to 5.2 per cent of the nation's workforce and additionally accounts for over 10 per cent of our total exports. The fact that this sector grew three times more than Australia's GDP in the last financial year is further evidence of tourism's importance in promoting a diverse and strong economy.

Our commitment to driving demand in this sector can be seen in the Tourism 2020 and Tourism 2030 strategies. This program was developed through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in conjunction with state and territory tourism ministers and over 160 industry leaders. These were developed to drive demand in the tourism sector by implementing an industry framework that will allow businesses to operate in a dynamic global environment. We on this side of the House want a strong tourism industry, not a weaker one, which provides world-class services to travellers as well as creating jobs for all Australians—high-paying jobs that Australians deserve.

This bill is only one example of the government's commitment to continuing to develop these ongoing strategies. In accordance with this vision, this is a bill that allows special recreational vessels, commonly referred to as superyachts, to obtain coastal trading licences to operate passenger and cargo charter services on the Australian coast. There are some 5,000 of these vessels around the world. Australian based vessels will see a huge increase in marketing exposure for chartering in Australia. The marketing budget for these large overseas vessels that are chartered for in excess of $1 million a week is more than our industry currently spends as a whole per year. Let me repeat that. A million dollars a week, which is what these boats or vessels often rent for, is more than we spend in an entire year. With a few of these vessels open for charter in Australia, the whole charter industry will benefit from this exposure.

If this bill is passed, we will also see huge infrastructure investment to refit maintenance yards, with hundreds of millions of dollars already being spent in recent years in preparation for this expected change. The domestic fleet will also benefit from these upgrades, while creating many jobs along the way. Another benefit of this bill is that we will see an increased demand for skilled tradespeople to maintain the increased workload, creating more jobs, not less, and opportunities for upskilling amongst the current workforce.

To examine why this is necessary, we need to look over the current framework for coastal commerce in Australia and judge whether it is sufficient in ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism are harnessed to their full potential. Over the next 18 months the Pacific region will experience both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the America's Cup in Auckland. These events will create a large increase in international sea traffic, which provides Australian businesses with a great opportunity to benefit from this boost in activity.

Through the government's ongoing monitoring of market conditions, along with the feedback that we are receiving from the industry, it has been shown that there is an immediate need to supplement existing legislative provisions. The maritime tourism industry has advised that ensuring that businesses have the ability to receive the benefits of increased international maritime activity is important to their ongoing success over the next couple of months. We in this place must ensure that maritime businesses have the best chance of taking advantage of this increase in buoyant maritime market conditions. An integral aspect of some feedback that the government has received from the industry is that the current legal framework for maritime commerce is insufficient to provide certainty to international operators of charter services, which would like to engage with the Australian market over an intermittent period of time. We must, therefore, ensure that we can give certainty to the industry in order to maximise the benefits that will be felt by all Australians.

The current framework is structured around the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping Act) 2012. This act has not been substantially amended to reflect the changing market dynamics since its creation. While the act is well suited to established commercial operators, it has not been adapted to suit the business operating model of smaller or short-term recreational vessels. The problem with this act is that it does not allow superyachts to obtain a temporary licence to operate charter or hire services in Australian waters. Let me make that clear: superyachts are not allowed to operate in Australian waters. The impact of that is that every week we are dropping at least $1 million that could be going into the Australian economy. Because these vessels are not able to obtain temporary licences they're not able to obtain the exceptions contained in the coastal trading act, meaning that the vessels are subject to the Customs Act's importation duties and taxes even though their stay may be less than four weeks. It is an absurdity that's costing ordinary Australians millions of dollars and businesses in my electorate tens of millions of dollars.

While the coastal trading act has provided an effective framework and process for obtaining general, temporary and emergency licences, it has explicitly excluded recreational vessels from obtaining these. You have to ask yourself why. As well, temporary licences to commercial vessels under the coastal trading act require a minimum of five voyages. It is absurd. Noting that here a voyage is defined as departure from an Australian port to another Australian port, this is inconsistent with the operating model of superyachts, which is often a single voyage to take advantage of an opportunity to offer the vessel for charter—likely to and from the same port—chasing weather, or to a specific destination. This rigidity of the existing act is incompatible to the business model of superyachts. There must be a degree of flexibility in our maritime trade law, which supports the business model of the vessels, in order for it to be attractive for them to operate in Australian waters and, thus, further enable related tourism businesses and other matters to receive the incidental economic benefits of these activities, not to mention the fact that it will employ Australians at high wages. It will create investment for businesses in Australia. Why the Labor Party is opposed to this can only come down to simple class warfare.

As a consequence of the deficiencies of the current act they introduced, inflexible in providing temporary licences, most of these vessels pass Australia and, instead, make port in Fiji, Vanuatu or New Zealand. We are literally exporting money, jobs and business investment to New Zealand. The maritime laws in these places are better suited, which is a complex way of saying they make sense. It would be remiss of us here if we continued to let Australian businesses lose out on an array of economic benefits and opportunities to New Zealand.

This bill is simple but effective in correcting the previously mentioned insufficiencies of the coastal trading act. It is not attempting to replace existing provisions of the coastal trading act but, rather, supplement and strengthen the operations of the existing act. It makes you wonder what is really behind the member for Ballarat's amendments to this bill. The bill will enable special recreational vessels to apply for a temporary licence to carry passengers or cargo in Australian waters. Alongside the current licensing process of the coastal trading act, the bill will also permit owners of superyachts to submit declarations that apply to international voyages. Under the current act, these cannot be made by this type of vessel.

The ability of general licence operators to challenge the granting of a temporary licence will still be available to them. The bill will ensure international operators are attracted to operating within our pristine waters, from up north at Cape York to down along the coast to places like Port Douglas, the Whitsundays and the Sunshine Coast, even to the Gold Coast and as far south as Pittwater. Nemo made it to Sydney Harbour, so I assume the superyachts can make it that far too. The greatest thing about this is thousands of dollars will be spent in our regional communities that are currently doing it tough due to the drought.

For the owners and operators of superyachts wishing to conduct a charter, they may apply for a special recreational vessel temporary licence. Flexibility is an integral part of the act, providing the minister or designated senior executive with the ability to grant a temporary licence for a single voyage, charter, that takes a round trip, between various Australian ports, of a number of voyages, over 12 months. Vessels may apply for a further temporary licence after the cessation of their existing licence. Further, these vessels will gain an exemption from the Customs Act's importation duties and taxes, which will alleviate a significant cost to the current operators of charter yachts in Australian waters. It also makes sense that you wouldn't charge duties and taxes of an import nature on something that you're not importing. This is something that I would have thought the member for Ballarat, before she moved her amendment, would have been able to see.

Opening Australia to the superyacht market will bring important trade and tourism benefits, particularly to rural and regional areas on the Queensland coast. This will contribute to the international image that we want to project to prospective tourists. We want those wanting to travel to this country for tourism to feel that they can have an experience they would be unable to have anywhere else in the world—a unique experience. This act is in line with doubling tourist expenditure by 2020 on 2015 levels.

Regional communities will be able to experience the benefits of the boost in economic activity. In fact, 43c of every tourism dollar spent goes towards benefiting regional communities across Australia. Additionally, many small businesses in Cairns, the Whitsundays, Port Douglas, Pittwater, Sydney Harbour, Melbourne, Hobart and even Perth, among others, are poised to benefit from superyacht tourism. The bill should make coming to Australia more attractive, not less, for these vessels, the people who want to sail on them and the associated economic benefits that create jobs, regional growth and economic and business investment. The economic benefits of this bill cannot be overestimated. It will unlock an additional 11,800 jobs and over $1½ billion by 2020-21. Chartered vessels make up more than half of the world's superyacht fleet, and under the current regulations we are not allowing them to operate commercially in Australia unless they are imported.

It is also important to note that those who defend the current laws and pretend that they have done good should keep in mind that the Australian fleet is now 10 per cent of what it was before those laws were introduced. They have decimated our charter industry, they have decimated Australian shipping and they have kept economic growth from both our regions and our cities. They have not allowed our businesses to enjoy, to promote and to utilise the expert skills they have in this country in the superyacht and boatbuilding sector. Looking ahead, it is important that we continue to consult stakeholders within the tourism industry and maritime operators in particular. A skill shortage is forecast, and I highly recommend this bill to the House.

5:26 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

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.

5:55 pm

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to all of those members who have contributed to the debate on the Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019. The federal government is committed to growing the Australian economy, and this bill will contribute to that goal by opening up a new maritime market. The bill will allow special recreational vessels to offer charters on the Australian coast—something that the current system does not allow.

These vessels have been excluded in the past because of the way that the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012, the coastal trading act, works. Whilst special recreational vessels visit our Pacific neighbours, Australia is missing out because of red tape. Temporary licences under the coastal trading act require a minimum of five voyages, and a voyage is defined as 'from a port to a different port'. This doesn't support the special recreational vessel operating model—often a single voyage to take advantage of an opportunity to offer the vessel for charter, and likely to be to and from the same port.

This bill changes that. It will enable these vessels to apply for a special recreational vessel temporary licence under the coastal trading act. For those who own or charter a special recreational vessel and wish to apply for a special recreational vessel temporary licence, they can now offer a single-voyage charter that takes a round trip or a number of different voyages to different ports over 12 months. However, this does not change the need for licence holders to comply with all other requirements of the coastal trading act and other relevant legislation, including the requirement to pay part B wages.

In recognition that special recreational vessels are just that—recreational—the bill imposes the condition on all special recreational vessel temporary licences that the vessel must not carry cargo for profit on voyages authorised by the licence. Allowing special recreational vessels to charter in Australia will open up trade and tourism opportunities all around the coast, particularly, as the member for Dawson just noted, regional areas on the Far North Queensland coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Port Douglas, amongst others, are poised to benefit from increased tourism brought by these vessels. As the member for Forde just noted, a number of these vessels are expected to be in the Pacific over the next 18 months for the Tokyo Olympics and the America's Cup in Auckland. This bill will pave the way for them to come to Australia.

The government is committed to changes more broadly in coastal trading. The department is out consulting with stakeholders now. This bill is one part of a broader approach to making coastal shipping and cruising a viable and important part of the domestic economy. I want to stress, however, that protections for Australian vessels will be maintained. Our government is pleased with the participation of shipping and cruise industry stakeholders in the first phase of consultation and, with the number of organisations and individuals who've taken the time to think about solutions to making coastal trade a more efficient transport choice, we thank them all for their submissions.

We'll shortly be bringing everyone together to develop these ideas and find opportunities for the maritime industry more broadly, including the special recreational vessel industry. There is much opportunity for businesses—particularly those in the regions—for encouraging special recreational vessels to come to Australia. These vessels will attract passengers from all over the world to sail in our waters. This bill lets us take advantage of this exciting and growing industry, and I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Ballarat has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted, with a view to substituting other words. So, the immediate question before the House is that the amendment moved by the member for Ballarat be agreed to.