House debates

Thursday, 3 June 2021


Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021; Second Reading

10:15 am

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Special Recreational Vessel Amendment Bill 2021 will extend the sunset date of the Special Recreational Vessels Act 2019 (the SRV Act). This act allows foreign special recreational vessels (also known as superyachts) to apply for a special recreational vessel temporary licence to operate on the Australian coast, if they choose to opt into the coastal trading regulatory regime. This allows these vessels to be offered for hire or charter.

The proposed amendment means these vessels can continue to operate under temporary licences, bringing overseas dollars into regional communities around Australia. Encouraging special recreational vessels to come to Australia to charter is important, particularly for COVID recovery.

Special recreational vessels bring a range of economic benefits—Australian producers and services industries all stand to benefit from the continuation of superyacht charters. The opportunity to supply food and beverages to the vessels as well as the onshore demand for tourism, accommodation and cafes and restaurants will provide much-needed business.

Extending the repeal date of the SRV Act for two years will allow more time to consult stakeholders on a longer-term solution for special recreational vessel regulation. Earlier consultation was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will not be completed prior to the SRV Act sunsetting.

In the interim, the SRV industry needs certainty to continue to operate in Australia.

The Australian government is committed to ensuring Australia's regulatory framework for our maritime industries remains fit for purpose, meets community expectations and supports Australian businesses.

The superyacht industry will no doubt make an important contribution to our post COVID-19 recovery as we look to reopen the economy and permit more leisure activities in Australia.


The Australian government recognises the economic opportunities that superyachts afford Australian business, as well as regional and urban communities.

This bill permits special recreational vessels to continue to charter in Australia and have these opportunities realised.

10:18 am

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 Amendment Bill 2021. As the minister has said, this amends the Special Recreational Vessels Act to extend the repeal date to 30 June 2023. The current act is currently due to be repealed on 30 June this year. The bill allows for special recreational vessels known as superyachts to opt into the coastal trading act and operate charters along the Australian coastline. Allowing superyachts to operate charters in Australian waters is expected to provide additional tourism activity and income and opportunities for local coastal businesses to provide goods and services to the yachts, their crews and passengers. Facilitating superyacht activity may also broaden the range of high-end tourism jobs and activities in locations like Cairns, which we all know has been seriously impacted through the COVID pandemic. 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 and conditions and job prospects of Australian seafarers. Because the impact on other local tourism and cruise operators were unknown, Labor successfully sought the government's agreement to insert a review clause into the original legislation. This review and sunset clause were inserted into the legislation to ensure that any potential impacts on local tourism and maritime operators are fully assessed. It is that sunset clause which this amendment is now seeking to extend.

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that not only has the expected arrival of the superyachts been delayed but the department has not been able to commence work on any review. The superyachts haven't come yet, so we don't know how they will impact on our local cruise shipping jobs. We do say to the government, however, that they need to take this consultation process very seriously. When these yachts do arrive we need to be certain that Australian jobs are not impacted. Just because the consultation is delayed does not mean it can be avoided.

Two years ago when this bill was first introduced there were concerns among some 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, thereby undermining the businesses of Australian owned and operated tourism vessels. That concern is still there and has only grown stronger throughout this pandemic. Like so much of our tourism industry, Australian cruise shipping and yacht charters are on their knees. It's an industry that will be unable to even begin to fully recover until vaccines complete their slow progress through the community and we begin the job of reopening our borders. It's a recovery that won't be easy. It won't happen overnight and it won't be smooth for all operators. In this context it is more important than ever that the government is very, very careful that this bill does not cut the local recovery short. If foreign superyachts do flood our shores it will hurt Australian operators, Australian communities and Australian workers.

In reading back over what was said when this bill was initially passed in 2019, it is striking how much the world has changed. In 2019 the government was talking up the potential of superyachts ahead of the 2020 Olympics and America's Cup. Without the amendments made it was argued that the superyachts would sail past Australia to New Zealand, Tahiti and Fiji and that we'd miss the associated economic benefits. That is why we supported it, because we wanted in particular Cairns, Townsville and other areas to benefit from this. But we also want to make sure that we don't undermine the current operators who employ people in those local communities. But, of course, we know what happened next. The 2020 Olympics didn't happen and now, maybe, neither the 2021 Olympics, and the America's Cup took place in a tourist-free New Zealand. In 2018 it was predicted that over 15,000 Queenslanders would work across the superyacht industry by 2021, contributing $2 billion to gross state product. But the foreign yachts didn't come, and tourism is experiencing a very slow recovery, particularly in Cairns.

Labor is clear in our position that these changes are to ensure that superyachts do not bypass our waters in favour of foreign shores. We want them to come. We want people to spend money here. We want to make sure that local economies do actually benefit. It is so that superyachts will stop in Cairns rather than skipping past en route to Fiji or to New Zealand. It is to bring more money into communities that might otherwise flow overseas. It isn't to allow foreign operators to set up shop in Australia and outcompete Australian businesses and strangle that aspect of Australia's economic tourism recovery.

Pre COVID it was with Australian jobs in mind that Labor successfully advocated for the insertion of clauses ensuring that people employed on the superyachts had necessary employment protections and that visiting superyachts are prohibited from carrying commercial cargo up and down our coast. We determined that it was responsible to trial the changes over two years to assess the success of the Olympic Games and the America's Cup and to ensure that there were no unintended consequences across the broader industry. Labor successfully pushed for the inclusion of a sunset clause and a review into the original bill because we did not want to see Australian jobs lost. Without these clauses we would not have given the bill our support then and we would not be giving it our support now.

Post COVID it is more important than ever that Australian workers are put at the forefront of government considerations. We want to ensure that, when this bill once more comes up for review in 2023, all parties look very closely at the impact it has had on an important Australian industry. If in two years time we find that it has cost jobs, that we have lost businesses in that area and that it has not brought the benefits it has promised, we need to look more carefully at this permission.

We are wary of the government's actions in this space because, frankly, they've got form. We've had too many jobs in our maritime industry that have already been lost on this government's watch. Over recent years Australian shipping jobs have collapsed. Over the past 30 years the number of Australian flagged vessels has shrunk from 100 to barely 10. While other maritime nations support their shipping industries, the Morrison government has on its watch basically seen it decimated. Norway has 519 vessels carrying the Norwegian flag. The United Kingdom has 1,157 flagged vessels and China has 4,608 Chinese flagged vessels. If other nations can maintain a merchant fleet, so can we.

All the time the government continues to open Australia up to foreign flagged and crewed ships without thinking of the importance of our own capability not only to import our vital supply of fuels and other essentials but also to move goods around this country. They twice sought to rip up the reforms made by the Labor government aimed at protecting Australian shipping under the guise of reducing costs. The parliament twice rejected the government's so-called reforms calling out the legislation then as bad for Australian passengers and freight, bad for Australian workers and bad for Australian national security. All the while, each and every coalition transport minister over the past eight long 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 flagships with foreign crews to trade on our coastline—work that can and should be done by Australian maritime workers paid Australian wages at Australian conditions.

Australia relies on shipping to move 99 per cent of our imports and exports, including fuel. It is critical that we maintain the sovereign capacity to import these supplies and transport them around the country. Whether it be conflict, natural disaster or pandemic, history has shown us that we cannot always rely on other nations to carry our essential goods on their flagged ships. And, unlike those opposite, Labor believes in a strong and vibrant maritime industry and will always support Australian seafarers, maritime workers and Australian flagged ships as well as those Australian workers who maintain and build our merchant and recreational fleet.

While this bill will do far less than is needed for jobs in Australian shipping, we will support it under these circumstances. That being said, and the second reading amendment having been circulated in my name, 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;

(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; and

(3) commits to a thorough review of the Act at the revised sunset date of 30 June 2023".

Labor does have a proud history of supporting the vital role of Australian maritime industries that we 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.

I reiterate that, while we won't oppose the passage of the bill, we will be carefully watching its impact on Australian businesses and Australian workers. We want it to grow jobs, we want it to see thriving economies in Cairns and Townsville and all the way through Queensland. But we must make sure, and I think all of the members here would want to make sure, that it isn't at the expense of the small business operators who've been operating along that coast, around a fantastic part of our country, and that it actually benefits workers in that sector.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the amendment seconded?

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for Rankin. 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 with other words. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

10:29 am

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

I'm very pleased to speak on the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021, but, before I do talk about the bill, I just point out that what we have just heard from the Labor member opposite, the member for Ballarat, is that the Labor Party supports the bill but the Labor Party is wary of the bill. The Labor Party wants to ensure the passage of the bill so that we don't lose superyacht business in tourism places in Queensland, while at the same time warning, falsely—falsely—that there would be some negative impact on local businesses and local jobs. I've got to say that that is exactly the kind of stuff we've come to expect from the Labor Party. The member for Ballarat, following in her leader's footsteps, is having a bid each way and then, after having a bid each way, simply going to the wharfie or MUA talking points and getting in a bit of cheap politics. That's what it is—nothing but a bid each way and then a bit of cheap politics. It's what we've come to expect from Labor.

It also shows a fundamental lack of understanding of tourism, and that's why the Queensland tourism industry communities are covered by representation from Liberal National Party members—me with the Whitsundays and the Mackay region; the member for Forde, over there, representing part of the Gold Coast, which is covered wall to wall by LNP members; up in Townsville, the member for Herbert; up further, in Cairns, the member for Leichhardt; down on the Capricorn Coast, the member for Capricornia; and the member for Fraser, the member for Hinkler and the member for Wide Bay covering all of that beautiful area. All of the tourism areas in Queensland are covered by Liberal National Party members. You yourself, Deputy Speaker Vasta, as the member for Bonner, represent a very well known tourism hotspot there, with the beautiful beaches you have in your Brisbane electorate.

It just shows a lack of understanding about tourism to suggest that superyachts are going to somehow cost local businesses, such as local cruises that go out overnight, and cost local jobs. Have you never been on board a superyacht? Have you never seen one? Have you never been on board a local cruise ship? The domestic market caters to backpackers. The domestic market caters to local families—actually, it's not the domestic market; the cruise ship market, which is mostly international, covers families and retirees. So it's a particular market. Superyachts are limited to about a dozen passengers and cater to the uber-rich, the uberwealthy, who do not go on cruise vessels and do not go aboard the backpacker vessels. So to suggest there is going to be some competition here and a loss of jobs is insane.

What in fact happened until this government acted, with the original bill, was that we lost all of the potential that superyachts bring with their multimillionaire and billionaire passengers. We lost it to New Zealand. We lost it to Noumea. We had virtually none coming into the country because of stupid regulations that this government's gotten rid of that, actually, the Labor Party here today has flagged they could revisit and go back to. That is a warning to tourism towns. And why is it a warning to tourism towns? Far from costing jobs, far from costing local businesses, these superyachts drop, in any community they dock in, between 50 and 60 grand a week. That's 50 to 60 grand a week in local purchases. Whether it be the local florist—I'm told they do a bit of a trade while superyachts are in town—or the local food supply outlets or the local bottle-os, they do a roaring trade when these superyachts hit town, and that equates to local jobs.

Over in Noumea, which I mentioned, my understanding is that, pre pandemic, the number of vessels they had docking equated to 200 weeks a year—200 weeks. That's at least four vessels in dock every week. Think of that. Do the math: 50 to 60 grand times 52 weeks times four. You are talking big bucks. That money flowing through local economies equates to more local jobs in hospitality, retail, the food industry and the tourism industry itself. That's what's at stake here. That is why the government is moving to push the sunset date of the act out a further couple of years. Sadly, what has happened is that these changes have taken place at a time when the superyacht market was ripe for the picking so we could nab some of that 50 grand to 60 grand a week that these people drop in the places that they dock. The pandemic has knocked that catch completely out of the water.

We need to push the sunset clause down the road so that we can have those vessels coming here post-pandemic and enjoying the beautiful spots that are right up and down the Queensland coast. I'm going to tell you again—I'm going to be very, very parochial here; sorry to other members—again, to the member for Ballarat, it seems that the Labor Party always refers to Cairns when it comes to tourism. Cairns is very beautiful, but the Whitsundays are the sailing capital of Australia, and everyone knows it. We have the most marine tourism out of all the spots in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area. It is a beautiful spot. You can go out there and get on the overnight adventure boats, the backpacker boats. After I think four to eight hours worth of training you can jump on a catamaran with the family and go sailing throughout the beautiful Whitsundays and all those islands. I encourage the member over there to bring his family up and we'll go sailing. It is just so beautiful. On top of all of those—

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

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

I will take the interjection and just say I think we'd run rings around the south coast with the spectacular views we have up there and with Whitehaven Beach, which is consistently voted one of the best beaches in the world. You've got to see it to believe it. We're going to get into a breach competition here, so I'm going to move quickly away from this and get back to the bill. The proof is in the pudding. Come and have a look at Whitehaven Beach; it is absolutely beautiful.

Now on top of all the markets that we capture in the Whitsundays simply from their natural beauty, and also the hard work, dedication and professionalism of local tourism providers, we are going to have an extremely high end market coming into that area and spending their money supporting local business and local jobs. A lot of work was done by a lot of members to ensure that the original version of this bill was put together, put to this place and passed. I was one of those members, but I don't want to pat myself on the back. I want to pat on the back the people in the superyacht support industry who were instrumental by coming to this place and lobbying. I was assisting them. One of those people is a local business owner in my electorate. He owns the Coral Sea Marina Resort. His name is Paul Darrouzet. Paul Darrouzet spoke to numerous environment ministers about changing settings in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area that would allow superyachts to traverse areas in the Great Barrier Reef. Those changes in settings did absolutely nothing to negatively affect the reef and its environments, but it did enable these vessels and that major wealth to come into areas like the Whitsundays, drop their coin locally and create more local business and more local jobs. On top of that, we lobbied the Treasury, the Assistant Treasurer, the Minister for Finance, the Deputy Prime Minister and all the rest of them about getting rid of GST implications on these vessels. Previously, when one of these vessels came into Australia, they were charged essentially 10 per cent of the cost of the hull. That was a major imposition that nowhere else in the world was doing, so they would simply bypass Australia. If you can't come in without being stung a motza, if you can't come in and traverse to the places that you want to come to, the beautiful places like those in the Whitsunday, then you just don't come. You go to Noumea, you go to New Zealand, you go and see the sights over there, and then you leave without spending a single cent or dollar in Australia. That's what was happening.

We changed that. This government changed that with the support of the tourism sector. It's a very, very good thing that we did because it is going to enable a lot of businesses to create a lot of jobs. I noticed at the time when we did change it that it again showed the whole each-way thing of those opposite. Today they're having a bet each way: 'This bill, we're going to support it, but we're wary of it. This bill we're supporting because we could otherwise lose the business that comes from it, but we also warn that it could harm local business and could harm local jobs.' That's a false equation, by the way, but that's what was said. At the time we were talking about removing the GST implications from these superyachts coming into the country, and I've got to tell you, in terms of the taxpayer, there were no GST implications because they just didn't come and 10 per cent of zero is zero. We were receiving nothing, no benefit whatsoever, no taxation benefit and no direct investment benefit, so we got rid of that. At the point we got rid of that, we had some member over on the other side jumping up to talk about GST on tampons and equating that to the removal of GST on superyachts that didn't even visit the country.

It just again showed cheap politics being put in the way of jobs, being put in the way of business opportunities for Australians. I couldn't believe it when I heard that because again it shows talking out of both sides of their mouths. Those opposite were saying to the superyacht support sector, 'Yes, yes, we're going to back you.' Then they'd come into the parliament and issue cheap shots like that.

An opposition member interjecting

The member opposite might not think it's a cheap shot, but it cost jobs so it was a cheap shot. You essentially opposing the removal of GST on superyachts with silly, cheap comments like that cost jobs.

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Dawson has the call.

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

I would say to the Labor Party, please do not undermine this sector. Please do not undermine the opportunities that will come into this country from these superyachts. We need the money, the 50 to 60 grand a week dropped in communities and economies where these vessels are docked. It is very, very important that we get a slice of that pie, that we don't lose it to the Pacific Islands and we don't just simply lose it to New Zealand. I again say: boats are docking for 200 weeks a year, with pretty much four vessels docking every week in Noumea. Times that by $50,000 to $60,000 and you see the benefit to that region. You see the benefit to that very, very small island. Imagine what we could get in Australia, superyachts up and down the coast with those millionaires, multimillionaires and billionaires spending their large wealth. That's going to create a lot of jobs. That's going to create a lot of business. That's why I back it. That's why this Liberal-National government is supporting it.

We support tourism. We support regional economies. The proof's in the pudding. That's why tourism communities and tourism economies support good members like the member Forde, all those members on the Gold Coast, all those members up and down regional Queensland—in Cairns, Townsville and indeed in the Whitsundays, in the electorate of Dawson. They know that the Liberal and National parties will consistently back tourism. We will back tourism businesses, we will back tourism workers and we will back tourism jobs. We will continue to do so and we will do so with really, really sound legislation and ideas like this that will pay dividends into the future. Thank you.

10:44 am

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

It is with great pleasure that I speak on the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021 and to follow on from my good friend and colleague the member for Dawson and his comments. He spoke at length about the value of superyachts to local communities up and down the Queensland coast. I would add that I am sure across the north of Australia and down the west coast they would equally love visits by superyachts. He also spoke about the impact on local businesses as a result of those yachts docking and spending time there and investing in our local communities $50,000 or $60,000 a week.

I would like to take a slightly different tack, Deputy Speaker Vasta, because, as you well know in your wonderful electorate of Bonner and in my electorate of Forde and just across the highway in the electorate of Fadden, we have two of the most modern superyacht refit facilities in Australia, with both looking to invest significant amounts as a result of the legislation we passed in 2019. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, the member for Dawson and others in this place, myself included, spent a lot of time in 2019 to get to this point. We know from the discussions that we've had with people like Rivergate Marine on the Brisbane River and Tony Longhurst of the Boat Works down at Coomera the value of the initial legislation we passed in 2019. This bill seeks to extend that sunset clause from 30 June 2021 to 30 June 2023. I think that's a terrific decision given the impact of COVID right across our economy but also on the superyacht industry.

The reason I support this legislation and support the original legislation is the investment that this is going to bring to our communities. Whilst Rivergate and the Boat Works are not physically in my electorate, I know from my discussions with the owners of both of those superyacht facilities the number of people who work in those facilities who live and work in my electorate of Forde. So it's not just what happens on the precinct at the marina; it's what happens crossed South East Queensland and also, by extension—as the member for Dawson has very well articulated—what happens right across Queensland and our broader economy. Whether it is the beautiful Southern Moreton Bay Islands on the Gold Coast or Moreton Bay, in the member for Bonner's electorate, Hervey Bay, the Whitsundays, Cairns and further afield, it is a tremendous opportunity for us as a nation.

I will first look at the Boat Works. Over the past couple of years, they've spent nearly $100 million in upgrading their facilities to build a 25-acre superyacht facility. But, now, given the interest that has occurred—and I know that there are many, many Australians now buying their own superyachts and bringing them back to Australia, which is generating an awful lot of business as well—Tony Longhurst, the owner of Boat Works, is talking about bringing forward the development of stage 4, which would allow the construction of five new supersheds to accommodate 40 metre-plus vessels. They expect to have $300 million worth of boats there and over a thousand people on site on any one day. The 2019 legislation that we are now amending has resulted in creating the opportunity for people like Tony Longhurst and others to invest very, very significant amounts of money in our economy, creating jobs and economic opportunity.

In addition, I would like to touch on Rivergate, which I know is in your electorate, Deputy Speaker Vasta. They are proposing to spend $200 million on the redevelopment of that marina and facilities to build the largest superyacht refit and maintenance hub in the Asia-Pacific. Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, you and I have visited there a number of times. Currently they have 21 tenants, 320 contractors across 20 trades and a 105-berth marina. But what they are planning to do with this $200 million investment will more than double that. I know from the last time we were there visiting some of those small businesses that many of those tenants and contractors are in their own right small-business owners, and they do a fabulous job each and every day servicing our marine industry.

The other part of this which we haven't touched on yet—and I know from the discussions that we've had with Rivergate and also with the Boat Works—is when these superyachts are in town to be refitted the crew has to be housed and accommodated. So our hotels in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast are benefiting from these refit facilities because the crews from those boats are accommodated in our hotels. They go out shopping, go to our restaurants, have some entertainment, go on tours and take up the fabulous tourism opportunities that we have around the south-east of Queensland. All of those flow-on benefits reflect in our economy. Some of those crews might be there for three to six months depending on the size of the refit of the particular superyacht. These are business opportunities that, prior to this legislation in 2019, very rarely existed. It was mainly Australian superyachts that were serviced at Rivergate, and certainly the Boat Works didn't have those facilities back then.

We can see a simple change in legislation by this government in 2019 is now being extended through these amendments. I hope, in all honesty, it's made permanent so we don't have to revisit this every few years, because, as the member for Dawson well articulated, I think the strictures that were put on this by those opposite don't stand up to the realities of what actually goes on in this industry in the cold, hard light of day. But that's not unusual for those opposite, because they don't understand business in the first place. I'm proud to say that it is this government that is leading now through the legislation we have passed, which is now leading to multimillion-dollar investments in our economy.

If we look at the build of these superyacht and refit facilities, it's not just now the shipwrights, the upholsterers, the sandblasters and all the tradesmen that operate in those facilities that benefit; it's also all of the contractors that have to build these new facilities—the concreters, the people that make the sheds, the sparkys, the carpenters. All of these tradespeople as well as all of those employed to work on maintaining these boats live in all of our electorates across the south-east. Right across South-East Queensland, across all of our electorates, everybody benefits.

As I spoke about last night on a separate subject, defence procurement, the supply chain across this industry is enormous. Many of the raw materials and products that are required to refit these boats are sourced locally across South-East Queensland and are not available more generally in Australia. So our Australian economy benefits right across the board, whether it is, as the member for Dawson has outlined, that they are in port in the Whitsundays, going and visiting local tourist attractions, restocking their pantries, restocking their cellars, filling up with fuel and all of those sorts of things—that specific spend in those communities where they actually stop to do the tours—or in communities like ours, where they're actually stopping for the boats to be refitted and upgraded. Right across the board, as a direct result of the decisions this government made back in 2019, we are seeing hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on upgrading facilities to service these yachts because of the opportunities this government has created. We're seeing hundreds of jobs created and we're seeing wealth created in this country. I commend this bill in its original form to the House. It's just another example of this government continuing to deliver for our local communities and for Australia.

10:55 am

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to rise on the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021. This is an industry that is so important on the Gold Coast, and it is one that has been going through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bill will amend the Special Recreational Vessels Act 2019. 'Special recreational vessels' is the term that the Commonwealth legislation uses to refer to, simply, superyachts. In Australia, the relevant peak industry bodies are the Australian International Marine Export Group, AIMEX, and Superyacht Australia. The industry considers superyachts to be vessels more than 24 metres long with a capacity of less than 12 overnight passengers, excluding crew.

The act reflects the industry definition:

special recreational vessel means a vessel that:

(a) is designed to be used wholly or primarily for recreational or sporting activities; and

(b) is over 24 metres in length; and

(c) is not used wholly or primarily for carrying cargo.

These are, clearly, recreational vessels. The bill will simply extend the operation of the act. Section 17 of the act will be amended by omitting '30 June 2021' and substituting '30 June 2023'. These are the technicalities of the act, but I will speak later about my community and, if I might say so, my beloved Gold Coast. The act currently permits superyachts to opt into the coastal trading regulatory regime. This permits vessels to be offered for hire or for charter in Australian waters. Prior to the passage of the Special Recreational Vessels Act, vessels were not permitted to obtain temporary licenses under the coastal trading act of 2012. This created a major disincentive for superyachts to visit Australia, because the vessels were subject to importation duty and taxes under the Customs Act. There are significant economic benefits of superyacht activity in Australia, particularly at a time when, as a nation we are working towards sustainable recovery. I agree with the sentiments of my colleague, the member for Forde, on superyachts and their benefits to the local economy, which I'll speak about more in a moment. The government recognises that longer term regulatory arrangements are necessary for all stakeholders. To ensure we achieve the right regulatory settings, industry consultation will also be required. In the meantime, this bill will ensure that the benefits of superyachts will continue to flow to the economy.

The Gold Coast is one of the locations benefiting from this industry with a very bright future. The Australian International Marine Export Group uses various metrics to assess the economic benefits of superyachts. I will just outline a few of those metrics. In terms of metres and days, it takes into account the length of yachts and the time they stay in Australia. On that basis, the current annual growth is a staggering 58 per cent, thanks to the Morrison government and this legislation. Superyachts are conservatively valued at about $1 million per metre, and spent 10 per cent of that value per year. So a 60 metre yacht is probably valued in excess of $60 million and delivers at least $600,000 per annum in economic value to the local economy, if staying for 365 days. And a lot of people on superyachts would like to stay on the Gold Coast for 365 days, I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker! Southport Yacht Club is there, and with the beautiful sunshine on the flat water it is terribly and stunningly attractive. But of course the economic activity generated goes well beyond the direct spending by the crew and the passengers, as outlined by the member for Forde.

The current act has delivered a dramatic increase in superyacht activity for Australia. In calendar years, it went from around $40 million in 2018 to $100 million 2020. That additional 150 per cent in economic benefit has been despite the pandemic. It's been, of course, more difficult for crew and passengers of yachts to travel to Australia, although they had been staying longer once here. AIMEX estimates that once they've had 12 months of operation clear of the pandemic impacts, they would expect the current arrangements that the bill extends to produce a 300 per cent increase on 2018 levels, which is quite staggering.

I have supported the good work by the previous Minister for Home Affairs to deliver a Border Force clearing station in Moncrieff to support the utilisation of Southport by superyachts. This is good news for the local economy. Moncrieff is a significant beneficiary of this industry and, certainly, this bill. The Southport Yacht Club has embarked on a project to build a 136-metre superyacht berth to increase the length and number of vessels able to berth on the coast. The new berth could accommodate a yacht the full size of the berth or two 60-metre yachts, which is something very special to see at Southport Yacht Club. Of course, there must be seaway access also, and Marine Safety Queensland is currently assessing the seaway access, potentially giving access to vessels up to 100 metres in length. They certainly are a sight to see in the seaway. The new berth construction has faced a few minor delays, with some bad weather earlier this year on the Gold Coast—unusual for the Gold Coast's usually sunny, clear skies. It's likely to be completed by August this year, which is good news. The Southport Yacht Club is doing very well in general, with record numbers through its restaurant and excellent membership numbers. I'll give a shout-out to Brett James, the general manager there, and the commodore, Ken, who's a fantastic fellow and always in good spirits.

For every superyacht that berths on the Gold Coast, there are significant benefits to the local economy, including the purchase of fuel; food and drink supplies; tourist activities, which are so important to the Gold Coast; and other services. But the economic benefits for the Gold Coast of a vibrant superyacht industry go well beyond berthing vessels and purchases by passengers and crew. The Gold Coast is also home to the construction and servicing of a great range of marine vessels. All aspects of the superyacht industry contribute to the marketing position of the Gold Coast as both a world-class international destination and a world-class marine business investment opportunity, and we welcome that.

In Coomera, a short distance up the road from Moncrief, employing many of my constituents are a great number of marine businesses of various sizes, adding to the Gold Coast economy. A good example is Riviera, a very successful luxury motor yacht builder. Allow me to share a few details about Riviera that will allow those listening to understand the importance of the marine industry, now and into the future. Riviera has been operating for 41 years. They have the largest luxury yacht building facility in the Southern Hemisphere, on a 16.8 hectare site at Coomera, in the member for Fadden's electorate. They employ a team of 800. They have built over 5,700 luxury motor yachts, and they export about 55 per cent of their annual yacht production. Their yachts range in length from 39 to 78 feet, which is quite significant.

Another business at the marine precinct at Coomera employing many people from my electorate is the Boat Works, which the member for Forde also spoke about. It's home to an impressive array of marine trades, through the many businesses that operate out of that facility. About 2,000 people are employed. That's 2,000 people, from just one business, who are employed and looked after thanks to the marine industry on the Gold Coast, which is such an incredible contributor to our local economy. The Boat Works invested $100 million in 2019 to upgrade their facilities and a further $20 million this year to meet the significant demand that they are facing now, in such a rapid growth trajectory. They have the facilities to store boats of up to 60 metres, and they have 300-, 100- and 70-tonne marine lifts to handle boats of up to 50 metres in length and 32 feet beam—that's width, for those that aren't familiar with the term. They also have a unique 45-tonne hydraulic submersible sea lift. It's quite a sight.

Next door is another great facility. The Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard is another great Gold Coast business success story with a global reputation. Recently announced as a finalist for the Best Superyacht Refit Yard Award at the 2021 ACREW Superyacht Business Awards, voted on by 15,000 captains and crew. It's a very special award. The GCCM is no stranger to accolades, having received many other awards in the past.

All of these businesses and the many other marine businesses on the Gold Coast are providing thousands of local jobs and training apprentices for their careers. Industry and governments agree on the importance of regulatory reform for the industry. However, the complexities of foreign superyachts operating in Australia are not immediately obvious. When you delve further, the issues include the application import of duty and GST that need to be looked at as well. Expecting operators to pay 10 per cent of the value of a vessel is, of course, a significant disincentive to operate in Australia.

This bill is the Morrison government backing the marine industry through and beyond the pandemic and is very, very good policy. To finish, I know that the member for Forde and the member for Fadden will agree that the amendment to this 2019 legislation has created the important opportunity for local businesses, like those of the Longhurst brothers, to invest in local industry with certainty to create economic security for jobs for South-East Queenslanders and, most importantly, to create those jobs for those constituents who live in Moncrieff and across the wider Gold Coast. I commend the amendment in this bill to the House.

11:05 am

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge all those who have made a contribution to this debate on the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021. I join with the former speaker, the member for Forde, who acknowledged the member for Dawson. It's rightfully so that the contributions made in this debate come from our more coastal seats in Queensland. Superyachts are always welcomed in the great state of Queensland. I also acknowledge the member for Moncrieff's contribution. In particular, superyachts are a common sight on the waterways of the Gold Coast, where they are part of the landscape. Thank you for your nautical oversight and terminology to assist the House.

The Special Recreational Vessels Act 2019 is simply due to sunset on 30 June 2021. As such, an extension of the repeal date is necessary to enable these vessels to come to Australian waters and simply offer charters. The bill will support these charters on the Australian coast until a longer term regulatory solution can be achieved.

Prior to the introduction of the Special Recreational Vessels Act 2019, the special recreational vessels visited our Pacific neighbours but chose to bypass Australia simply because of the red tape. So what we've done is try to address that. The Australian government put the act in place to allow special recreational vessels, also known as superyachts, to charter in Australian waters and to realise the opportunity they bring for our hospitality, tourism operators, suppliers and, particularly, regional communities, which were outlined by the member for Moncrieff.

Providing new possibilities for businesses and communities is even more important as we rebuild our economy immediately after COVID. The bill provides greater opportunities and certainties for businesses, particularly in regional coastal communities, to benefit from the special recreational vessels that charter there, helping Australians to take advantage of an existing and growing industry. With that, I commend this 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. The immediate question before the House is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.