Labor support to bring superyacht boom
A SUPERYACHT surge is now an almost certainty after Labor lent bipartisan support to changes aimed at reeling in more of the mega-luxury boats and their billionaire owners.
The Opposition has agreed to support legislation introduced to the House of Representatives by the Morrison government last week on the proviso a handful of changes are made.
The Bill, which would make foreign-flagged superyachts exempt from the current exorbitant GST rules precluding them from running profitable charters in Australia, only had three major deficiencies in Labor's eyes.
The ALP called for an amendment to stop superyachts transporting commercial cargo in their expansive hulls.
A sunset clause was introduced to ensure Australia was ready to capitalise on an anticipated spike in the white boat arrivals for two key upcoming events - the Tokyo Olympics next year and the America's Cup in New Zealand in 2021 - but more lasting changes could be introduced once it became apparent whether current infrastructure could keep up with the industry's growth.
The final condition dealt with concerns about foreign-flagged superyacht owners underpaying wages.
The Coalition supported the changes in the lower house yesterday afternoon.
It means the Bill's ascension through the Senate by the end of the week should be a formality with both major parties recognising its importance.
Cairns-based Labor Senator Nita Green said she backed the new-look legislation to the hilt.
"I've been working with industry, unions and Labor shadow ministers to get this Bill through to boost jobs in Cairns," she said.
"Tourism is at the heart of our economy, driving good jobs, new infrastructure investment and increasing quality of life.
"Labor pushed the government to make amendments to ensure the improved access for superyachts is not at the expense of Australian tourism cruise operators or the Australian shipping industry more broadly.
"I look forward to seeing more superyachts visiting Cairns and the boost to our local economies that should flow."
Other proposed changes to the Coastal Trading Act remain up for fiery debate.
There are currently about 5000 superyachts in the world, growing by about 150 new yachts per year.
Previously these vessels could not operate commercially in Australia unless they fully imported the vessel, which was a very expensive deterrent to foreign owners considering cruising Australian waters.
The industry already contributes $83 million to the Cairns economy and supports more than 240 jobs - figures that are expected to grow.