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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2595


Mr PETER FISHER(4.33) —I rise on behalf of the National Party of Australia to support the Sea Installations Bill, the Sea Installations Levy Bill, the Installations (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, the Customs Tariff Amendment (Sea Installations) Bill and the Excise Tariff Amendment (Sea Installations) Bill. In 1984 the Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) announced an allocation of some $6m under the Commonwealth-State bicentennial commemorative program to establish a Great Barrier Reef wonderland.

The objectives and components of that Great Barrier Reef wonderland were to establish a national monument on the occasion of the Australian Bicentenary which would offer an interpretative and education service about the Great Barrier Reef for local, national and overseas visitors. It would recognise and record in an enduring manner the roles of the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments in the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and its inscription on the World Heritage List. It would also-the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay) has mentioned this matter-develop a Great Barrier Reef wonderland as a tourist attraction of international status with an integration of outstanding facilities having wide appeal and involving government and private sector funding. I mention this matter because with the proclamation of a marine park-particularly a marine park which has the profile and importance of the Great Barrier Reef-it will obviously stimulate additional activity. Today we are debating a series of Bills that relate to the stimulation of that activity. We are all aware of the many entrepreneurs who for decades have provided facilities for tourism and the enjoyment by many visitors from Australia and throughout the world of this unique Australian attraction.

While this legislation covers all off-shore installations, it basically refers to the floating hotel proposal off Townsville which was so adequately referred to by the honourable member for Herbert. The project, of some seven storeys costing some $31m, will be developed by Reef Link Resort Pty Ltd and will be built on the John Brewer Reef. I do not wish to go into too much of the detail of this matter except to say that a project such as this will raise the standard of projects along the Barrier Reef. The legislation is sensible in content and is an example-I say this to the Minister-of a project and legislation which reflects great credit on both the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment and particularly officers of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. We should recognise that an environmental impact statement has been carried out. While we could all make some criticism and express some concern about the time some of these statements take, they are important and very significant in projects related to the Great Barrier Reef.

As I have said, the introduction of this legislation is a further reflection of the capacity of private enterprise to promote effectively development in the natural environment and to do this in harmony with acceptable conservation practices. This project is an example of a major investment in infrastructure to meet a demand for the package tours that are now coming to us from Japan and the United States of America and, in particular, it takes advantage of Australia's favourable exchange rate.

As I have said, these five Bills are a continuing acknowledgment of the proposals for off-shore installations from private industries and recognition of the continual need to regulate the operations of these installations in Australian waters. We are specifically dealing with a particular project off Townsville but it will set a precedent for similar developments in the future. I agree entirely with the statements made by the honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer) that we have to be very careful and cautious in such a fragile environment that these proposals meet the types of conditions that are so necessary.

The National Party supports this legislation. Since the proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government have, I believe, satisfactorily managed this outstanding natural heritage and resource. The establishment of the Marine Park Authority and the day-to-day management by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service have resulted in successful co-operation.

Of course there have been some criticisms from the Queensland Government. These concerns needed to be raised considering some of the examples of unnecessary interference with State responsibilities in the past. I do not intend to go into the specifics of the legislation as they have already been covered in fine detail by the honourable member for Mayo, except to say that clause 17 of the Bill allows for consultation. The operation of the Marine Authority has in the past been an example of excellent co-operation and I believe it will continue.

The other point I would like to mention briefly is the operation of the levy. It must be seen to be fair and adequate to meet State administration costs. If the valuations of the Australian Taxation Office are used, the Minister and his Department should ensure that they are realistic as in many cases in the past, particularly those that relate to the administration of the assets test, I think they have been totally irresponsible and inadequate.

These Bills have two major functions and I wish to mention them just briefly. The first is to ensure that new developments are technically sound and environmentally acceptable. Such a framework is to ensure that the environmental integrity of the reef is maintained, that the reef as a marine resource is enhanced and not harmed and that the natural elements so significant in such a fragile environment are not disturbed. The second element of the legislation is necessary to guarantee that State-Commonwealth laws that apply on the mainland also apply and relate to off-shore installations, including shipping. Such effect is provided in the imposition of taxes and charges, the application of Custom control powers, of excises-where appropriated on goods manufactured or produced on an off-shore installation-and, importantly, the application of our quarantine requirements and our Migration Act. These provisions mean that activities on off-shore installations are deemed to be activities in part of Australia and therefore subject to Australian law.

We support this legislation because we believe that such developments will add to the potential for tourism to contribute further to our economy. It will enhance the image of our nation's unique natural resources while ensuring the protection of this unique environment for future generations. I believe that this is an exciting venture that we are discussing today and is indicative of the response that the private sector will provide to correct our economic ills if given suitable and sensible arrangements under which to operate. I believe that these Bills provide that arrangement.