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Thursday, 8 June 1989
Page: 3682

Senator CALVERT(4.16) —Earlier this afternoon I was speaking about the Bounty (Ships) Bill 1989 and commenting on a company in my State of Tasmania called International Catamarans which has become a world leader in an innovative technology, using twin-hull vessels for ocean going transport. It is making a great contribution to Tasmania by injecting an estimated $35m into the Tasmanian economy. It has something like $50m to $60m worth of forward orders. It also expects to increase Tasmania's current 4 per cent share in the national shipbuilding industry quite considerably.

It was interesting to note the very illuminating address that Senator McLean made earlier. I hung upon a particular fact he mentioned. He said that defence in Australia was in a crisis. I do not think anybody on this side of the chamber or anyone in Australia as a whole would disagree that the economy of Australia is in a crisis, particularly with regard to our balance of payments. I believe in this day and age every assistance should be given to industries that are contributing to improving our balance of payments. Our balance of payments situation is helped immeasurably by contributions made by companies such as International Catamarans, which is exporting ocean going vessels around the world. All the way up the east coast of Australia in your own State, Madam Acting Deputy President, a considerable number of catamarans are used for the tourist industry that were made under licence as a result of the technology and design that was put together in Tasmania. This very important shipbuilding industry, which unfortunately after the next six years will receive no assistance from the Federal Government by way of bounty, will not receive any further help. Nevertheless, I believe the integrity and the professional way in which it is going about its task will enable it to continue in a very important way by contributing to our balance of payments situation.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the efforts of the Sea Management Corporation which is based in Launceston and operating as Launceston Marine. It has also been very successful. Recently it obtained a $4.5m tender to undertake work on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation vessel, the Southern Surveyor. This will involve the provision of new accommodation sections and laboratory and scientific areas on that vessel. Work is expected to be completed by the end of November. Given the significant competition when tendering for that vessel, it speaks very highly of the company's management and shipbuilding ability that it obtained the tender. The Tamar steel boats arm of the Sea Management Corporation is involved in the construction of high quality steel passenger and work vessels of up to 75 metres in length. Currently two 25-metre vessels are also under construction. This company is working towards putting Tasmania on the world shipbuilding map.

The Opposition will be moving an amendment to this Bill in relation to the registration criteria. Three new modified registration criteria are contained in the legislation. It is the first of those to which the Opposition amendment refers, that is, that 75 per cent of the activities of the applicants for bounties must be devoted to the construction or modification of vessels for which the applicants are seeking bounty entitlements. The second criterion is that the applicant for the bounty must at all times employ 40 persons in ship modifications or constructions. The third criterion is that applicants must be prepared to submit a business plan. Existing requirements, including those which require applicants to be financially secure, to have access to waterfront premises and to be prepared to employ one apprentice for every eight tradespersons, will apply.

It is clear to the Opposition that the first criterion-that 75 per cent of the activities of applicants for the bounty must be devoted to the construction or modification of vessels-is the one that may result in a significant level of bureaucratic interference. We will have a situation in which it will be the bureaucrats who decide which companies are able to build ships more effectively than others. I would not like to see a successful enterprise such as the one I mentioned earlier, International Catamarans, overregulated and interfered with by too much bureaucratic control. That is one of the main reasons the Opposition will be moving this amendment. We want to ensure that the Bill does not discourage potentially efficient producers, to the cost of the industry. Although the industry is small, it is one that has great potential to produce those very important export dollars that we strive for these days. The bounty legislation we are debating today is designed to assist the shipbuilding industry over the ensuing years. It seems to me that the implementation of those restrictive criteria would have unfortunately the opposite effect to what should be desired by this Government.