Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020

Bill home page  


Download WordDownload Word


Download PDFDownload PDF

 

2019-2020

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AMENDMENT (CORINAVIRUS ECONOMIC RESPONSE PACKAGE) BILL 2020

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for the Environment,

the Honourable Sussan Ley MP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AMENDMENT (CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC RESPONSE PACKAGE) BILL 2020

 

GENERAL OUTLINE

Purpose

1.     The purpose of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020 (the Bill) is to amend the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (the GBRMP Act) to effectively waive the requirement for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Marine Park) permission holders to remit the environmental management charge (EMC) to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (the Authority) for the period 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. This is intended to provide financial relief to the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry and other relevant permission holders impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.   

Context of amendments

2.     On 23 March 2020, the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 was passed by Parliament as part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the measures in Schedule 6 of this Act was to amend the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 2019 (the GBRMP Regulations) to provide economic relief to the Great Barrier Reef tourism sector to waive EMC from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020. Since the passing of the legislation to provide this relief, additional calls from the Great Barrier Reef tourism sector have been made seeking further assistance, including waiving EMC for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter.

 

3.     The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Environmental Management Charge - General) Act 1983 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Environmental Management Charge - Excise) Act 1993 impose that EMC is payable in accordance with Part VA of the GBRMP Act. Part 13 of the GBRMP Regulations provides for the amount of EMC and how it is to be collected. 

 

4.     The EMC is a charge imposed on a number of different commercial operations in the Marine Park under chargeable permissions as defined in section 3 of the GBRMP Act and prescribed in section 211 of the GBRMP Regulations.  Different types of EMC are payable depending on the type of operation permitted.

 

5.     The bulk of the revenue collected through the EMC is from a form of EMC referred to in the GBRMP Regulations as the standard tourist program charge (STPC). The STPC is generally required to be paid by a visitor who takes part in a tourist program under a chargeable permission. Up until commencement of the EMC waiver on 1 April 2020, the STPC required to be remitted to the Authority was:

 

(a)   $6.50 per visitor (defined in section 5 of the GBRMP Regulations) for each day up to a maximum of 3 days (sections 217 and 218 of the GBRMP Regulations); and

 

(b)   $3.25 per visitor, for very short tours or tours that arrive late and depart early (sections 219 and 220 of the GBRMP Regulations).

 

6.     A tourist program operator, as the holder of a chargeable permission under which a visitor takes part in a tourist program, is required to collect the STPC from the visitor and remit the charge to the Authority in whichever of April, July, October or January is the month after the quarter in which the amount is collected (section 226 of the GBRMP Regulations).

 

7.     The STPC was due to increase to $7.00 per day on 1 April 2020 (and to $3.50 for tours that are 3 hours or less, or tours that arrive late and depart early) in accordance with the formula applied in section 217 and subsection 219(2) of the GBRMP Regulations. This increase will instead apply after the existing EMC waiver ceases on 31 December 2020.

 

8.     Other types of EMC are provided for in sections 223 and 224 of the GBRMP Regulations. The charges provided for in section 223 are payable by the permission holder (as opposed to being payable by visitors). The charges in section 224 are payable by visitors (and are collected from visitors by the permission holders who then remit the charge to the Authority). In addition to waiving the STPC, the waiver of the EMC that commenced on 1 April 2020 was also a waiver of these other types of EMC.

 

9.     The collected EMC revenue forms part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Authority receives an appropriation out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund that is equivalent to the EMC collected for the purpose of the performance of the functions of the Authority (subsection 65A(2) of the GBRMP Act).

 

10.   Due to the economic pressures currently faced by permission holders, including Great Barrier Reef tourism operators, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, permission holders have been unable to remit to the Authority the EMC for the period 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020.

Outline of the Bill

11.   The principal provisions contained in the Bill will give effect to the intended waiver of the obligation on the holder of a chargeable permission to remit the EMC to the Authority by:

 

(a)   Waiving the requirement for permission holders to remit the fixed charges payable by permission holders for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter; and

 

(b)   Providing for a grant to permission holders equal to the amounts collected by permission holders from visitors for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter in order to set-off the collected amount which would otherwise be payable to the Authority (with the practical effect of this being that the requirement on the permission holder to remit the collected amount to the Authority is waived).

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

12.   The impact on Government will be reduced revenue remitted to the Authority for the period 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 estimated to be approximately $2.9 million, based on the same quarter of the previous year. This amount is to be appropriated to the Authority as part of the COVID-19 Economic and Fiscal Response Package agreed to by the Prime Minister on 3 April 2020.

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC RESPONSE PACKAGE) Bill 2020

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

Overview of the Bill

1.     The purpose of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020 (the Bill) is to amend the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (the GBRMP Act) to effectively waive the requirement for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Marine Park) permission holders to remit the environmental management charge (EMC) to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (the Authority) for the period 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. This is intended to provide financial relief to the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry and other relevant permission holders impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.  

13.   The principal provisions contained in the Bill will give effect to the intended waiver of the obligation on the holder of a chargeable permission to remit the EMC to the Authority by:

(c)   Waiving the requirement for permission holders to remit the fixed charges payable by permission holders for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter; and

 

(d)   Providing for a grant to permission holders equal to the amounts collected by permission holders from visitors for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter in order to set-off the collected amount which would otherwise be payable to the Authority (with the practical effect of this being that the requirement on the permission holder to remit the collected amount to the Authority is waived).

Human rights implications

2.     The Bill engages the right to freedom of movement (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 12).

3.     The funds received from the EMC are vitally important in the day-to-day management of the Marine Park and in improving its long-term resilience. The EMC is a charge associated with most commercial activities, including tourism operations, non-tourist charter operations, and construction and operation of facilities. For most standard tourism operations, Marine Park visitors participating in a tourist activity are liable to pay the charge to the holder of the chargeable permission for the relevant tourist program that the visitor is taking part in, who then remits the charge to the Authority. Other operations in the Marine Park such as those involving the hire of equipment, installation and operation of tourist facilities, underwater observatories, sewage outfalls and vending operations, attract quarterly EMC charges to the Authority. All funds received as EMC payments are applied directly to management of the Marine Park.

4.     The EMC restricts the freedom of movement as without payment of the charge visitors to the Marine Park are not able to engage in activities that attract the charge in the Marine Park, and permission holders are not permitted to operate. This restriction is reasonable as it is consistent with the overall balancing of providing for entry and use to the Marine Park and is a small contribution to the protection and conservation of the environment. It is also a necessary and proportionate measure given that the funds are directed to the day-to-day management of the Marine Park and in improving its long-term resilience, and the funds are raised from the users of the Marine Park.

5.     The amendments made by the Bill waive/set-off the requirement for permission holders to pay fixed charges owed to the Authority for the quarter 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020, and any charges collected from visitors for that quarter are able to be retained by permission holders. These amendments indirectly decrease the restriction on freedom of movement by making EMC obligations less onerous for permission holders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, so that where possible permission holders may continue to operate without having to meet these obligations.    

Conclusion

6.     The Bill is compatible with human rights as it indirectly decreases existing limitations on human rights, and the existing restrictions are necessary, reasonable and proportionate.



 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Preliminary

Clause 1         Short Title

1.     This clause provides for the short title of the Act to be the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Act 2020 .

Clause 2         Commencement

2.     This clause provides for commencement of each provision in the Act, as set out in the table. Item 1 in the table provides that the whole of the Act will commence on the day after it receives Royal Assent.

Clause 3         Schedules

3.     This clause provides that legislation that is specified in a Schedule to the Act will be amended or repealed as set out in the Schedule, and that any other item in a Schedule to the Bill has effect according to its terms.



 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975  

Item 1              At the end of Division 2 of Part VA

4.     This item inserts a new section 39FAA at the end of Division 2 of Part VA of the GBRMP Act entitled ‘ One-off waiver of environmental management charge payable by permission holder-coronavirus economic response’ .

 

5.     Subsection 39FAA(1) sets out the objects of the section.

 

6.     The purpose of subsection 39FAA(2) is to clarify that section 39FAA applies to charges payable by permission holders for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter. This is intended to capture the fixed charges that are payable by permission holders in accordance with section 223 of the GBRMP Regulations for the relevant quarter.  

 

7.     Subsection 39FAA(3) is intended to have the effect of waiving the requirement for permission holders to remit these fixed charges to the Authority.

 

8.     Pursuant to section 39FB of the GBRMP Act and section 225 of the GBRMP Regulations these fixed charges were due to be remitted to the Authority on 1 April 2020. The majority of permission holders have been unable to remit the charges to the Authority on the due date due to being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Ordinarily where EMC is not remitted to the Authority when it is due, a late payment penalty applies pursuant to section 39G of the GBRMP Act. Subsection 39FAA(3) clarifies that any late payment penalty is taken to be waived.

 

9.     The Authority has received payments of these fixed charges by a very small percentage of permission holders. Given that the requirement to pay the charge is being waived, the inclusion of subsection 39FAA(4) is necessary to ensure that permission holders who have already paid the charge prior to commencement of the waiver are entitled to have these amounts refunded to them.

 

10.   Subsection 39FAA(5) is required to appropriate the necessary refunds under subsection 39FAA(4) from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

 

11.   Given that the refunds are a one-off and only apply to the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 EMC quarter, the appropriation is to self-repeal after 31 December 2020 pursuant to subsection 39FAA(6).

Item 2              At the end of Division 2A of Part VA

12.   This item inserts a new section 39FG at the end of Division 2 of Part VA of the GBRMP Act entitled ‘ One-off grant to holders of chargeable permissions-coronavirus economic response ’.

 

13.   Subsection 39FG(1) sets out the objects of the section.

 

14.   The purpose of subsection 39FG(2) is to clarify that section 39FG applies to charges collected from visitors by permission holders for the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 quarter. This is intended to capture the standard tourist program charge payable by visitors in accordance with sections 217, 218, 219 and 220 of the GBRMP Regulations, as well as the charges payable by visitors in accordance with section 224 of the GBRMP Regulations, for the relevant quarter.

 

15.   These charges have already been collected from visitors by permission holders for the relevant quarter. For this reason, it is not technically possible for the amounts collected to be waived. Instead, paragraph 39FG(3)(a) and subsection 39FG(4) are together intended to effectively operate as a waiver by providing for a grant to a permission holder equal to any amount that has been collected from a visitor by a permission holder, which is to set-off any collected amount that would have otherwise been payable to the Authority pursuant to section 39FD of the GBRMP Act. It is not intended that any action is needed by the Authority or by a permission holder to give effect to the grant and set-off. Rather, paragraph 39FG(3)(a) and subsection 39FG(4) are intended to be self-executing so that the grant automatically acts as a set-off against the amount that would otherwise be owed by the permission holder to the Authority.

 

16.   Pursuant to section 39FB of the GBRMP Act and section 226 of the GBRMP regulations, the charges collected from visitors by permission holders were due to be remitted to the Authority on 1 April 2020. The majority of permission holders have been unable to remit the collected charges to the Authority on the due date due to being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Ordinarily, where EMC is not remitted to the Authority when it is due a late payment penalty applies pursuant to section 39G of the GBRMP Act. Paragraph 39FG(3)(b) is necessary to clarify that the collected amounts are taken to have not been due to be remitted to the Authority on 1 April 2020, and the late payment penalty does not apply.

 

17.   Subsection 39FG(5) is required to appropriate the necessary grants under paragraph 39FG(3)(a) from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

 

18.   Given that the grants are a one-off and only apply to the 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 EMC quarter, the appropriation is to self-repeal after 31 December 2020 pursuant to subsection 39FG(6).

 

19.   The following examples demonstrate how section 39FG is intended to operate:

 

(a)   Example 1: A permission holder has collected EMC from visitors in accordance with the GBRMP Act and GBRMP Regulations during the quarter 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. The permission holder failed to remit the collected amount to the Authority when it fell due on 1 April 2020. Upon commencement of section 39FG, the amount collected is no longer required to be remitted to the Authority as it is automatically set-off against a grant from the Commonwealth equal to the amount that was collected. The grant and set-off is self-executing so that no action is required to be taken by the permission holder or by the Commonwealth (with the practical effect being that any amounts owing by permission holders to the Authority are waived). No late payment penalty applies to the permission holder, and the collected amount is taken to have never been due to be remitted to the Authority.

 

(b)   Example 2: A permission holder has collected EMC from visitors in accordance with the GBRMP Act and GBRMP Regulations during the quarter 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. The permission holder remitted the collected amount to the Authority when it fell due on 1 April 2020. Upon commencement of section 39FG, a grant is payable by the Commonwealth from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the permission holder for an amount equal to the collected amount.