A proposal to hit cruise lines with a new tax will add an unfair burden to the industry and drive up costs for both operators and passengers, the cruise industry has warned.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia has joined with other shipping and business organisations in opposing a planned Biosecurity Imports Levy.
The tax was originally aimed at sea freight when announced by the federal government last year, but has now been flagged to start for cruise lines as soon as July.
CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz (pictured above) said extending the new tax to the cruise industry has come as a complete surprise and without proper consultation.
“There is no justification for hitting cruise lines with charges originally designed for freight,” he said.
According to Katz, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources had indicated the Biosecurity Imports Levy would raise up to $120 million a year in revenue and could be applied to cruise ships upon each arrival into Australia on a gross tonnage basis.
He said this would disproportionately impact the cruise industry, which operates with more frequent port calls and often larger vessels than other forms of shipping.
“Travellers are already taxed heavily through measures like the $60 passenger movement charge, which is already used to fund passenger-related biosecurity activities,” Katz said.
“Australia’s passenger movement charge is one of the most expensive passenger taxes in the world. Including the cruise industry in a tax designed for cargo movement just adds another backdoor tax on tourism.”
CLIA has called on the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, to rule out any additional levy on cruising, and has sought the support of the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham.
“The cruise sector already complies with all Australian and international biosecurity requirements at the highest level, and passengers already contribute to the cost of enforcement through measures like the passenger movement charge,” Katz said.
“The costs for cruise lines operating in Australia are among the highest in the world, and any new charge will further disadvantage our industry at a time when it is facing significant infrastructure constraints and cost escalation.”