Parliament of Victoria - Tuesday, 30 May 2006

HMAS Canberra: Dive Site

HMAS Canberra: Dive Site

Parliament of Victoria, Parliamentary Debates
Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Mr DIXON (Nepean) — The federal government has offered the hulk of the HMAS Canberra to the states as a diving site. The ship will be handed over free of charge, with the state having responsibility to pay for its towing and scuttling. New South Wales and Victoria have expressed interest in the ship as a dive site, although Victoria only did so at the last minute at the urging of the diving industry of Victoria, the federal member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, and me. The Victorian proposal is to scuttle the ship outside Port Phillip Heads, where it would become an exciting dive site for local and visiting divers. The Victorian diving industry has put together a brilliant case to secure the hulk, which as a dive site would add to the diversity of Victoria's already famous diving destinations centred around the bottom end of Port Phillip Bay.

The New South Wales government has recognised the importance of the potential of the hulk to its diving industry and is backing its dive industry's bid with $250,000. Unfortunately the Victorian government is insisting that the federal government also pay the state for the privilege of giving a gift, so no financial incentive has been forthcoming from this government.

Surely this government can find some money from its leaked funding for tourism in today's budget. After all, it is rolling in GST, taxes, fines and stamp duty.

Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine) — I raise a matter for the Minister for Tourism. The action I seek is that, if Victoria is successful in securing HMAS Canberra, the minister ensures it is sunk off the Point Lonsdale–Collendina coastal area near the current shipwreck area. I am aware that the federal Minister for Defence has offered the decommissioned HMAS Canberra to Australian states for gifting as a dive attraction. Similar offers were made and accepted in relation to HMAS Perth, HMAS Hobart and HMAS Brisbane. I am also aware that the Victorian government has submitted to the federal minister an expression of interest in securing the vessel.

In all of the cases I have mentioned the commonwealth gifted those vessels and provided resources for the transporting of the vessels. The house would be aware that the decommissioning and transportation of such vessels is a comprehensive task. We need to ensure that it complies with Environment Protection Authority standards and that the vessel is safe to sink. I would hope the commonwealth would treat Victoria as it has the other states.

I recently met with representatives of the Victorian artificial reef society, a peak organisation which was recently established to represent key segments of the dive community from across Victoria. Its purpose is to assist in securing HMAS Canberra for Victoria and to reach agreement among its members about the appropriate location for the vessel. The society is extremely supportive of the government's expression of interest and the proposal to sink HMAS Canberra as a new artificial reef in Victoria. It is of the view that the most appropriate location for this artificial reef is off the Point Lonsdale–Collendina coastal area, and has sought my support as the local member.

It is my view that this provides an exciting opportunity to expand tourism in the area, build on the Victorian dive industry and showcase one of the most beautiful marine environments in Australia, if not the world.

As the local member I offer my full support for the sinking of HMAS Canberra off Point Lonsdale–Collendina. A new artificial reef would represent a significant new tourist attraction for Victoria, and particularly for my community in Bellarine. There would unquestionably be large economic benefits for Victoria as a whole but particularly for the Bellarine community. The location I am proposing has received significant support from dive operators across Victoria. If Victoria is successful securing HMAS Canberra from the commonwealth government, I ask the minister to designate Point Lonsdale–Collendina as the site for the new artificial reef.

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