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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

22 February 2006

Australian Government removes caps on restructuring assistance for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park businesses

The Australian Government today announced it would remove the $500,000 cap on Full Business Restructuring Assistance grants under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the cap was being removed in recognition that a small number of large fishing and land-based businesses required additional financial support due to their exceptional circumstances.

Concerns have been raised by a number of businesses affected by the declaration of expanded marine park areas could not obtain sufficient assistance to restructure their businesses into viability.

“The Government has been made aware of situations where retention of the $500,000 cap could possibly result in a business getting no help because it would be unable to restructure effectively,” Senator Campbell said.

“We have acted to ensure that doesn’t happen. I am determined to ensure the protection of our world class Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will not be at the expense of fair treatment for the fishing industry and related businesses.”

Senator Campbell said business restructuring assistance had originally been capped at $200,000. In August 2004 this was increased to $500,000 for larger businesses to address industry concerns about the fairness and equity of the assistance for larger businesses. In lifting the $500,000 cap, other aspects of the package remain unchanged, including the application, assessment and appeals processes for businesses.”

Senator Campbell said the Government expected the vast majority of businesses applying for restructuring assistance would fall within the general cap of $200,000.

He urged impacted businesses to lodge applications for the Structural Adjustment Package with the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority (QRAA) by the new closing date of 30 April 2006. The closing date for structural adjustment assistance applications would not be further extended.

He said in response to community requests the Government had ensured QRAA had engaged regional officers in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg to work directly with businesses and their advisers on applications for assistance.

Senator Campbell said the assistance package, designed to help businesses manage the impacts caused by rezoning in the Marine Park, was the most extensive of its kind implemented in Australian history.

“We have spent more than $50 million to date helping fishermen and related businesses adjust to the rezoning under this demand-driven package,” Senator Campbell said.

The Minister reiterated that restructuring assistance grants are taxable income and encouraged all businesses to obtain good financial advice before seeking assistance so they understand the tax implications of receiving a grant and how they can manage it.

Media Contact:
Marianne McCabe 02 6277 7640 or 0400 389 580

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