The Age, 27 December 2005

Bracks flags plan to scuttle Canberra

Bracks flags plan to scuttle Canberra

By Martin Boulton

Tuesday, 27 December 2005 — A FORMER warship could be scuttled in Victorian waters and made into a tourist attraction, with Premier Steve Bracks making a late bid for it.

After lobbying by the dive industry and federal member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, Mr Bracks wrote to Defence Minister Robert Hill to "express interest" in a proposal to hand over HMAS Canberra as an artificial reef and diving attraction.

The New South Wales and the Northern Territory governments have expressed interest in the ship, which has also been offered to Tasmania. Mr Hunt urged the Premier to make a bid, suggesting that it could be sunk off the southern coast of the Mornington Peninsula near four existing submarine dive sites.

"HMAS Canberra has enormous potential to improve the diving industry's profile and to increase tourism to the Mornington Peninsula," he said.

He said artificial reefs created by scuttling decommissioned ships at Victor Harbour, in South Australia, and Mooloolaba, in Queensland, had contributed to "major tourism and economic benefits" for both those states.

Mr Bracks told Senator Hill that the Government recognised "the significant tourism and environmental benefits" that could flow from scuttling the ship in Victoria.

Tourism Victoria would look into it, he said.

The Canberra was a long-range Escort frigate commissioned in the US on March 21, 1981. It was decommissioned last month. A Dive Industry Victoria Association spokesman, Tom Wende, said other artificial reefs on the Mornington Peninsula were slowly collapsing and the Canberra would be a boon for tourism, particularly among divers.

The Age

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