Foreign investment scrutiny in agriculture

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, warmly welcomed new measures announced by the Prime Minister and Treasurer today to improve transparency of foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

“We have heard the Australian people, fought for changes and now have delivered,” Minister Joyce said.

Minister Joyce said that in line with its election commitments, the Coalition Government was now implementing:

• a more realistic, cumulative, threshold of $15 million for agricultural land purchases by foreign investors that are required to be scrutinised and approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), compared with the previous level of $252 million; this came into effect from 1 March 2015

• a more realistic threshold of $55 million for agribusiness purchases by foreign investors that require FIRB scrutiny and approval, also compared to the previous level of $252 million

• a common sense definition of agribusiness to capture first stage processors beyond the farm gate, to which the new $55 million threshold will apply and which was previously lacking

• a register of all foreign ownership of agricultural land, which will paint a clearer picture of the level of foreign ownership in our nation.

“We now have a clear case of policy differentiation. The Labor party wants to increase the FIRB limit for agricultural land and businesses to more than $1 billion.

“This would mean that a foreign buyer could buy a billion dollars of land on the north of town one day, the south of town the next and the east and west of town on the next two days and the Labor Party believes this does not warrant a single question. This is at complete odds with the overwhelming view of the Australian people.”

Minister Joyce also said that you don’t have to own the land in order to influence farmers, but you could own the first stage of processing and you could control the economies of rural Australia.

“Despite the disparaging comments from some quarters, Australia still remains the most liberal country on earth to purchase agricultural land. With today’s measures, we are simply reviewing foreign purchases, where other countries deny such purchases completely.

“Labor Member Steven Jones said that we are open for business but we want to ‘check the passports’ (Sky News Agenda, Saturday 2 May). Well, well put Steven, we do.

“It is undeniable that the absolute essence of the nation is the land we stand on and therefore we must be cautious when it comes to our stewardship of it,” Minister Joyce said today.

Posted  May 2015


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