The Australian Government is progressing the development of an accurate and effective Foreign Ownership Register for Agricultural Land, as promised in the 2013 coalition election campaign.
Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, stressed that both domestic and foreign investment remained vital to the continuing growth of Australian agriculture. Such investment was essential for enabling Australia’s agricultural and food industries to better capture the opportunities from the growth in global demand for food and fibre.
At the same time, Minister Joyce said the coalition government was responding to community concerns arising from the incomplete picture and an apparent recent marked increase in foreign investment in Australian agricultural land. He understood that many people were concerned about the lack of reliable data to give people a clear overview of who owns what around the country.
The latest Agricultural Land and Water Ownership Survey (ALWOS) released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports an increase of 4.7 million hectares of agricultural land with some level of foreign ownership, now totalling 49.6 million hectares across Australia (out of a national total of 400 million hectares), compared to the last ALWOS of 2010.
Minister Joyce said Australians would not be surprised by this increase, but would prefer to have more regular monitoring of the advances in foreign ownership of agricultural land than periodic surveys, with the next one not likely to report until 2017.
“The purpose of the Foreign Ownership Register for Agricultural Land is to increase transparency and provide accurate information to the community and policy makers,” Minister Joyce said.
Minister Joyce said the government was developing the detailed planning for the Register. The Department of Agriculture was working on the information technology and reporting framework that could underpin the register.
“The government is doing this properly. The initial work of my department has focused on exploring the possible systems for collecting information from foreign owners and their agents to create a comprehensive record of investment,” Minister Joyce said.
“This will allow the government to provide more reliable reporting on the level of, and trends in, foreign investment in Australian agriculture.
“Australia has a pretty good system of checks and balances in our foreign investment screening regime to help ensure the investments that go ahead are the right investments for Australia,” Minister Joyce ended.
Posted 23 June 2014