Victorian farmers have demanded foreign companies buying more than $5 million worth of rural land in Australia gain federal government approval.
A Victorian Farmers Federation press release issued this morning details a resolution passed at the organisation's annual conference today, which calls for:
“The threshold trigger for assessment (by the Foreign Investment Review Board) of a purchase of agricultural land of water by foreign persons or enterprises should be reduced to $5 million. There should also be a comprehensive registry developed of all agricultural land and water assets owned by foreign persons or enterprises.”
The VFF said farmers were increasingly concerned at the high level of foreign ownership which has reached 11.3 per cent, based on an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey.
“It’s time to act and put some brakes on the sell-off to foreigners,” VFF President Andrew Broad said.
Under current rules, foreign individuals and businesses do not need to seek approval for the purchase of Australian land from the government on purchases unless the purchase exceeds $244 million.
The body charged with approving foreign investments has a poor track record. Its last annual report showed it spent $3.2 million processing 4404 applications from foreigners, rejecting just three.
In his role as the chair of the Farm Business and Regional Development Committee, Peter Tuohey said one of the big concerns is the implications on businesses and young farmers buying into land.
“Foreign investment has been important for Australia’s development but we need clear rules on where we go in the future,” Mr Tuohey said.
Mr Broad said the Foreign Investment Review Board needed to examine the public interest test it uses to assess applications which sets caps on foreign investment in some industries – banks, shipping, telecommunications and airports.
“We also need a register of all foreign-owned land and water which will give us an ongoing picture of what’s going on in Australia and not just a one-off ABS survey.
“Both Federal Labor and the Coalition need to make firm commitments to addressing farmers’ concerns in the lead up to the next election.”