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Aus ag needs foreign capital now more than ever: Robb

James Nason, 01/04/2017
Andrew Robb NTCA 2017 2

Andrew Robb speaking at the 2017 NTCA conference in Darwin.

FORMER federal trade minister Andrew Robb has urged businesses in northern Australia to take the fight for foreign investment to the Government.

Australia cannot capitalise on the spectacular opportunities created by massive Asian economic growth without foreign capital, he told Friday’s NTCA conference in Darwin.

At every stage of development since European settlement, Australia has never had enough people with enough money to capitalise on the opportunities.

Foreign investment had built the country, and was needed today as much as ever.

“We have thin capital markets, we need foreign capital,” Mr Robb said.

“You need to have this fight with the Government.

“You need to make sure people are not blind to the benefits we have achieved over 200 years, from capital from many countries.

“They can’t take the farms away. I have never seen in my lifetime the farms leave Australia.”

While enormous opportunities were on offer in northern Australia, local superannuation funds were focusing investment in other parts of the world.

Mr Robb used Australia’s investment relationship with Germany to illustrate.

“I went to Germany a couple of years ago in the course of my job and I said to my team, ‘how much money has Germany got invested in Australia?’ They said $11 billion, and I said ‘that’s not bad’.

“’How much does Australia have invested in Germany?’ $49 billion.

“That is our super funds investing in blue chips stocks in other countries around the word.

“We have $600 billion invested in the US in blue chip stocks.

“Some of that money could be here, but it is not.

“We have three trillion in super funds, but hardly a cent of that is coming into agriculture.”

Mr Robb said he was involved in the $2 billion Seafarms Group project to build a massive prawn aquaculture project on Legune Station in the Northern Territory.

At full production it will export 120,000t of tiger prawns from Australia into the Asian region.

It was an all Australian initiative with Australian technology. It has just received environmental approval and is in the process of securing an indigenous agreement.

He said investment by super funds in projects such as this would help northern Australia to capitalise on the spectacular opportunities being created by growth in the Asian region.

“These are the things happening up here. There is so much technology, so much water, but it is going to take a lot of money.

“If we are to capitalise on the opportunity, and not be run past by other countries around the world, we have to maintain and keep the doors open to foreign investment. Sensibly done, in the national interest, but we need the foreign investment.

“Don’t let others dictate to you because of their concerns or their prejudices. If you have a view about these things make sure it is heard.”

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Comments

  1. Dick Morgan, 10/04/2017

    Andrew Robb is right. The very first shipments of frozen beef to England at the turn of the last century were from meat works built with foreign money. English money! Borthwick and Vestey/Angliss. Since then of course there has been lot’s Australian capital invested – Field, Anderson, Gilbertson, Smorgan, Walker etc etc. But there will always be a need for foreign capital. Unless our super funds and private equity funds can be attracted. More recently American and Japanese money has been a big help in developing our meat industry. But we need a lot more, particularly in the Northern Territory if we are to satisfy the emerging Chinese demand which has the potential to outstrip all other markets for Australian beef.

  2. Eion McAllister, 03/04/2017

    I hope your prawn farm is able to keep whitespot out as the Fed and State Govt’s have not kept it out of southern Queensland and we have had to kiss the industry goodbye with no compensation for growers regardless of all the biosecurity measures they had taken. It’s in the wild stocks now and stuffing the wild prawn industry as well in Queensland. It is most likely that uncooked green prawns imported into Australia are the root cause of this catastrophe as anglers use them for bait. I hope that situation is in the investment prospectus for the Legune project Andrew? Free trade has consequences often far beyond the hoopla that Robb and his ilk peddle. Everyday Australians pay for the consequences of these situations and govt’s are to blame for policies that continue to reduce our biosecurity capabilities and which facilitate virtually unfettered access through trade agreements. I

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