The Federal Coalition is seeking public comment on policies aimed at expanding the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and lowering the threshold for scrutiny of foreign acquisitions of Australian land and agribusinesses.
The Coalition released a policy discussion paper on the issue of foreign ownership in Sydney yesterday.
Proposals in the paper include lowering threshold for FIRB scrutiny of foreign acquisitions of agricultural land from $244 million to a $15m.
Another policy proposes that foreign purchases attract FIRB attention if they exceed the lower of $53m in total value or 15pc or more of an agribusiness valued in excess of $244m.
Policies also include proposals to broaden the membership of the Foreign Investment Review Board, to apply greater scrutiny to aggregations of smaller acquisitions that in themselves would not attract interest, but combined with others can become significant, and to develop a national public register of foreign acquisitions above an appropriate threshold, such as $15m (only Queensland has such a register)
Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss issued the following statements in a media release issued to announce the discussion paper launch in Sydney yesterday:
“Australia has been dependent on foreign investment since the first days of European settlement and overseas capital will continue to be needed long into the future.
“Foreign investment has helped deliver innovation and new capabilities to Australian agriculture, which have made our country a world leader in food and fibre production.
“Too often Australians have not appreciated the real value of our agricultural land and our food producing industries, and their potential to feed and clothe a rapidly growing global population.
“Others, who do not have our natural resources, appreciate their value more than us.
“But Australians are entitled to test and scrutinise the benefits of foreign acquisitions to ensure they are in our national interest and, importantly, safeguard Australia’s food security.
“A national public register of foreign acquisitions is essential to inform debate. At present, only Queensland has such a register.
“There must also be effective scrutiny of foreign investment proposals and this paper outlines important reforms to the FIRB and its processes. The Board will have a broader range of expertise and new triggers will ensure that important acquisitions do not escape analysis.
“The policy proposes to also scrutinise aggregations – those acquisitions that, of themselves, may not appear to be significant, but when added to other buy-outs can represent a significant stake or controlling interest in marketplace.
“The Working Group proposes that there be a statement from the Treasurer explaining the importance of FIRB taking Australia’s food security into account is assessing foreign purchases.
“The changes we are proposing will enable us to transparently assess acquisitions and make sound decisions about who should own our agricultural land and agribusinesses.”
A copy of the Coalition’s policy discussion paper – Foreign Investment in Australian Agricultural Land and Agribusiness – can be viewed on The Nationals’ website by clicking here