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Foreign land owners must register holdings by 29 February

Beef Central, 22/02/2016

tanumbirini-109Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and Treasurer, Scott Morrison, have reminded foreign owners of Australian agricultural land that they have until February 29 to register their holdings with the Australian Taxation Office’s Agricultural Land Register.

Minister Joyce said new rules introduced by the Coalition Government came into effect from 1 July 2015 meant all existing foreign-owned agricultural land holdings—regardless of their value—must be registered with the ATO by 29 February, and any new interests registered within 30 days of purchase.

“The Coalition Government welcomes foreign investment, which plays an important role in the growth and productivity of our agriculture sector,” Minister Joyce said.

“However, we have clearly heard and understood the concerns of the Australian community that the Government should have more thorough oversight and more accurate data in relation to foreign investment in agriculture, to properly ensure that such investments are in our long-term national interest.

“Our agricultural land is one of our nation’s most valuable assets—so it is important that we have a clear and accurate picture of foreign investment levels in our agriculture sector, and that those investments are subject to appropriate consideration and scrutiny,” Minister Joyce said.

The Treasurer noted that through the Agricultural Land Register, the ATO would be collecting comprehensive information on foreign ownership of agricultural land, as part of the Government’s commitment to increasing scrutiny and transparency around foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

“This is why we have introduced the foreign land ownership register, along with reducing the threshold for Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) scrutiny of private sector foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to a cumulative total of $15 million.”

 

Register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements

In a second statement issued this morning, Ministers  Joyce and Morrison have released a consultation paper as part of the government’s work to establish a register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements.

Minister Joyce said the register would give greater oversight of the ownership of Australian water assets, and he encouraged interested stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed approach for implementing the register.

“Foreign investment plays an important role in the growth and productivity of our agriculture sector, and the government continues to welcome foreign investment wherever it will support our long-term national interests,” Minister Joyce said.

“However, we have also listened to the community’s calls for greater clarity and oversight when it comes to foreign ownership of water access entitlements.

“This is why we have committed to developing a national register that will give us a clear and accurate picture of foreign investment in our water access entitlements, and will be introducing legislation by 1 December this year to give effect to the new arrangements.”

Minister Joyce noted that the government has already made significant progress in its work to increase scrutiny and transparency in foreign investment in agricultural land.

“It makes good sense that we take a similar approach to our water resources—which are also a vital national asset, integral to our productive capacity,” Minister Joyce said.

“These foreign ownership registers together will provide greater transparency to the public, participants in water markets and the agricultural sector about the value, extent and—over time—trends in foreign investment in the sector.”

The Treasurer noted the government’s plan to consult key stakeholders, including industry representatives and state and territory governments, in the development of the register of water access entitlements.

“Our agricultural land and water resources are arguably our nation’s most valuable natural assets—so it is important that we have a good understanding of foreign investment levels in these areas, and that those investments are subject to appropriate consideration and scrutiny,” Mr Morrison said.

“This is why we are not only introducing registers of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water access entitlements, but have also reduced the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) scrutiny threshold for private sector foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to a cumulative total of $15 million.”

 

Source: Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Further information on the Agricultural Land Register is available on the ATO website at ato.gov.au/general/foreign-investment-in-australia/agricultural-land-register/.

Further information on the reforms to strengthen the foreign investment framework is available on the FIRB website at firb.gov.au.

To find out more about the register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements, or to read the consultation paper, visit treasury.gov.au/ConsultationsandReviews/Consultations/2016/National-register-foreign-water-access-entitlements.

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