Abbott Releases Foreign Investment Discussion Paper

The Coalition has released a discussion paper on foreign investment in agricultural land and agribusiness.

Abbott, Truss & Hockey

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said “the Coalition unambiguously welcomes and supports foreign investment”. However, “there is scope to improve Australia’s foreign investment regime when it comes to investment in agricultural land and agricultural business”.

The paper was released by Abbott, Nationals leader Warren Truss and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey in Sydney today.

The paper is titled: “Foreign Investment In Australian Agricultural Land And Agribusiness”. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has been put in charge of managing a “Discussion Paper process”. Submissions to the process are open until October 31, 2012.

Abbott, Truss and Hockey discussed foreign investment at a press conference this morning:

Media release from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the Foreign Investment Discussion Paper.

The Coalition unambiguously welcomes and supports foreign investment.

Foreign investment has been and will continue to be instrumental to the economic development and growth of Australia.

We support a foreign investment regime that strengthens our economy, promotes growth, and fosters confidence that foreign investment is in our national interest.

The release of the Coalition’s Policy Discussion Paper on Foreign Investment in Australian Agricultural Land and Agribusiness recognises there is scope to improve Australia’s foreign investment regime when it comes to investment in agricultural land and agricultural business.

Many nations including China, India, Brazil, the United States and New Zealand have foreign investment regimes that provide more regulatory oversight and greater transparency than ours in terms of land holdings.

We believe proper oversight can provide greater certainty to investors and ensure there is greater confidence in the Australian community that the investment taking place in agriculture and agribusiness is in our national interest.

The Coalition supports the Foreign Investment Review Board (the FIRB) and the Free Trade Agreements to which Australia is a signatory. The Policy Discussion Paper affirms this support.

The Coalition recognises that the thresholds and guidelines regarding foreign investment in the general business sector are not necessarily the right settings for the agricultural sector. In its Policy Discussion Paper, the Coalition is seeking community and industry comment on the following proposals:

  • Developing and implementing a national register of foreign ownership of real property in cooperation with state land titles offices and, through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, a national register of foreign ownership of businesses valued above an appropriate threshold;
  • FIRB consideration of any proposed foreign acquisition of agricultural land valued at $15 million or more (cumulative);
  • FIRB consideration of any proposed foreign acquisition of an agribusiness where the investment exceeds $53 million or represents a stake of 15 per cent or more in an agribusiness which is valued at $244 million (whichever is smaller);
  • Retention of the uncodified national interest test;
  • Requiring any foreign applicant subject to the national interest test to disclose any direct or indirect ownership or direct source of influence by a foreign government; and
  • Increasing the FIRB to seven members, including at least one individual with agricultural sector expertise.

As foreign investment is vital to Australia’s ongoing economic prosperity, we are committed to ensuring that the Coalition’s foreign investment policy is thorough, practical, achievable and likely to further promote foreign investment that is not contrary to the national interest.

The community and industry are invited to participate in the Policy Discussion Paper process and written submissions can be submitted until 31 October 2012.

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