The recent purchase by Chinese investors of four large macadamia farms in the Dunoon* area has prompted The Echo to ask local politicians their views on foreign ownership of farming properties.
Sitting Page MP, Kevin Hogan (Nationals) told The Echo that all purchases of agricultural land, including on the north coast, that were over the $15 million limit ‘have gone through the ‘National Interest Test’ and have been approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board as it exceeded the foreign investment threshold of $15 million.
He said the Nationals at the last election ‘took a commitment to lower the foreign investment threshold from $250m to $15m’.
‘This is the level that the Foreign Investment Review Board investigate foreign purchases of land. They determine whether it is in the national interest or not. I am very disappointed Labor wants to increase this threshold to $50 million,’ he said
Huge opportunities: Labor
Neighbouring Richmond MP Justine Elliot (Labor) told The Echo, ‘Australia’s agriculture sector has huge opportunities to take advantage of demand for Australia’s clean, green food products.’
‘Our farm sector needs investment so these opportunities can be realised. Investment is good for jobs, prosperity and sustainability in regional communities like ours. That is why Labor will get the balance right between attracting investment and protecting the national interest.
‘I’ll keep fighting for investment that delivers local jobs. That’s the first, second and third test that should be applied to any foreign investment proposal.’
Keeping control: Greens
The Echo also asked Greens Richmond candidate Dawn Walker for her views. She said, ‘Foreign investment is important for Australia, but in an age of global warming and food insecurity, Australia needs to track purchases of our food-producing land and water, and make sure that those purchases are in the national interest.’
‘Australia is one of the countries being targeted by foreign buyers to secure their nation’s own food security.
‘Keeping control of our prime agricultural land and water resources is critical to maximising our own resilience and providing exports to the global market.’
Ms Walker said her party supported legislation to lower the threshold to $15m, but would have liked it lowered to $5 million. ‘There is also the requirement that foreign entities declare any ownership of Australian agricultural land on the Australian Tax Office Agricultural Land Register regardless of the land value.
It’s important to note that these laws have exceptions which apply to Australia’s trade agreement partners, including, among many, the USA, Japan, China and Korea.
‘Of note, a whopping near $1.1 billion-dollar threshold applies to Chilean, New Zealand and US investors, and a $50 million threshold applies to Singaporean and Thai investors. These thresholds are not cumulative. Because of these exceptions, trade agreements such as the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) threaten to weaken Australia’s existing foreign-investment framework.’
*Dunoon is in the electorate of Page