The Productivity Commission, an independent federal agency that reviews and advises on government policy, has released its latest report: Register of Foreign-owned Water Entitlements.
It states, ‘The level of foreign ownership of Australian water entitlements on issue is now about 11 per cent, with most investment coming from Canada, followed by China and the United States’.
While the authors claim there is support for foreign investment within the agricultural and mining industries, ‘a sizeable share of the Australian community has some unease towards foreign investment, particularly foreign “direct” investment that entails some control of Australian businesses and assets’.
‘It is sometimes considered a threat to rural livelihoods, local communities and Australian food security — concerns that carry over to water entitlements. Changes in water resource management and the pressures from prolonged periods of drought have exacerbated these concerns.
‘In response to community concerns and a perception of rapidly rising foreign control of water assets, the Australian Government introduced the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements (the Register) in 2017, to provide transparency about the level of foreign ownership of water.
‘Under the Register, foreign persons are required to notify the ATO if they acquire a specified water asset or if there are changes to their foreign status or water entitlement holdings’.
The threshold for foreign owned water entitlements are: ‘if a foreign person, corporation or government has an interest in an entity of at least 20 per cent, or multiple foreign entities have an aggregate interest in an entity of at least 40 per cent’.
The report claims, ‘There is no compelling case for major changes to the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements’ as it is fit for purpose