FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF AUSTRALIAN FARMLAND
Strengthening the Foreign Investment Review Board thresholds
The current framework that deals with foreign investment in agricultural land is grossly inadequate. The Greens believe the threshold should move from a spatial threshold of 5 hectares to a monetary figure of $5 million. It is important to note that currently only proposed investments in Australian businesses, offshore companies that holds Australian assets, or Australian assets specifically, and which are valued above $231 million are ever brought before the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) for scrutiny under the current rules around foreign investment. However, $231 million is a very high threshold and there are concerns that significant purchases of values below this amount may be made, without the Government, through FIRB, being made aware.
This is particularly significant in relation to agricultural land, and the capacity for such foreign investment to have long-term market and food security impacts. Further, there are concerns of piecemeal purchases potentially being made by foreign investors which, by not exceeding the $231 million threshold individually, may be able to acquire large areas of prime agricultural land over a period of time. Finally, the lack of available information about foreign investment is of key concern because it restricts Government's ability to have an informed public policy framework to address longer term issues.
There is no question that foreign investment brings considerable economic benefits to Australia. However, further details about these investments need to be known – who bought the land, what the land is to be used for, how much similar land has the same investor purchased elsewhere in Australia, etc. That’s why we’re also advocating for a stronger register to protect Australians farming land and our capacity to feed our population.
Authorised by Chris Dickinson & Adam Duncan, the Greens (WA), Ground Floor 445 Hay St Perth