Monday, 3 June 2013
Australian Ownership Bill 2013; First Reading
The Australian Ownership Bill 2013 limits foreign investment in Australian business and agricultural land. Unashamedly protecting our agricultural and food security, the bill prevents a foreign person or body corporate from holding ownership interests and more than 49 per cent of an Australian agribusiness or a parcel of Australian land of four hectares or greater.
The bill aims to protect the future of Australians' food security and redress the sell-off of Australia overseas. This bill also recognises that in limited circumstances foreign investment is necessary to provide our farmers and producers with the only exit possible from many years of unfair prices or to open new markets and provide new technology or finance. If the foreign person or body can demonstrate that the acquisition will provide substantial benefit, and I emphasise substantial benefit, to the nation and is in the national interest—for example, by the opening of new markets, by providing for financial betterment of all Australians or by providing for either or both technological advancement and major capital investment—then that exception may prevail.
In saying these things, it amazes me that there does not seem to be in this place the slightest scintilla of nationalism. There is no thought that we should ask ourselves: do we want our country to be owned by foreigners so that Australians become some sort of serf working for a foreign landlord? With the Liberal Party looking very likely to become the government of Australia in a deregulated labour market, we would be serfs working for foreign landlords for increasingly less money each year as our pay and conditions are undermined—back to where they were a hundred years ago, before we had a regulated labour market.
There has been talk, continuously, and it is very good as far as I am concerned that the talk is less about carbon and less about the horror of the Murray-Darling somehow drying up and more about food security. Members of this parliament have heard me many times on this issue. Suffice it to say that Australians are net importers of fruit and vegetables, net importers of seafood—in fact, fairly massive net importers of seafood now—and net importers of pork. I am told that with apples, if we include apple product, there is more product coming in from China than there is produced in Australia.
If you have a look at the graph of the growth of prawn and fish production in China then you could argue that within 40 or 50 years all the world's protein will come from China. I had better not without his permission mention his name, but the leading fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Australia told me that unless we get bumblebees we will be a net importer of tomatoes from China. I would think we would be close to being a net importer of peanuts, for example, from China.
So the people lacking any interest in research, lacking any interest in a bigger picture, lacking any interest in anything except holding on to their seats in three months time, have failed in any way to come to grips with the situation in which your country in three years time will be a net importer of food. That is the definition of food leaving out grain and live cattle. You cannot eat live cattle and you cannot eat grain. You can eat flour or you can eat processed meat but you cannot eat an ox. If you put those back in, it is probably in about eight or nine years that we will become a net importer of food. Either way, I have heard time after time in this place people get up and seriously talk about how we are going to be the food bowl of Asia. For heaven's sake, will you realise that you will be the begging bowl of Asia? You will not be the food bowl, you will be the begging bowl. You are living in a country that will not be able to feed itself within three to nine years time. You are living in a country that will not be able to feed itself, and the morality of continuing down this pathway is to me extremely dubious; the morality of our situation is extremely dubious.
I sit under the two greatest man in Australian political history by a long way: the famous Red Ted Theodore and Jack McEwen. Both those men said again and again that unless we develop this country we will not be able to hold on to it. People in this parliament come from giant cities and have most peculiar attitudes, such as that we have too many people. That is a view that you could see maybe in inner Melbourne or inner Sydney, but if you walked 100 kilometres outside of either of those cities and went across the rest of Australia to the sea in Western Australia you would not see anybody. There is nobody living there. Take out a narrow 100-kilometre coastal belt from Adelaide to Cairns through Sydney and Melbourne and a little dot around Perth, the country is populated by less than a million people. If ever there is a truism of history, it is that a land without people shall be populated by a people without land. If you think I am exaggerating, read Mr Hitler's book called Mein Kampf. It is excellent reading in the sense that living room is on every third page of the book. Have a look at the little black book that was handed out to Japanese troops as they swarmed south and that is exactly the same message. It is about the land and owning the productive resources.
I must digress on that in the little bit of time that is left to me. There are 23 licensed wheat exporters operating in Australia today that are foreign-owned. These exporters have invested in grain handling capacity. Under the sale of GrainCorp the situation is not quite as clear as I would like it to be, but it would appear to me that almost all of your grain handling facilities—your silos, your storage, your rolling stock and your port facilities—are now foreign-owned, and foreign-owned by a single corporation. Our forebears spent their entire lives fighting to get single-desk sellers in this industry so they could get a fair go and a decent return. But what this parliament, on both sides, has done is sell that single-desk seller to a single foreign entity!
With the single entity in the case of sugar mills, you can only have a monopoly. You cannot put it in the back of a truck and send it up the road to the next mill. Heavens! It is only worth $40 a tonne, so you simply cannot afford to do that. And sugar deteriorates very rapidly. So you have a monopoly position you have imposed upon every sugarcane farmer in this country—a monopoly position—because almost all the sugar mills are foreign owned, except for Mackay and the very small industry in New South Wales. All the rest of the 28 mills are owned by foreigners. Sixteen years ago they were all owned by Australians.
Prior to dairy deregulation—another clever initiative of this parliament; and if Madigan spat hatred, then I cannot blame him because I would feel the same way—in the year 2000, both sides of this parliament sold off the dairy industry in exactly the same— (Time expired)
Bill read a first time.