Monday, 24 November 2014
(i) the Free Trade memorandum of understanding signed between Australia and China, and
(ii) that climate change, with its consequent global food insecurity, is driving governments to acquire land and water outside their own borders as sources of food supply; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) create a register of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water assets to continuously track overseas purchases,
(ii) lower the threshold from $248 million to $5 million for consideration of the national interest by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) for purchases of agricultural land and water by a foreign private entity,
(iii) legislate a stronger national interest test to be applied by the FIRB for purchases of agricultural land and water resources, and
(iv) prohibit the purchase of agricultural land and water by wholly owned subsidiaries of foreign governments.
The coalition opposes this motion. The coalition has announced changes that we would make to the Foreign Investment Review Board processes. At the last election, the coalition announced that we would lower the screening threshold for foreign purchases of agricultural land to $15 million cumulative and that we would introduce an agricultural land register. This motion is not consistent with the government's policy approach. I note in particular that this motion has sought to legislate a stronger national interest test. That is a misguided approach. It is commonly recognised that keeping the national interest undefined gives the Treasurer the broadest possible discretion to accept or reject foreign investment proposals. For this reason, we oppose this motion.
There was much fuss being made about the promise to have a free trade agreement with Australia and China last week but the issue here is on the sale of agricultural land and water in regard to wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign governments. This is something Australia needs to be aware of in the context of climate change and it is quite wrong to say that you do not need a defined national interest test. New Zealand has a defined national interest test and it works very well.