> CARING FOR OUR FOOD SECURITY
Australia does not accurately track foreign ownership of agricultural land and water and the threshold for considering the national interest for such purchases is far too high. It’s time to restore balance and look after our national interest.
For Australia to be able to make informed and strategic decisions about our agricultural land and water resources, we must accurately track and consider each bid by foreign investors, particularly sovereign nations, to own it.
The Australian Greens will:
- Create a register of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water assets to continuously track overseas purchases.
- Lower the threshold from $248 million to $5 million for consideration of the national interest by the Foreign Investment Review Board for purchases of agricultural land and water by a foreign private entity. This will include cumulative purchases by the same entity under the $5 million threshold.
- Legislate a stronger national interest test to be applied by the Foreign Investment Review board for purchases of agricultural land and water resources.
- Prohibit the purchase of agricultural land and water by wholly owned subsidiaries of foreign governments.
> THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
Increasingly countries that rely on imports to feed their people are buying land and water in other nations to grow food, as they are concerned about the impacts of climate change on food availability and price.
Multinational corporations have also realised the value of agricultural land and water and have begun investing heavily in these assets across the world as they can see there will be large profits to be made if they control the means of producing food.
As a country with a strong agricultural sector, Australia is one of the countries attracting the interest of foreign buyers. Yet laws on foreign investment in agricultural land and water are lax and we don’t keep accurate records to track levels of foreign ownership.
Only purchases of more than a staggering $248 million are subject to a national interest test by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). On top of that, the FIRB is not required to take into account cumulative purchases by the same foreign entity that combined comprise $248 million or more.
While foreign investment is important for Australia, it is critical that we have much clearer information, and a stronger national interest is applied to the purchase of such vital assets as our agricultural land and water, particularly in a time of global food insecurity.
Other countries with significant agricultural assets including the USA, New Zealand, Argentina, China and Brazil have all placed restrictions and greater levels of scrutiny on foreign purchase of land.
The Greens will restore balance to the consideration of foreign investment in our land and water.
> OTHER PARTIES
The ALP has said it will introduce a register of foreign ownership of land and water, but failed to support Greens legislation to lower the threshold for consideration by the FIRB to $5 million and the introduction of a legislated national interest test for foreign purchase of agricultural land.
The Coalition also failed to support the Greens bill and instead released a discussion paper. They have yet to release their policy.
The Katter Party has an extreme position of prohibiting any foreign entity from owning more than four hectares of agricultural land.