Australian farmers call for greater transparency of foreign investments

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 24th April 2012

Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has called for greater transparency around investments made by foreign interests in Australia.

The NFF’s members believe there is a need for a national land register that makes it compulsory for all foreign persons or organisations who acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land in Australia to report the sale within a prescribed period.

NFF President Jock Laurie said, “We are also calling for an annual report of the register findings to be published, summarising any changes to the holdings of agricultural land held by foreign interests. This report will trigger an annual review of the policy settings around foreign investment, including the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) reporting threshold for agricultural land purchases by commercial interests.”

Mr Laurie said that although foreign investment has provided a much needed injection at a time when limited financial investment was occurring within Australia, NFF members remain concerned about any changes to the motivations behind investment towards ensuring food security for other countries.

“At the core, the NFF supports foreign investment in Australian agriculture – provided that it does not negatively distort our resource allocations or outputs, does not undermine our farm gate prices, and is not undertaken with the intent of damaging competition in the marketplace,” Mr Laurie said.

“While there have been some calls for the FIRB threshold to be lowered, we believe to do so at this point would be premature. This debate has long been described as a debate without data – and, in order to suggest a suitable FIRB threshold, we must first know what land is owned by whom- based on real data, not just a survey sample,” he added.