Thursday, January 26, 2017
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce backs ban on foreign governments buying Australian farms
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says he supports banning Chinese state-owned enterprises from buying Australian farmland.
A number of state-owned companies have expressed interest in buying the Kidman and Co cattle stations.
Kidman and Co owns pastoral leases in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory covering 101,000 square kilometres.
Mr Joyce supported a motion at the New South Wales Nationals conference at the weekend for the party to oppose the sale of Kidman and Co to a foreign state-owned enterprise.
"There are and always has been heightened concern about state-owned enterprises that are not held when it comes to individuals or to companies," he said today.
"I have, and as does everybody, concerns about state-owned enterprises, because if we didn't there wouldn't be a $1 limit before it has to go to the Foreign Investment Review Board.
"Companies quite rightly want to make sure they make a profit, but a state-owned enterprise is driven by the articles and ideals of a state.
"My personal view always is I prefer the Australian people to be the holder of the Australian asset."
Mr Joyce refused to repeat his support for a ban, saying he had "the right at a conference to express my views".
Mr Joyce said other countries blocked investment from foreign governments and that he did not have a problem with investment from privately owned foreign companies.
The Federal Opposition said Mr Joyce had emerged "as the single greatest threat to Australian agriculture's future".
"The minister's cavalier and populist approach to his portfolio is undermining the sector's capacity to attract much needed investment and to capitalise on growing global food demand," shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement.
"What Australia's agriculture sector needs is not populist protest, but leadership from its Government."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempted to clarify his minister's comments.
"He was simply making the point that when it comes to foreign governments, as opposed to private businesses from overseas, different rules apply," Mr Abbott said.
"They always have, and as far as I'm concerned they always will.
"We've always taken a special interest in foreign governments buying anything in Australia, including land, and any foreign government investment in Australia is subject, from the first dollar, to Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny and that's the way it should be."
Greens leader Richard di Natale agreed there needed to be a "fairly conservative threshold".