Thursday, January 26, 2017

STOP FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF OUR FARMS & PUBLIC ASSETS TO PROTECT OUR FOOD SECURITY & NATIONAL SECURITY

To: THE SENATOR WHO TABLES THIS PETITION, AUSTRALIAN SENATE

STOP FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF OUR FARMS & PUBLIC ASSETS TO PROTECT OUR FOOD SECURITY & NATIONAL SECURITY

STOP FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF OUR FARMS & PUBLIC ASSETS TO PROTECT OUR FOOD SECURITY & NATIONAL SECURITY
Dear Senator,
Your petitioners ask that the Senate will work with the Government to:
• Ensure that foreign investors are not permitted to purchase any Australian agricultural land, agribusiness, or any public asset such as seaports, airports, railways, electricity grids and water, or any government department entity or security-sensitive real estate.
• Revise the rules of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to prohibit foreign ownership of any farm, agribusiness or agricultural land. Foreign investors could be permitted only to lease agricultural land and farms for a maximum of 10 years with regular monitoring to confirm ongoing compliance with Australian standards and environmental laws. An option could be given to extend the lease for a further maximum of 10 years if further approved after a stringent review process. There should be strict limits on the percentage or area of Australian land that could be leased.
• Modify the National Interest Test to make its application more stringent than it is currently in order to protect our food security, water security and national security. Selling our food-bowls, farms and water should be considered as NOT being in Australia's national interest. Preservation of Australia's food and water security should be considered to be of paramount importance by the government and the FIRB.
• Ensure that the newly modified and more stringent National Interest Test is applied retrospectively to all previously purchased or leased public and strategic assets (such as ports, airports, power grids, railways, large iconic farms, water and government entities) by foreign or foreign-backed companies, individuals or state-linked interests. If a sale or lease is found to have failed the newly revised National Interest Test, that sale or lease must be reversed.
• Reverse the 99 year lease of the Port of Darwin because this arrangement is NOT in Australia’s national interest, particularly now with China's increasing militarism in the South China Sea.
• Ensure that every single previous foreign purchase of land and property (including agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial) is given a $0 value threshold for registration on the FIRB and this should be retrospective. The Register of Foreign Ownership should be available for the Australian public to view. It should NOT be kept secret as it currently is to protect foreign owners' privacy. Australians have a right to know who has bought / is buying their food-bowl. Australians' rights should be protected above privacy rights of foreigners buying our country.
• Establish a national register of foreign-owned Water Rights and apply retrospectively. This also should NOT be kept secret. Australians have a right to know who owns their water.

Why is this important?

We the petitioners believe that:
• Foreign ownership of Australian farms and rural land will only harm the Australian economy and is not in the national interest. Foreign owners are already setting up their own processing facilities on farms they purchase. These farms will compete with Australian farms and ultimately force Australian farmers out, ruining our own agribusinesses such as dairy, beef, lamb, wine and seafood. Foreign owners will ship out the value-added produce and meat through the Chinese-leased Port of Darwin, with no benefit to Australia, and cause severe hardship to our farmers.
• Foreign ownership of our farms and rural land will result in the loss of Australia’s food security. We will be forced to import inferior, possibly contaminated food because our own food will be scarce, unavailable or too expensive as the result of foreign farmers exporting what was once Australian food to their own countries. This will be accelerated by free trade agreements such as the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
• Foreign-owned farms and rural land could be degraded and /or contaminated due to poor land and agricultural management practices and by the unlawful use of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals. This could render the land useless and contaminate adjoining lands and waterways. This has happened in other countries that now want to buy our pristine farms because they have polluted their own food-sources. Bulldozing of habitat will deplete populations of our iconic wildlife, possibly leading to extinction of some critically endangered species.
• Foreign ownership of large tracts of land and selling / long-term leasing of our assets such as seaports, airports, railways, electricity grids, government departments and entities such as Medicare, the ATO and Centrelink is completely against the national interest of Australia and poses a significant THREAT to our individual privacy, national security and sovereignty.
• Selling our land and selling / long-term leasing of our assets to foreign private investors or foreign state-owned interests such as sovereign wealth funds puts us at risk of diplomatic incidents in the event of Australia wanting to change the terms of a free trade agreement, or in the event of military unrest in the South China Sea region. With every sale of a farm or critical asset we lose some of our sovereignty when we should be strengthening it. The 99 year lease of the Port of Darwin to Landbridge, a Chinese company with state-owned links to the Chinese military greatly increases our national security risk, particularly in the light of our long-standing close relationship with the USA. The same can be said of the purchase of land adjoining the ASIO office in Canberra by an Australian registered company with significant corporate links to the Chinese military. The buying of some of our electricity and gas networks by the State Grid Corporation of China is worrying in view of the fact that the State Grid Corporation of China has intimate links to the Chinese military and Intelligence collection.
• Once our land and assets are sold to foreign countries we will never get them back because the foreign buyers want our farms to feed their own people. The Chinese will never sell Australian land they buy because they are not allowed to buy land in China - they can only ever lease it.
• This petition is in no way aligned with any political party. It is about national security, individual citizens’ security, food and water security and sovereignty.
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS OF AUSTRALIA.
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