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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1536

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (19:40): I rise tonight to contribute to a public debate which has arisen today about the purchase of Kidman & Co., the cattle empire and significant rural landholding.

When recently I saw the news that Gina Rinehart had put together a consortium to make an offer to buy Kidman & Co., I was not planning to contribute to the public debate on it. I do not think it is necessary for members and senators to express a view about the ordinary goings-on of businesspeople and their investment decisions. But today I was motivated to make a contribution to the debate after I saw a media statement on this topic by a member of the other place, the member for Kennedy, Bob Katter. Mr Katter issued a media release today in which, in his own words, he described himself as 'incredulous of Gina Rinehart's intentions to buy the Kidman cattle empire with the Chinese company Shanghai Cred'. He made a number of statements about the offer and other possible offers and went on to say:

To my knowledge Gina has no experience in cattle. Her father owned a cattle station but that was a long time ago and why has she suddenly this great interest in cattle and come forward with a Chinese partner?

I would have thought that the member for Kennedy, like all members and senators, would welcome it when an Australian businesswoman, like Gina Rinehart, proposes to make a significant investment in another Australian business and, hopefully, through that process create jobs and prosperity and pay taxes.

Hancock Prospecting a few days ago very helpfully put out a media release about this offer, in which it detailed the long connection of the Hancock company with the cattle industry and rural landholdings. Garry Korte, the CEO of Hancock, said:

The quality of the Kidman herd and channel country properties complement Hancock's existing northern cattle properties, and align well with Mrs Rinehart’s plans to build a diversified cattle holding in Australia, taking advantage of integration opportunities.

The Hancock family started their first cattle station in North West Australia, and founded the first port in the area at Cossack on the West Pilbara Coast to enable the cattle trade. Since then Mrs Rinehart has extensively grown the Hancock portfolio of cattle stations.

Terry McCrann wrote an excellent article in the Herald Sun today. All of Mr McCrann's articles are excellent but this one I thought was particularly good. He writes about this proposed deal:

More importantly, Rinehart’s deal provides Morrison—

the Treasurer—

with something of a template for handling a critical part of what is going to be our most dominant, most challenging and most complex relationship with any country over the next half-century at least.

If only we had ‘half-a-dozen Rineharts’, able and prepared to do the same thing. Obviously, we don’t: we’ll need to promote ‘synthetic Rineharts’ to do what she’s done, from among the ranks of mainstream institutional investors instead.

He goes on to say:

In using minerals-generated wealth to buy control of—and keep under Australian control—one of the great pastoral companies, Rinehart has imprinted her unifying vision on the next stage of our economic history. She has blended past and present to build new dynamic foundations for the future.

Like Terry McCrann, I welcome it when an Australian investor partners with a foreign investor, in this case a Chinese one, for a two-thirds/one-third investment in an Australian company and business. I think that is a very exciting thing. As the Treasurer said on 2GB this morning:

The good news is that there are Australians with means who want to invest in Australia's agricultural sector.

He went on to say:

I hope that others will follow a similar course of investing in Australian agriculture. Let's remind ourselves that less than one-half of one per cent of all Australia's agricultural land is owned by Chinese. Only 13 per cent or thereabouts is owned by foreigners as well, so they're the actual statistics. These companies investing in Australian agriculture improves those operations. It creates jobs whether it's in Tasmania or Western Australia or anywhere else.

There is a pretty fundamental wider point here: Australian entrepreneurs and business people are often attacked—unfairly, in my view—by politicians in the political class when instead they should be congratulated, rewarded and encouraged for the great work they do. We will be a much more prosperous country if we have a culture that rewards investors, innovators and business people—people who create wealth, employ people, pay taxes, take risks with their own money and choose to invest in Australia. If we continue to demonise these people then maybe one day they will choose to invest elsewhere. Maybe they will choose to invest the wealth that they have gained overseas, and that will not benefit Australia and Australians in the same way that their powerful investments in Australia can. So I, for one, welcome this proposed offer for S Kidman & Co. Of course, it will have to follow the appropriate safeguards and checks with the Foreign Investment Review Board; but, presuming it is ticked off, I think this would be something that all parliamentarians should welcome.