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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8100

Foreign Investment


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:12): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Investment, Senator Sinodinos. Can the minister outline the importance of foreign investment in Australian agriculture?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:12): I welcome the question from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, because foreign investment has been important in the history of this country for the last 200 years. We as a country have needed foreign investment in order to supplement domestic savings and allow us to invest at a higher level than would otherwise be possible. It is true—this is where the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is leading—that over time we have had mechanisms like the Foreign Investment Review Board to scrutinise foreign investment proposals in particular sectors, some more sensitive than others. The whole rationale for that has been to assure the community—

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Williams interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron and Senator Williams! Cabinet Secretary.

Senator SINODINOS: Foreign investment has been important across the whole of our economy, but the Foreign Investment Review Board is an important mechanism to scrutinise proposals to give an assurance to the Australian public that that investment is in our national interest. It is very important we understand that. So we welcome foreign investment, but we welcome it on our terms, depending upon the sector of the economy and the sensitivity of any particular sector. The agricultural sector has been a great beneficiary of foreign investment since 1788.




Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline the risks associated with creating additional barriers to foreign investment in Australian agricultural land and agribusiness?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:14): I thank the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for her supplementary question. It is not so much about creating risks; but, by giving assurance to the Australian public that foreign investment is in our national interest, we actually help the Australian community to support foreign investment. This is not about stopping investment; it is about providing scrutiny that such investment is in the national interest. It is very important we understand that. Both sides of politics have supported the Foreign Investment Review Board from its inception. It is very important we continue to have these mechanisms to scrutinise proposals in the national interest.


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the minister agree with the National Party's Senator Williams, who advocates a complete ban on foreign investment in Australian agricultural land, saying, 'Let's sell them what the land grows, not the land'? Does the minister agree?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:15): First and foremost I would have to see what Senator Williams has actually said, because I know he is an erudite and passionate advocate of rural Australia and rural New South Wales. I would have to see the full context of his remarks. But it is true that in recent times there has been concern about levels of foreign investment in agriculture. The response of this government has been to put in place, through the legislation which is being alluded to, mechanisms to scrutinise those proposals to make sure they are in the national interest. Senator Williams and I are in lock step. We are talking about proposals which were the platform of the coalition going into the 2013 election. We love the Nats, and the Nats love us. We are a coalition, particularly in New South Wales.