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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2685

Mr HURFORD (ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Has the Treasurer noted that the wholly foreign owned company, Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd, is seeking from the Australian capital market $20m to $25m at interest rates of from 8 per cent to 9 per cent? Is it a fact that this capital will be used for investment in commercial property development in Australia with the effect not only of increasing property prices and interest rates but also of ensuring that more of this country is owned abroad? Is there anything that the Treasuer can do to prevent this scandalous situation whereby Australian savings are used for this purpose?

Mr CREAN - My attention has been drawn to the Press reports referred to by the honourable member for Adelaide. According to those reports, Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd is seeking up to $25m from the Australian public through a debenture issue, the proceeds of which are to be used to fund the group's existing property development program in Australia. It is said also that Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd was incorporated earlier this year to act as a borrowing corporation for the Abbey Capital group, whose major shareholders are Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, and Capital and Counties Property Co. Ltd of the United Kindom. I issued a Press statement on 20 March. As part of the whole question of foreign ownership and control, the purchase of real estate in Australia by overseas interests is under study by the Government at present. The subject is a complex one and the study will take a little time to complete. The Reserve Bank of Australia is not normally granting exchange control approvals that might be needed in connection with proposed foreign investment in real estate, but it would appear from reports that exchange control approval would not be involved in this company's present activities. In addition, there are no restrictions on borrowings in Australia by overseas controlled companies. However, if the Abbey company envisages applying the proceeds of the debenture issue to further significant property development, I would point out that I said in my statement of 20 March that it is the wish of the Government that overseas interests should not enter into significant commitments for real estate purchases for the time being. I confirm that now.

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