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Foreign Ownership Register not enough to protect our own food supply interests

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THE HON DR SHARMAN STONE MP Federal Member for Murray

Wednesday 24 Oct 2012

Foreign Ownership Register not enough to protect our own food supply interests

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that Labor will finally introduce a foreign ownership register for agricultural land.

According to Federal Member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone, a register is essential, but it is only a part of the strategy needed to put Australia in charge of its own food security.

“New Zealand, the USA and other developed countries have long ago moved to ensure that agricultural land, agri-business and strategic water purchases are not counter to their national interests” Dr Stone said.

“Our threshold triggering Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) investigation of a farmland or agri-business purchase proposal is far too high at $244 million.

“Any overseas government involvement in any land purchase does automatically trigger a FIRB inquiry however. Complicated and arms length government funding can sometimes be hard to unravel in a proposed purchase.

“It is absurd to think that we do not allow overseas purchasing of residential real estate without scrutiny. However, we allow the purchase of vertically integrated food production businesses and farmland with strategic ground and surface water entitlements.

“If the Moraitis Group sale goes ahead, a huge proportion of Australia’s fruit and vegetable production will be grown by an overseas owned enterprise whose home country’s food supply is more important than Australia being self sufficient.

“FIRB has recently approved the sale of Cubbie Station to overseas interests. This 93,000 hectare property has water rights big enough to fill Sydney Harbour.

“We have since discovered that there was an Australian offer to buy the huge irrigation property, but the administrators rejected the bid.”

“We need much lower thresholds for when a farm or agri-business purchase triggers a FIRB inquiry” Dr Stone said.

Media enquiries, Graham Munson: 0417 148 110.