Foreign farm rules 'racist'

09 Nov, 2015 04:23 AM
Labor will treat agribusiness the same as other non-sensitive sectors of the economy.

A RACISM row over Australia's trade and investment policies will reignite today when federal Labor tries to ease the Coalition's tough new rules on Chinese, Korean, and Japanese acquisitions of farming land.

Labor will also attempt to abolish the government's special rules for investment in Australian agricultural businesses.

Coalition ministers have accused Labor and unions of running a racist campaign against the China-Australia Free-Trade Agreement, but opposition spokesperson for trade and investment Penny Wong on Friday argued the Abbott/Turnbull governments' foreign investment crackdown discriminates against investors according to their nationality.

Senator Wong challenged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to "stand up for an open economy" by overturning the foreign investment crackdown advocated by Tony Abbott and the Nationals.

"It's an open secret in Canberra that the former prime minister Tony Abbott pushed the new investment restrictions through, despite opposition from his trade and investment minister, his treasurer and his industry minister," Senator Wong said.

Senator Wong said on Monday Labor would attempt to abolish the government's plan to require Asian investors, and those from other countries without Australian trade agreements, to seek permission from the Foreign Investment Review Board for any private investment worth more than $55 million in agricultural business.

Only Americans, Kiwis, and Chileans are exempt from the stringent new rules on investing in local farm-related businesses, which includes much of Australia's food manufacturing industry. The Labor amendments to the government's legislation will also ease the scrutiny for Chinese, Korean and Japanese investors in farming land by lifting the government's proposed threshold of $15 million to $50 million.

Senator Wong said the $50 million level on farming land would bring the rules for north Asian investors into line with the investment rules for Thai and Singaporean investors under the free-trade agreements negotiated by the Howard government.

While the $50 million level championed by Labor is lower than the current FIRB limit of $252 million for foreign investments including sensitive sectors like media, defence businesses or uranium mining, it is still much more stringent than the $1 billion threshold that American, Kiwi and Chilean investors enjoy thanks to their free-trade agreements with Australia.

However, Senator Wong told the Economic and Social Outlook conference in Melbourne on Friday that a Labor government would consider extending the current $1 million FTA threshold to all foreign private investors in non-sensitive industries.

She said there was no policy rationale for imposing investment barriers to agribusiness, which could affect the investment decisions of half of Australia's food manufacturing industry.

"The government's legislation would create the bizarre position where the threshold for foreign investment in sensitive sectors like uranium extraction or defence industries would be five times higher than for food manufacturing," she said.

"Labor will treat agribusiness the same as other non-sensitive sectors of the economy."

NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari likened the Coalition's stricter controls on foreign investment in the farming industry to the White Australia policy.

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Bush Bird
9/11/2015 6:19:26 AM

Then make the Leases 15 years and let us buy in their Countries !
9/11/2015 7:46:02 AM

Wong will always be wong
9/11/2015 7:47:10 AM

Make any foreign sale conditional on a reciprocal agreement to the same conditions, otherwise, no deal.
Jock Munro
9/11/2015 8:22:04 AM

If those of us who object to having our nation sold out from under us are 'racist' where does that leave the rest of the world who do not allow their land and other key strategic assets to be hocked to the highest foreign bidder?!
9/11/2015 10:13:39 AM

This racism argument is getting very tiresome. Wong and co are clutching at straws with this stuff, anyone who has seen a bit of the world knows that we are not a racist country and most other nations look to their own interests first, those that don't are either rife with corruption or failed states or both. This is more about undermining the conservative vote by driving everyone out of regional areas. As for Sam Dastyari, he was part of a nsw government that was driven by race based nepotism and corruption, what a bloody hypocrite
9/11/2015 10:30:58 AM

Always remember you have your farm because your forefathers didn't have to follow any rules at all.
9/11/2015 1:18:06 PM

Nothing to do with racism. We have a product these countries want and unlike mining it will never run out, well as long as we still have land to grow things on!!!
9/11/2015 1:33:41 PM

I cannot buy freehold property in China as an Australian citizen . Penny go and look at reality!!
9/11/2015 1:55:13 PM

It strikes me that any time globalists (left and right) run out of decent arguments, they play the 'racist' card. And given their lack of any compelling arguments - the card gets played more and more often. Globalists on the right only care about short term profit and those on the left about the warm and fuzzies they get from helping disadvantaged billionaires from overseas get a piece of Australia's wealth. We have our farms because our forefathers put their families and people ahead of short-term profit. Our current so-called leaders should be ashamed.
9/11/2015 2:25:32 PM

I'm ashamed when Australians whinge and squabble over their sense-of-entitlement to land, without acknowledging the original families and people that were kicked off it by their forefathers. It's seriously embarrassing.
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