FOREIGN investment in agricultural assets, which many Australians see as ''unrestricted, unrestrained, uncontrolled'', would be subject to much greater scrutiny under a Coalition government, says the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey.
In an exclusive interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Hockey revealed a review of foreign investment guidelines would be part of the Coalition's economic policy agenda.
''There is room for better and more transparent analysis of foreign investment,'' he said. ''There is a perception issue that there is unrestricted, unrestrained, uncontrolled foreign investment, particularly in agriculture. We may well flag changes to foreign investment rules, and we will have more to say about that.''
Foreign buy-up of Australian farms and food security is a hot issue for many Coalition voters. A government-commissioned report on the issue by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics is expected to be released this month.
At present, foreign ownership laws kick in only when investments exceed $230 million.
A Senate inquiry chaired by the Liberal senator Bill Heffernan is also looking into the issue.
Mr Hockey also identified the government's $36 billion national broadband network as the Coalition's big political target this year.
The broadband network was by far the biggest off-budget initiative ever seen in Australian government, Mr Hockey said, referring to government programs that have not been accounted for in the federal budget. The broadband network is treated as a government asset and not as a budget item.
''I mean, it's multiples of anything that's ever been off-budget … it detracts from productivity,'' he said.