AGRICULTURE Minister Barnaby Joyce says people in the bush are not against foreign investment but want to have a proper understanding of who owns what.
Launching his agricultural competitiveness paper at the national Press Club on Monday, Mr Joyce said there was no shortage of people potentially interested in selling agricultural businesses to overseas investors, but what concerned rural communities was a lack of transparency about who owned what in their communities.
Mr Joyce also complained about the position the United States is taking on negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying Americans "play a very tough game" on trade, making it "very clear what they want from us".
By comparison, "I said I wanted just one thing from them - sugar - and all we get is excuses."
Mr Joyce said the US produced 3 million tonnes less sugar than it consumed, and that Australia just wanted the right to help fill the gap.
On foreign investment, Mr Joyce said that "what you hear out there [in the bush] is a desire for a proper understanding of who owns what," he said.
Concern by people in the bush about foreign investment used to be regarded as just bush parochialism, but the issue had taken on a new meaning as people in major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne became concerned about the impact of foreign buyers in the local housing markets.
City dwellers had considerably more political influence and made a lot more noise than those in the bush.
Mr Joyce emphasised that the government's changes to Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines were not designed to discourage foreign investment in the bush, and the lower purchase price thresholds for FIRB scrutiny did not "knock out" overseas purchases but fed the desire for more information on what was going on.