Treasurer to crack down on foreign farm buys
Foreigners will find it even tougher to buy Australian farmland under a Federal Government plan that also restricts overseas investment in the nation’s electricity system.
Treasurer Scott Morrison will today announce a string of changes he said would give Australians every chance of buying Australian farms.
Under the main proposal, foreigners will have to show that any farm they plan to buy has been part of a public salesprocess and advertised to potential Australian buyers for at least 30 days.
Farmland on the outskirts of major cities, often bought by developers for new suburbs, will face fresh restrictions for foreign buyers who will have to start work within five years.
Mr Morrison said there was community concern about foreign ownership of farmland, particularly since the debate over the sale of the extensive Kidman landholdings.
“Our foreign investment rules facilitate investment while making sure Australia’s national interest is protected,” he said.
“This includes ensuring adequate opportunity for Australians to invest in Australian land.”
The strategy comes after the Government’s move to slash the threshold at which the Foreign Investment Review Board vets farmland purchases, from $252 million to $15 million, and the establishment of an agricultural land register.
That register shows 99 per cent of Australian farm businesses are fully Australian owned and that 88 per cent of all farmland is in Australian hands.
The electricity system would also be subject to tougher conditions for potential foreign buyers in a development that could hurt the financial returns sought by a future WA government that hoped to privatise the network.
Mr Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said that from today, any sale of electricity transmission and distribution and some generation assets would attract ownership restrictions or conditions on foreign buyers.
“Electricity distribution and transmission infrastructureare critical national assets,” they said.
In 2016, Mr Morrison blocked a bid by the Chinese Government-owned State Grid Corporate and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure to buy NSW electricity distributor Ausgrid.
Both companies already owned shares in other State power distributors.
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