Cobb puts foreign investors on notice

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
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Shadow agriculture minister John Cobb has put foreign investors on notice that a coalition government will take a harder line on purchases of Australian farmland and agribusinesses.

Mr Cobb, who spent yesterday campaigning at the Dowerin field day, said the coalition would push ahead with plans to slash the threshold for Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny.

He also backed the campaign by his Nationals colleagues to prevent the sale of GrainCorp to US company Archer Daniels Midland and said the coalition would be highly unlikely to allow giant WA grain handler CBH to fall into foreign hands.

The coalition plans to reduce the trigger for FIRB approval from $244 million to $15 million for foreign land purchases and $53 million for foreign takeovers of agribusinesses.

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The Opposition and Labor both want a register of foreign ownership of farmland.

Mr Cobb said the coalition register would include all foreign companies and individuals.

He said any purchase that took the cumulative value of their agricultural land to more than $15 million would be subject to FIRB approval.

“They will come before the FIRB and that doesn’t mean it will be refused, but it does mean we will want to be satisfied it is not against Australia’s best interests,” he said.

“Agribusiness is a big issue too. We are all for investment and we want to encourage it, particularly if it is new ground and starting something up that doesn’t exist.

“But we are worried and believe we need to look much more closely at the takeover of Australian agribusinesses.”

Mr Cobb also said the coalition would boost funding to 15 industry-based Rural Research and Development Corporations by $100 million over four years.

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