PGA blasts Senate GrainCorp inquiry

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has blasted a Senate committee investigating the Archer Daniels Midland bid for GrainCorp.

PGA grains committee president John Snooke said the Senate inquiry was a waste of time and taxpayers' money and would only discourage foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

GrainCorp directors have urged shareholders to accept a $3 billion takeover offer from US-based ADM in a deal already subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and China's Ministry of Commerce.

Mr Snooke said the Senate inquiry chaired by veteran Liberal Bill Heffernan could add nothing to the approval process.

The Cunderdin farmer, named as a possible contender for Liberal pre-selection in the seat of Durack vacated by long-serving MP Barry Haase, said he was frustrated by mixed messages from the coalition on the issue of foreign investment.

Mr Snooke singled out Senator Heffernan and NSW Nationals Senator Fiona Nash for criticism, saying they were using the inquiry as a forum for political grandstanding.

"It disappointed me that while Tony Abbott was in northern Australian last week talking about facilitating significant foreign investment in the Parliament we had Senator Nash and Senator Heffernan effectively discouraging investment into southern infrastructure," he said.

"The ADM deal is magnificent for farmers holding GrainCorp shares and ADM are bringing something new to the Australian grains industry."

The Senate committee grilled ADM grain group president Ian Pinner and European government relations director Kit Bethell for hours last week, with many of the questions focused on tax minimisation structures and price-fixing charges against the company dating back to 1995.

Senator Nash has urged Treasurer Wayne Swan to block the ADM takeover of the east coast grain trader if it is approved by the FIRB.

A successful takeover would leave CBH as the last major player in the Australian grains industry not in multinational hands.

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