Gulf Times | 29 April 2010
By Peter Townson
Australia’s Assistant Treasurer senator Nick Sherry recently met with government officials, including Prime Minster HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, to discuss bilateral relations and the development of Islamic banking in Australia.
Sherry also met with Minter of Economy and Finance HE Yousef Kamal as well as officials from the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and Qatar Islamic Bank during his trip earlier this week.
During his trip, Sherry announced that his government is undertaking a review of financial laws to ensure that Islamic financial products are encouraged rather than inhibited, and stated that his trip to the region was also intended as a fact-finding exercise to learn more about Islamic banking.
He also wanted to encourage investment from Qatar into Australia, which he described as a “capital importing economy” with incredibly strong exporting capabilities.
“In 2008-2009, two-way trade between Australia and Qatar was valued at A$566mn – and I see this figure only growing in the years to come,” he claimed.
He explained that major Australian exports to Qatar included live animals, motor vehicles (namely Toyota) and meat products, whilst Australia imports substantial amounts of fertilisers, liquefied propane and butane, refined petroleum and inorganic chemical elements.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund agricultural company, Hassad, has already invested in Australian agriculture with the purchase of the Kaladbro Estate in Victoria – a 2,630 hectare property which produced 60,000 sheep last year.
They also launched Hassad Australia last year, which is aimed at ensuring that livestock and grain needs for Qatar are met.
These are the kinds of investments Sherry was hoping to encourage more of, arguing that such projects, offering tangible products, work well with Islamic finance.
Sherry is also keen to encourage investment from sovereign wealth funds, and during his meetings he explained the current situation regarding taxation and other legal regulations in the Australian system.“I have met with many key investment houses and funds in the region over the last few days, and I will meet with more in the next few days – and I have sent a clear message,” he said, claiming “investment from the GCC region is indeed welcome in Australia, just as our businesses are very keen to do big things right here.”