Foreign land grab continues

Weekly Times Now | 23 November 2011
Farm affected by drought in southeastern Australia (Photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images).

by Cimara Pearce

FOREIGN investors have snapped up more than $12 billion in Australian farm land and agribusiness during the past year.

Today marks one year since Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced their review of international investment, which would see a "prompt and responsible course of action to strengthen transparency of foreign ownership".

Thousands of hectares have fallen into foreign hands during the review, which was prompted by public outcry to the number of recent foreign purchases.

And despite foreign interest being at an all-time high, there is no clear end date in sight.

A spokesman said the Federal Government was expecting a report from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation "in coming months".

"The Government expects that this research, together with the findings of the ABS Land and Water Ownership Survey will provide a sound factual foundation for future policy discussion," he said.

The survey, sent to 11,000 agribusinesses, found 99 per cent of agribusiness was Australian owned, while 89 per cent of agricultural land was found to be Australian owned.

But the survey has faced heavy criticism because it was small and voluntary.

A Senate inquiry into foreign investment last week reignited calls for a foreign investment register and to lower the $231 million trigger at which buyers must apply to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Tasmanian real estate agent Betty Kay said she supported the establishment of a foreign purchases register, but said it was also important for Government to form policy to help young Australians buy farms.

"What's going to happen with all these farms when the current owners are ready to retire?" she said.

"Where are the buyers going to come from because there are not many young people out there who are going to be able to buy these farms.

"Young farmers need more support to get into the industry.

"I feel the Government is not helping our primary industries."

Results from the 2011 Agricultural Census, which asked about land ownership, are due out tomorrow.
Original source: Weekly Times Now

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