ABC | 8 June 2012
The Ord Irrigation Scheme in far north Western Australia. A number of Chinese investment groups have visited the region in the last six months.
The Federal Government is under pressure as it considers opening up land for farming in northern Australia as part of a deal to export food to China.
National President of the Australia China Business Council, Frank Tutor, says Chinese investment can help develop land which had previously been labelled too hard or too expensive.
"Australia has always had a current account deficit and it's what we have relied upon in the past to actually secure our standard of living," he said.
"So it means our investment requirements exceed our savings requirements, so we need to go overseas to attract investment to be able to develop the projects which give rise to employment opportunities, which give rise to royalties going into government, taxation going into government and we all enjoy the proceeds of that.
"So I think it's part of what we do when we look for these development and I don't think agriculture should be seen any differently.
"When it comes to agriculture specifically, I think (Chinese investment) is addressing a need within China, which is the need for food and securing food supplies into the future, so I think part of the equation is dealing with that basic need.
"I think from the Australian side, the (Chinese) investment should be seen in the context of, as was previously stated by Minister Brendon Grylls (WA Regional Development Minister), he said, where investment is coming in and actually helping the development of agricultural land, which might not otherwise be developed, then that's actually a good thing."
It was reported back in April that a Chinese investment group had launched a bid to buy the entire 15,000 hectares of the Ord Expansion Project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Trading as Kimberley Agricultural Investments (KAI), it's understood the group is interested in developing a major sugar industry in the region, as well as a meatworks capable of processing 500,000 head of cattle a year.
It's since been revealed that Australia's largest beef company, the Australian Agricultural Company, has also launched a bid for land in the Ord, and CEO David Farley has told the ABC that there's no reason why an Australian company can't develop the land.
"There's no need for a Chinese investor to win this at all, Australia is more than capable of developing this asset (Ord Stage 2) itself," he said.
"We've got the skills base, we've got the intellect and more importantly we've got the capital base within the country to take this project on and deliver it to market."