Hawke lobbied for China in Ord

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Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke
The West Australian | 8 December 2014

Hawke lobbied for China in Ord

by Nick Butterly Canberra

Former prime minister Bob Hawke lobbied Colin Barnett to allow a Chinese company to buy a large package of land in the Ord River.

The push for ownership comes as Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce signalled his concerns over any sale, saying the company should have been up-front about its intentions when it signed an original deal to lease the property.

Kimberley Agricultural Investment, owned by Chinese company Shanghai Zhongfu, has told the State Government "on an informal basis" that it wants freehold ownership of the 6000ha Knox Plain area, a major tranche of stage 2 of the Ord River scheme, the ambitious plan to turn the north of Australia into a regional food bowl.

The Premier confirmed he met Mr Hawke in June to discuss "general matters" regarding KAI's investment in the Ord.

"KAI's interest in freehold ownership was raised as part of these discussions," Mr Barnett said.

Mr Hawke has long acted as a lobbyist for KAI, as well as other Chinese companies.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hawke said the former PM had no comment on the issue.

Shanghai Zhongfu won sole right to develop stage 2 of the Ord River in 2012.

Under the terms of the original deal, the company took out a 50-year lease on the farmland on the condition it was cleared and developed for farming.

The WA Government and the then Federal Labor government tipped in a combined $510 million to build infrastructure around the land to encourage the deal.

KAI confirmed last week it was on the verge of formally requesting freehold ownership.

Shanghai Zhongfu says it is looking at a long-term plan to list KAI on the Hong Kong or Australian stock exchanges in a bid to raise funds to grow sugar for ethanol production.
Original source: West Australian
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