Laws surrounding foreign investment in Aust'n farmland too "restrictive": report

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Xinhua | 21 July 2016

Laws surrounding foreign investment in Aust'n farmland too "restrictive": report
 
CANBERRA -- A government-commissioned report into the regulatory burden imposed on Australian farmers has advised the federal government to lift "red tape" surrounding foreign investment in local agriculture, as it is restrictive to foreign buyers and resulting in "misplaced fears" from the public.
 
The Productivity Commission released its draft report on regulation in agriculture on Thursday, and has recommended the government raise the scrutiny threshold of foreign investment in Australian farmland as it was considered detrimental to the interest of local farmers.
 
"The Australian government has stated publicly that it welcomes foreign investment because of the important and beneficial role it plays in the Australian economy," the report reads.
 
"However, it recently made changes to Australia's foreign investment framework that impose additional costs on foreign investors, create uncertainty, and could discourage investment in the agricultural sector."
 
"The Australian government should increase the screening thresholds for examination of foreign investments in agricultural land and agribusinesses by the Foreign Investment Review Board to 190 million U.S dollars."
 
The report said the community currently held a number of "misplaced fears" about foreign investment in Australia.
 
"Some of the concerns, including fears that foreign investment will reduce Australia's food security, or result in a 'land grab' and loss of sovereign control over prime agricultural land, appear misplaced and may have arisen in part because of a lack of information and informed debate about foreign investment in Australian agriculture," it said.
 
Commissioner Paul Lindwall said that farmers were suffering as a result of the "restrictive" laws, as they would be unable to sell their properties to foreign buyers if they believe there is too much "red tape".
 
"If you are a farmer and you have got your superannuation effectively is tied up in that farm and you cannot sell it off when you need to retire because we don't allow foreign investment because it has become restrictive, then you have actually harmed that farmer," Lindwall said following the release of the report on Thursday.
 
Aside from raising the screening threshold for foreign-owned farmland, the report has advised the government to consider making public the foreign investment registry, as it would "increase transparency" and "address public concerns" in the community.
 
The Productivity Commission is set to take feedback from the public before handing over its final conclusions to the government in August.
Original source: Xinhua
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