Foreign ownership register on the cards
Published: 25 Jun 2012
Posted in: Australia
Stock & Land | 25 June 2012
THE FEDERAL government has set up a working group to assist with the development of a Commonwealth register of foreign owned agricultural land.
Foreign buy-up of farmland throughout Australia has been a hot topic over the past two years following a series of high profile buy-ups, in particular by Chinese and Arab businesses, however industry analysts still believe the total amount of land owned by foreign interests is a very small minority of total agricultural land.
The government said the aim behind the proposed register was to provide the community with a more comprehensive picture of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings over and above what is currently available.
It explicitly said it was not looking to place checks on foreign investment in Australian farmland, saying it believed the injection of capital provided by foreign landholders provided significant benefits for Australian agriculture.
The working group will investigate what should be included in the proposed registers such as:
- What ownership interests should be captured under a register;
- How the register would interact with existing state and territory land title registers, including the Foreign Ownership of Land Register in Queensland;
- Ways to monitor and enforce compliance; and
How information would be reported on and disclosed.
The announcement of the register has won approval from the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and state farmer organisations.
NFF president Jock Laurie said the news proved industry lobbying on foreign ownership was getting through to the government.
“While we have long maintained that foreign investment has traditionally been very positive for the Australian agricultural sector, our members have remained concerned about any changes to the motivations behind investment – particularly motivations that are about ensuring other countries have sufficient food,” Mr Laurie said.
“Two months ago the NFF called for a national land register that makes it compulsory for all foreign persons or organisations that acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land and water to report the sale.
"Grain Producers Australia president Pete Mailler said while his organisation supported foreign ownership, he understood the desire for more understanding of the make-up of Australian agriculture.
“It's important that we understand the demographics of the industry and having a better understanding of how much foreign ownership of Australian farmland would be a step towards this.”
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Peter Tuohey said a register of agriculture land was long overdue and had been a high policy priority for the VFF.
“The VFF is encouraged with today’s announcement and it’s a positive first step in the development of a foreign ownership register.
“The VFF has been a strong critic of the lack of information on foreign ownership of agriculture assets. A register is a step in the right direction.
“A register is not about reducing foreign investment, it’s about gauging the level of investment in real time.”
WAFarmers president Dale Park had a similar stance to Mr Laurie and Mr Tuohey, saying his organisation was not against foreign ownership, but supported the establishment of a register of foreign holdings.
“One of WAFarmers’ major concerns is that foreign investment will impact on the family farm which forms the very fabric of regional communities and towns, so we need to know what is happening,” Mr Park said.
Source: Stock & Land