FOREIGN INVESTMENT & OWNERSHIP
THE Key policy document
Australia's Foreign Investment Policy (2015)
"Privately-owned foreign investors must seek prior approval for a proposed acquisition of an interest in rural land where the cumulative value of rural land that the foreign person (and any associates) already holds exceeds, or immediately following the proposed acquisition is likely to exceed, $15 million."
 With the exception of Chile, New Zealand and United States investors ($1, 094 million); and, Singapore and Thailand investors ($50 million).
- The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is the non-statutory body that examines proposals, and advises Government, on relating to foreign investment in Australia.
- This threshold was reduced from $252 million (effective March 1, 2015)
- In addition, a foreign ownership register of agricultural land will be established
- The ATO will begin to collect information (from July 1, 2015) on all new foreign investment in agricultural land (regardless of value), as well as a stocktake of existing ownership details.
"Australia’s foreign investment review framework strikes a balance between attracting foreign investment into Australia to support our economy, and ensuring that investments are not contrary to the national interest."
- National interest considerations include: national security, competition, other policies (inc. tax), impact on the economy and community, character of the investor.
- "And while there is uncertainty, the public debate seems locked to a dualism between “we are selling the family farm” and “overseas capital can only benefit agriculture”." Erin Smith, The Conversation (2015)
"But what about investment in agricultural businesses separate from direct investment in land?" Erin Smith, The Conversation (2015)
"Foreign investment is obviously critically important for the future growth of the national economy and for the agriculture sector, therefore considerable care is needed in proposing any changes to current approval processes and regulations. Scaring off overseas investors with cumbersome regulations would do more harm to the sector than any harm ever caused by a poorly managed overseas investment." - Mick Keogh and Adam Tomlinson, The Farm Institute (2014)
"Foreign investment is essential for Australia’s agricultural sector and should be encouraged. Constraints in the sector such as high debt, minimal domestic capital and limited access to global markets can be addressed by long-term and well-funded investments." - Jack Di Nunzio, Future Directions (2014)
- "Some balance is also needed in the sometimes heated debate over foreign investment in Australian farm land. Foreign investment in Australian agricultural has been a key feature of the sector since its inception. If capital does not flow from domestic sources, be they private or institutional, then it seems inevitable that the need will be met by foreign capital." - Simon Venus, Piper Alderman (2014)
"Given the facts, we shouldn’t deny one industry the growth opportunities from foreign investment while encouraging it for others." - Anne Garnett, The Conversation (2013)
"One of the more interesting aspects of the debate about foreign ownership of farmland is the claim that any move to make foreign farmland ownership more transparent will discourage much-needed foreign investment in agriculture." - Mick Keogh, The Farm Institute (2012)
Farmland investment rules tightened, Kate McRobert, FarmOnline (2015)
Australia still owns the farm, The Land (2015)
Land ownership just the start in foreign investment debate, Erin Smith, The Conversation (2015)
Foreign ownership of farms still worries Joyce, Sue Neales, The Australian (2014)
Australia has an open door for foreign investment, but voters hold the keys, Mick Keogh and Adam Tomlinson, Australian Farm Institute (2014)
Is foreign ownership essential to Australia's farming future?, Mick Keogh, The Farm Institute (2014)
Public policy on foreign investment in Australian agriculture needs improving, Adam Tomlinson, The Farm Institute (2014)
Double standards in foreign ownership debate, Mick Keogh, The Farm Institute (2012)
- What is the extent of foreign ownership at the moment? How has this changed over the last hundred years?
- How important is foreign investment for the growth of the national economy moving forward?
- Where can the 'investment gap' be sourced from if not from overseas?
- Can we expect foreign investment without offering ownership options?
- What are the opportunities associated with selling rural land to overseas investors?
- What are the challenges associated with selling rural land to overseas investors?
- Are there any other policy responses Government should consider in addition to reducing the investment threshold?
- Do stronger measures need to be applied to protect our domestic food security?
- Do you believe a different set of rules should be applied to agricultural lands, compared to infrastructure, agribusinesses, supply chains, and water?
- Is the FIRB and Treasury the best decision-making body to be deciding on matters of agricultural investment?
- Should we be looking at the suite of business models — including private equity, institutional investment and foreign investment — to better inform such discussions?
Discuss these questions with others on The Farm Table, or add your own question, at the Farmer Forum.
OTHER POLICY DOCUMENTS & KEY RESEARCH
A different policy stance once moving away from production land?