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Farmers welcome Coalition proposal to develop land register

3 August 2012

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has acknowledged the release of the Federal Coalition’s discussion paper on foreign investment today, welcoming the proposal to develop a national register of foreign-owned agricultural land.

NFF President Jock Laurie says today’s paper shows the Opposition, like the Government, are listening to the concerns of the community, and taking the issue of foreign ownership seriously.

“In April, the NFF and our members 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 – in order to gain clarity on the purchases of land and water and have the ability to monitor trends,” Mr Laurie said.

“In June, the Government responded, stating that they would establish a working group to consult on the development of a foreign ownership register. Today, the Coalition has proposed to go one step further, with their discussion paper outlining the establishment a national land register.

“This is welcome news for the Australian agricultural sector, as it means greater transparency around this much-debated issue,” Mr Laurie said.

“Of course, it is essential that we keep in mind that foreign investment has traditionally been very positive for Australian agriculture. We do not wish to deter foreign investment, but we do want to see greater transparency around investment to ensure that the motivations behind this investment are clear.

“We remain concerned about foreign-owned entities purchasing Australian agricultural land for the purposes of securing their own future food availability, so we welcome the Coalition’s proposal of disclosure of any direct or indirect foreign ownership.

“And we welcome the proposal by the Coalition to increase the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to include at least one individual with agricultural sector expertise,” Mr Laurie said.

“We also recognise that many farmers will welcome the Coalition’s proposal to lower the FIRB thresholds to $15 million for agricultural land and $53 million for agribusinesses.

“But rather than put the cart before the horse, the NFF believes that before any decision can be made on the most appropriate FIRB threshold, we need to first have the national land register in place to understand the current levels of foreign investment in agriculture.

“Having a full understanding of foreign investment is crucial to getting the policy decision right. It’s essential that we’re very clear on the facts of foreign investment, and we will continue to focus our efforts on building transparency, and ensuring both the Opposition and the Government do the same,” Mr Laurie said.

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