Cubbie decision prompts renewed calls for land register
3 September 2012
With confirmation that a Chinese consortium has been approved to purchase Australia’s iconic cotton property, Cubbie Station, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today renewed calls for a national land register to monitor all foreign purchases of Australian agricultural land and water.
NFF President Jock Laurie said such a register would make it compulsory for all foreign persons or organisations that acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land or water – including the consortium of purchasers of Cubbie Station – to report the sale.
“The news that one of Australia’s largest privately owned irrigation properties, Cubbie Station, has been approved for sale to Chinese interests has understandably prompted a great deal of conjecture from the farming sector and the wider community,” Mr Laurie said.
“The debate around foreign investment continues to rage, and this decision will only add fuel to the fire of public opinion.
“Importantly, what this decision demonstrates is the vital need for a national land register to gain clarity on who owns what when it comes to Australian agriculture.
“At the heart of the issue is the concern about foreign-owned entities purchasing Australian agricultural land for the purposes of securing their own future food and fibre availability. This is why when a foreign entity buys a station like Cubbie, which is one of Australia’s largest fibre producers, questions around ownership and motivations must be asked.
“There are also questions around ensuring any foreign purchasers are subject to the same tax and market access conditions as Australian farmers, to ensure an equal playing field. It would appear from the Treasurer’s statement that strict conditions apply; and it will be up to the Government to enforce these.
“Ensuring greater transparency is the key to solving the issue of foreign investment, but until a national land register is in place, this transparency cannot be achieved.
“The Government has committed to forming a working group to consult on developing a land register, and the Coalition has issued a discussion paper with a proposal to develop a register: both steps in the right direction, but, as this announcement shows, further action is needed.
“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, continuing our calls to develop a national land register,” Mr Laurie said.
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