From John Ray's shorter notes

June 07, 2020

Taking Australia back: PM announces tough new measures to stop foreigners buying our land and assets

This will be a popular measure on both the Left and the Right but it is not well thought-out.  Banning Chinese purchases of land is particularly silly.  The Chinese can't pick the land up and takes it back to China -- so what is achieved?

The Chinese normally employ Australian managers for their farm purchases so even the management remains mostly under Australian control.

Purchase of companies is less clear-cut but once again one has to ask what is achieved?  In the rare instances where there are commercial or scientific secrets that could be revealed, then by all means restrict those purchases but what else could go wrong?  The new owners will have the same motivation to make a profit so production of what the firm makes should be little changed

Foreign investment laws in Australia will be completely overhauled as part of tough new rules to protect the country's national security.

The federal government's zero-dollar approval threshold will mean all foreign bids for companies from large telecommunication businesses to small defence providers will be vetted by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will also have the power to force a sale or impose conditions on foreign acquisition of Australian assets even after a purchase is made.

Previously the treasury could only block foreign purchases of Australian assets which exceeded a takeover threshold of $1.2billion.

The new laws follow a series of recent controversial takeovers by Chinese-owned companies - including the lease of the Port of Darwin to Chinese Communist Party-linked Landbridge Group in November 2015.

The deal was called into question by then-US President Barack Obama at the time, leading former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to say Australia had 'blindsided' its ally.

Government sources have claimed the agreement with the group's subsidiary Landbridge Australia would not have been approved had the FIRB's rules been in place, The Australian reported.

'Through the introduction of a new national security test, stronger enforcement powers and enhanced compliance obligations, we will ensure that Australia can continue to benefit from foreign investment while safeguarding our national interest,' Mr Frydenberg said.

In 2016, then-treasurer Scott Morrison also overturned a Chinese bid for energy company Ausgrid over national security concerns.

The intervention just 10 days before the deal's deadline led to the Chinese government accusing Canberra of 'discrimination' and 'protectionism'.

Chinese buyers spent $24billion on Australian real estate during the last year, making them by far the largest group of foreign purchasers.

China is also the largest foreign stakeholder in the Australian water market - with Chinese investors owning 732 gigalitres or 1.89 per cent of the water.

It comes as Australia strengthens ties with India as relations with China, its largest trading power, continues to sour.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi signed off a new agreement in a virtual summit on Thursday.

It aims to boost economic trade between the two countries, build closer partnerships around science and technology and strengthen defence cooperation.


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