Bill Shorten MP,
Federal Labor Party,
Canberra, ACT 2600
It is pleasing to note that at last the Coalition and Greens are prepared to join in a Senate Inquiry into foreign investment and sale of agricultural farm land by forming a rural affairs and transport committee to check on how the natural interest test is applied to agricultural land and agri-businesses purchased by foreign companies and foreign sovereign funds.
Community concern arose over Treasurer Wayne Swan’s signing off on the sale of 252,000 ha to a Canadian company, Alberta, the biggest foreign sell-off of Australian land while the Labor Government is in the middle of a review of foreign ownership of Australia agricultural assets. Furthermore, China, noting the Foreign Investment Review Board’s compliant approach, never ruling a sale contrary to “national interest”, has targeted farms and businesses.
As a result of these sell-offs there is anger at the threat to our own food, and especially water security. It is difficult to see how the sale of 250,000 ha of food producing land to an overseas company is in the national interest given that this country’s arable lands amounts to 6% along the east coast of Australia.
Countries around the world recognize that the natural assets such as water and food producing land will be the most valuable in coming decades. Will you therefore ensure that FIRB guidelines are tightened to prevent further loss of national assets vital to Australia’s food and water security and also legislate for Commonwealth control over all subterranean and agricultural water to remain in Australian hands?
Mark Dreyfus, Federal member for Isaacs