The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten

Minister for Financial Services & Superannuation

14 September 2010 - 1 July 2013

Media Release of 06/07/2011

NO.102

Joint Media Release with
Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Senate Inquiry into Foreign Investment in Rural Land

Today's announcement by the Coalition of a Senate Inquiry into foreign investment into rural land helps highlight a significant issue in the community the Government has acknowledged and has been acting on since November of last year.

As announced in November 2010, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig and the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, have asked the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, in collaboration with ABARES, to investigate the level of foreign ownership in rural land and agri-businesses in Australia.

Senator Ludwig has also started the community conversation on a National Food Plan. This Plan will be developed against the backdrop of Australia's food supply being shaped by global and local forces such as world population growth, limited natural resources, climate change, skills shortages and international trade.

"The Government doesn't oppose the Coalition's senate inquiry into this important issue, but as I said in November, we simply don't have a complete set of numbers about the extent of foreign ownership or rural land and agri-businesses in Australia. Before we start leaping to conclusions, let's get all the facts on the table so we can then consider in detail further policy reforms," Mr Shorten said.

The Government has already tasked the Treasury Department to come up with a range of options to address community concerns and the long-term interests of Australia, subject to the research findings.

"Foreign investment is vital for Australian farmers and regional communities because it supports local jobs and economic growth and prosperity," Mr Shorten said.

"The approach we have taken here has already involved some detailed discussions with Liberal and National MPs and crossbenchers. We look forward to seeing this commonsense, cross-government and indeed cross-parliamentary approach continue."

"We understand there are competing views about foreign investment, but the Government will take a measured, fact-based look to determine what the foreign ownership and national interest issues are, and how much anxiety about foreign investment is affected by competition for land use between mining and agriculture."

"Foreign investors are interested in Australia's agriculture for a number of reasons, including that we are an efficient producer of high quality food," Minister Ludwig said.

"Last year we had a food trade surplus of over $14 billion and we are currently exporting around 60 per cent of our agricultural production. What's more, over 90 per cent of our fresh produce is grown and supplied by our very own farmers."

The Foreign Investment Review Board examines each foreign investment proposal against a set of national interest criteria, including national security, competition, other Australian Government policies, the impact on the economy and community and the character of the investor.

"It's in everyone's best interest to prioritise good policy over anxious politics. The first task before speculating on anything else however is to gain a better picture of the existing investment profile here."

The National Food Plan Issues paper is available at www.daff.gov.au/nfp and open for submissions until 5 August 2011.

6 July 2011