29 June 2015

Strengthening scrutiny and transparency around foreign investment in agriculture – land register starts 1 July


Joint media release
with the Hon Barnaby Joyce
Minister for Agriculture

The Coalition Government is delivering on its commitment to increase scrutiny and transparency around foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

From 1 July 2015 all foreign investors who hold interests in agricultural land must register those interests with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) regardless of the value of that land.

The ATO will collect information such as the location and size of property and size of interest acquired on new foreign investment in agricultural land to develop a national register. This data will be made available to the public from 2016.

Foreign investment is integral to Australia’s economy. It contributes to growth, productivity and creates jobs, but the community must have confidence that this investment is for our nation’s benefit.

The new register will strengthen reporting requirements and provide a clear and accessible picture of foreign ownership of agricultural land.

All existing holdings must be registered with the ATO by 31 December 2015 and any new interests registered within 30 days.

The new register complements other measures this Government has put in place to deliver better scrutiny of foreign purchases of agricultural land.

Additionally, since 1 March 2015, the screening threshold for foreign purchases of agricultural land by private sector investors has been lowered from $252 million to $15 million. As a result, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is reviewing an additional 30 proposals that would otherwise have avoided scrutiny. For foreign government-related entities and state-owned enterprises the FIRB scrutiny threshold for all proposed investments, including in agricultural land, remains at zero.

These measures are a significant step in protecting Australia’s national interest, and are part of this Government’s ongoing work to strengthen the foreign investment framework.

Stricter penalties for those foreign investors who breach the rules and application fees to ensure that Australian taxpayers are no longer required to fund the cost of administering the system will apply from 1 December 2015.

Further information on the reforms to strengthen the foreign investment framework is available on the FIRB website.