Foreign takeover slammed by McCormack
A proposal for a Chinese conglomerate to gain a 50-year lease on a north Australian irrigation area has incensed Nationals’ Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
Shanghai Zhongfu has reportedly won the sole right to develop 15,200 hectares of prime agricultural land in Western Australia after more than half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds was spent building road, irrigation, port and local community infrastructure to support the deal.
Mr McCormack said the Federal Government had tipped in $195 million at a time when it was busily tearing apart purpose-built irrigation areas in the Riverina “paddy by paddy, channel by channel”.
“How dare an Australian Government allow such a sale to proceed so the Chinese can grow food and send it directly back to China at a time when Australian farmers are facing such uncertainty due to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” Mr McCormack said.
“This latest Chinese land grab is not in the national interest.”
The Australian newspaper reported today that a Chinese company has been handed all available land in the second stage expansion of the Ord irrigation scheme in Western Australia’s Kimberley region for a peppercorn rent, on the condition it is cleared, developed and farmed.
“Why is the Federal Government propping this up while at the same time the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, which is this year celebrating its centenary of irrigation and of being a dependable, viable food-bowl, is facing such uncertainty?
“If the Government is serious about being a source of food and fibre to meet the demands of the so-called Asian Century, it ought to be doing whatever it can to preserve and protect Australian interests in already-established irrigation districts, not selling out like it is,” Mr McCormack said.
The latest takeover comes just days after Chinese interests bought land in Western Australia to grow wheat for direct export to Asia.
“A national interest test must be applied to any foreign acquisitions,” Mr McCormack said.
“Foreign investment is important but within reason. Australians could not go anywhere and buy up parcels of agricultural land in Asia, the United States of America or New Zealand yet it is open slather here at the moment.
“We’re just mugs for letting them do it and we will regret it in the long term.”
Mr McCormack said food and water security would be the greatest challenges of our time in the years ahead and Australia was best placed to feed a growing population – provided our farmers were given the opportunity to do so.