McCormack welcomes stand on foreign investment

Nationals’ Federal Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, says the release of the Coalition’s Policy Discussion Paper on Foreign Investment in Australian Agricultural Land Agribusiness is a positive and absolutely necessary step.

“Foreign investment is a big issue for constituents of the Riverina, and many people have raised their concerns with me in meetings and also through my recent electorate wide survey,” Mr McCormack said.

The discussion paper recommends a public national register of foreign ownership of land and agribusiness as well as new thresholds for Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) scrutiny of transactions of agricultural land.

 The working group recommended private overseas investors be subjected to a $15 million cumulative limit for Australian farmland.

Foreign government-owned entities would face FIRB scrutiny if they wished to purchase any Australian farmland.

The paper also sets out a larger and broader based FIRB with guidelines requiring it to consider future food security in any of its decisions.

There should also be, according to the policy discussion paper, FIRB consideration of any proposed foreign acquisition of an agribusiness where the investment exceeds $53 million.

Presently the cap is $244 million for both agribusinesses and farms which had increased from $231 million under Labor in January, an amount Mr McCormack described as “ridiculous” and “not even remotely in the national interest”.

“The ability to grow food and ensuring food security will be the biggest challenges facing Australia into the future,” Mr McCormack said.

In 2011 Mr McCormack controversially and publicly opposed the sale of SunRice to Spanish company Ebro Foods. In the past year SunRice has recorded a $33.9 million profit and a bumper harvest.

“I am pleased this company remained in Australian hands and is continuing to be a leader in its field,” Mr McCormack said.

“Foreign investment is an important part of Australia’s economic prosperity but it is vital we have the appropriate measures and guidelines in place. 

I encourage members of the community and industry to make a submission on the Coalition’s Policy Discussion Paper.” Written submissions can be emailed to until 31 October 2012.

Cristy Houghton