Senator calls for debate on foreign agricultural investment

Fiona Nash.
Fiona Nash.

A NATIONAL debate on foreign investment in agriculture is needed to guarantee Australia's food security in the coming decades, according to National Party Deputy Senate Leader, Fiona Nash.

Future Proofing Australia - The Right Answers for Our Future (Melbourne University Press, $29.99) is a collection of essays mapping out the conservative view of where Australia should be heading was released last week.

In a chapter titled, Food Security and Australia's National Interest, Senator Nash warns of the risks unfettered foreign investment in Australian agriculture could pose to Australia's domestic food supplies in coming decades.

"The decisions we make now will affect our food security into the future, which is why we need to determine today Australia's long-term approach towards foreign investment and ownership," Senator Nash wrote.

"This is not an alarmist view; it is simply the consideration of possible outcomes as a result of the impact of foreign ownership of our agricultural land.

"Last year the (Federal) Government reacted to the problem by promising a register of foreign ownership of agricultural land, but we are still waiting to see progress.

"How can we assess the magnitude of the risk without an accurate picture of how fast agricultural land is being sold and how much of it is already in foreign hands?"

The Sen Nash argued in favour of a much lower threshold to trigger Foreign Investment Review Board intervention.

"At the moment there are tight restrictions on foreign interests acquiring residential properties, but non state-owned enterprises can snap up any farm under $244 million and slip below the radar," Sen Nash said.

"Increasingly we have countries buying up Australia to generate a food pipeline between Australian paddocks and foreign kitchens.

"It is time this nation had a serious debate about this issue."

Topics:  agripolitics foreign investment

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