Govt Consults on Foreign Ownership Register

AUSTRALIA - The Gillard Government has announced a working group to consult on the development of a Commonwealth foreign ownership register for agricultural land.
calendar icon 20 June 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

A national foreign ownership register for agricultural land would provide the community with a more comprehensive picture of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings over and above what is currently available.

A government working group will formally seek stakeholder views on the establishment of a register, including:

  • What ownership interests should be captured under a register;
  • How the register would interact with existing state and territory land title registers, including the Foreign Ownership of Land Register in Queensland;
  • Ways to monitor and enforce compliance; and
  • How information would be reported on and disclosed.

The Government will pursue a register where it will clearly improve transparency of foreign ownership in agriculture without imposing unnecessary burdens on investors or duplicating work already undertaken by State and Territory governments.

This consultation process continues the Gillard Government’s record of improving transparency in foreign ownership of agricultural land. In 2012 the Government announced funding for an ongoing Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey, following an Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) study into foreign investment in agriculture. The Government has also released guidance on the factors considered by the Government when assessing foreign investment applications in the sector.

The Government continues to maintain an open and welcoming approach to foreign investment, including in the agriculture sector. Foreign investment in the agricultural sector brings significant benefits to Australia and opportunities for Australian farmers. It can help to generate higher employment and incomes, investment in infrastructure and improvements to our food production capabilities, often in regional areas.

According to the recent report by ABARES, Australia’s foreign investment policy provides a considerable level of scrutiny of foreign investment proposals and operations of foreign-owned agribusiness in Australia.

While there has been minimal change in foreign ownership levels of agricultural land in Australia since 1984, the ABARES report highlights the need for better data sources to provide a more comprehensive picture of how the landscape of foreign investment in agriculture may be evolving.

The working group will begin consultation with stakeholders and the States and Territories and will be led by Treasury and include senior officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and other relevant agencies.

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