Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

The foreigners aren’t coming: foreign ownership of Australian farms

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Monday, 19 September 2011


The first objective data on foreign ownership of Australian farms for over 25 years was issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week, and it seems foreigners haven’t been buying up the place after all.

Based on a survey of 11,000 agricultural businesses, 89 per cent of total agricultural land is entirely Australian owned while 92 per cent is majority Australian owned. Moreover, foreign ownership is only fractionally higher than the Agricultural Census of 1983-84 showed.

Most of the 8 per cent more than 50 per cent foreign owned is in the Northern Territory, with another big chunk in Western Australia. This is no surprise – foreign ownership of northern cattle stations has been common for over a century.

Advertisement

Probably about the only thing that has changed, which the survey did not examine, is the nationality of the foreign owners. Whereas once they were mainly British, these days foreign owners are more diverse and include the Chinese, who are viewed with similar suspicion to what they faced 150 years ago when they came to dig for gold.

Of course there are still plenty who think even this level of foreign ownership is too high, or suspect foreigners will sneak in and buy everything if we relax our vigilance.

The Victorian Farmers Federation says tighter controls are needed. The National Farmers Federation thinks it’s really about how much production is foreign owned, not just the land.

The Senate Standing Committee on Rural Affairs and Transport is conducting an inquiry into whether the Foreign Investment Review Board national interest test should be altered in relation to agricultural land and what impact this will have on food security.

In the NSW parliament even the Shooters and Fishers Party has weighed in on the subject, asking, “Does anyone really think that the food grown in Australia by foreign interests will be used to feed Australians?”

Wariness of foreigners in agriculture is nothing new, in Australia or elsewhere. However, it has intensified in recent years due to countries like China, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, India, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates seeking to ensure their future food security by buying or leasing fertile land in other countries.

Advertisement

Since 1971 Brazil has had a law controlling foreign acquisitions of farms, depending on the region, of greater than 240 to 5,000 hectares. These restrictions were not enforced between 1998 and 2010, leading to considerable international investment (although nobody knows exactly how much). Concerns about Chinese state-owned firms and Middle East sovereign wealth funds led to the law being enforced, although an increase in the threshold is now under consideration.

In Argentina the government is proposing a law that will restrict foreigners from buying land larger than 1,000 hectares. About 7 per cent of Argentina’s farmland is said to be foreign owned at present. Uruguay is considering a law similar to Argentina, and its foreign ownership level is thought to be at least 20 per cent. Ironically, most of the foreign owners there are Brazilian or Argentinian.

Some have gone further. In Paraguay land ownership is restricted to nationals, although for years there have been ways of circumventing this. Several Canadian provinces prohibit foreigners from owning non-metropolitan land totalling more than 20 acres.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

14 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by David Leyonhjelm

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of David Leyonhjelm
Article Tools
Comment 14 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy