Chanel 7’s Sunday Night program aired an interesting investigative report on the widespread sale of Australian agricultural land to foreign interests, particularly the Chinese (Parts 1&2 are above).
According to the report, there is no comprehensive national list of foreign investment in rural land. However, in Queensland, which does maintain a register of foreign interests, 69 countries bought Queensland agricultural land last year, spending $1.7 billion in total – and the biggest spender was China.
The segment raises particular concern that the Chinese are vertically integrating the whole food production process in Australia: purchasing our farms as well as the whole distribution and logistics production line. When combined with the recently signed FTA, which will allow China to import temporary labour to work on its farms, there is the real prospect that Australians will be cut-out completely from the whole food export business, and in turn cut-out from the economic benefits.
Maverick Queensland MP, Bob Katter, is particularly wary:
“It’s not ‘investing’, they’re not opening mines or building dams or anything of that nature, they’re just buying the asset that is there. So it’s not investment, it’s selling your country off.”
“They control the retail market in China. We sell for $2.50 a kilogram, our cattle, it sells in China for $30 or $40 a kilogram. So if you are the person in China getting the $30 or $40 dollar per kilogram then, Australia looks very attractive”.
“But if you’re the poor old farmer in Australia only getting $2.50 you’re going to go broke.”
“The future must belong to a total Chinese ownership of all rural Australia. That’s the economics of what I am talking about”…
“The only reason why you are going to bring Chinese workers into Australia is because you are going to pay them a hell of a lot less and get a hell of a lot more. Work that out for yourself”…
“Bloody Australians have a bit of pride and a bit of back-bone. We are not going to stand aside and have our workers work for nothing. We are not going to stand aside and have our country owned by foreigners. And us becoming modern day serfs working for the foreign landlord… working increasingly for nothing”…
I agree wholeheartedly with Katter’s view.
The worst thing about Australia’s foreign investment regime is that it wrongly confuses the transfer of ownership of assets to foreigners, whereby no real investment (capital deepening) takes place, with genuine foreign investment.
The former (which is the dominant source) is akin to “selling the family jewels”, and should be discouraged, whereas the latter actually adds to the nation’s productive capacity, and should be encouraged.
We are selling-off the farm and our children’s future, pure and simple.