The screening threshold for foreign purchases of agricultural land has been reduced from $252 million to $15 million under the Federal Government’s new foreign investment regime.
Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP welcomed the new regime, saying it would improve scrutiny and transparency around foreign ownership of Australia’s agricultural production.
“I know this issue is of particular concern to farmers and residents in O’Connor,” Mr Wilson said.
“I believe this change strikes the right balance between limiting foreign investment, without undermining Australia’s rich history of foreign ownership and the free market entirely.”
Mr Wilson said the Australian Government understands that the average farming business is smaller than businesses in other sectors, and, that simply applying the $252 million general threshold for foreign investment screening excludes a large part of the agricultural sector.
“This is why we have reduced the screening threshold for proposed foreign purchases of agricultural land by private investors to $15 million,” Mr Wilson said.
“Direct interests in agribusinesses valued at $55 million or more will also be screened by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
“We have also acted to create a new agricultural land foreign ownership register and expanded the agricultural land register to include residential land and water entitlements.”
Mr Wilson said the Government would continue to work collaboratively with the States and Territories to ensure that sales of critical infrastructure to foreign investors are properly scrutinised.
“We are committed to strengthening the system so that O’Connor residents can have confidence that foreign investment will not be contrary to the national interest,” he said.
“Foreign investors who have breached the residential real estate rules had until November 30 to voluntarily come forward under the reduced penalty period. From December 1, any investors caught in breach of the rules will face severe penalties.
“The ATO has taken over full responsibility for enforcing residential real estate purchases by foreign citizens and existing criminal penalties have been increased to $135,000 or three years’ imprisonment, or both, for individuals; and up to $675,000 for companies.”
For more information on the changes visit www.firb.gov.au.