Wednesday, 9 March 2016

What Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan did not tell the Grafton Chamber of Commerce's February breakfast meeting when he was asked about foreign ownership of land and overseas workers

This was the incumbent Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan as reported in The Daily Examiner on 22 February 2016:

A member of the chamber executive, Mark Butler, asked Mr Hogan what the government was doing to combat countries like China buying up large tracts of Australian land and the prospect of those owners employing Australian workers……

Mr Hogan said the government, led by the Nationals, was fighting foreign ownership.

This included setting a minimum property sale of $15 million before the sale was brought to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Mr Hogan said the limit in 2013 had been $250 million.

"Even then I think that's ($15 million) too high, but at least it's cumulative so, if they buy an $8 million and a $7 million property, they appear on the board's radar," he said.

What he didn’t tell this collection of potential voters in the forthcoming federal election is that investors from free trade agreement countries such as Chilean, Chinese (once the trade agreement comes into effect), Japanese, New Zealand, South Korean and United States investors are not automatically held to that $15 million threshold.

Yes, the $15 million threshold for purchase of agricultural land is cumulative for investors from China, Japan, Korea, but the agribusiness threshold for China, Japan, and Korea is $55 million, based on the value of the consideration for the acquisition and the total value of other interests held by the foreign person [with associates] in the entity. While the agribusiness threshold for Chile, New Zealand and United States is $1,094 million.

Other foreign investors can purchase agribusinesses up to a $55 million threshold, based on the value of the consideration for the acquisition and the total value of other interests held by the foreign person [with associates] in the entity.

For investors from non-free trade agreement countries Singapore and Thailand, where agricultural land is to be used wholly and exclusively for a primary production business the threshold is $50 million (otherwise the land is not agricultural land).

In addition, Foreign persons (including foreign government investors) are able to apply for an exemption certificate to cover a program of acquisitions of interests in agricultural land.
Exemption certificates for agricultural land would generally be considered where:
* the total proposed value of acquisitions over a three year period does not exceed $100 million (or if acquiring for use for an activity other than agriculture, $30 million). This includes acquisitions made individually or under an exemption certificate;
* the regions or localities where the agricultural land in which interests are to be acquired are defined clearly.
[Australian Government, Foreign Investment Review Board, Monetary thresholds, 2016]

Potentially this means a private investor from China or a Chinese corporation can buy farm lands valued at up to a cumulative $100 million over three years before appearing on the Turnbull Government's own political radar. 

All of the aforementioned provisions leaving plenty of wriggle room for investment in agricultural land and businesses and definitely not what Kevin Hogan was spinning the good folk of Grafton last month.


Kevin Hogan continues to demonstrate that he either doesn’t understand his government’s own rules concerning foreign ownership or he is deliberately misleading his electorate.

ABC News, 9 March 2016:

A National Party MP is hoping local jobs will not be lost as a result of a Chinese buy-out of north coast NSW macadamia farms.

Four properties covering 380 hectares at Dunoon near Lismore, and formerly run by US-based Hancock Farms, have been bought by a Chinese group known as "Discovery".

The member for Page Kevin Hogan said he was aware of rumours of a sale.
Mr Hogan said a Free Trade Agreement with China did not mean the door was now open to foreign workers.

"It's a well-known fact within the free trade agreements that we do with any country, not just China, because let's not just make this a China thing, that any company and there's been companies that have owned Australian assets for 200 years and with every free trade agreement the work has to be offered to Australians first," Mr Hogan said.

Kevin Hogan said any foreign investment greater than $15 million had to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, and he was waiting on information on whether the macadamia sale was vetted.

"We made an election commitment to lower it from the ridiculous amount of $ 250 million when it used to be triggered to look at a purchase if it was in the national interest, we have lowered that from 250 to 15 [million dollars] so if this entity has triggered over $15 million it would have absolutely gone before the Foreign Investment Review Board," Mr Hogan said.

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