Foreign Investment - Unproductive scare mongering detracts from rational debate about our position in Asian 21st Century

Thursday 27 September, 2012 | Tags: Economic Policy

There has been a heightened sense of awareness about foreign investment over recent months, particularly in Queensland. One could be forgiven for thinking we may be invaded by our near neighbours, one cotton or dairy farm at a time.

Anyone who believes that our future is at risk because of foreign investment has been misled. In fact, quite the contrary is true – we may find ourselves ‘at risk’ if we don’t embrace foreign investment.

Quite simply, Australia would not be the country it is today without foreign investment. Australia does not have the population to secure the growth that is needed to continue to uphold our first world standards of living that we all so much adore.

Queensland businesses rely on opportunities that are generated by investments in big projects – not only in agriculture, but resources, construction, tourism and other key sectors that underpin economic growth in our State.

While there are some legitimate concerns about food security, there are advocates who are using these concerns as a smokescreen to detract from any real and substantial argument in favour foreign investment.

Rather than inflaming fear, attention should turn to more pressing issues confronting businesses in Queensland like burdensome red tape compliance and industrial relations issues that are severely affecting Queensland business operations on a day-to-day basis.

Any changes to the current system under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 should be approached with caution.

It is important that any maintain ministerial discretion when deciding what is and is not in the national interest. Likewise, any moves to lower the threshold of below $244 million should be carefully considered.

Establishing a threshold that is too low will only add to the workload of the FIRB and create unnecessary compliance regulations for all involved in the process, potentially acting as a disincentive to prospective investors and vendors alike.

Of course, there are some improvements that can be made to the current system. Arguably the most pressing is the availability of comprehensive data on foreign investments.

The Coalition’s discussion paper raises the possibility of establishing a national register to fill the void.

Queensland is well positioned to lend advice from experience –we already operate a register that tracks foreign land acquisitions (both agricultural and urban).

However any attempt to significantly alter the current system should be avoided. Given that only 1 per cent of Australia’s 135,648 agricultural businesses are wholly or partly owned by foreigners, this whole dialogue is a storm in a teacup.

It is a shame the media is reporting only a few vocal minorities who deride foreign investment. It sends the wrong message and has the potential to derail our economy in a way that many people would not believe is possible. This situation should be avoided at all costs.

In the Asian 21st Century, we all need to send the message that Queensland is open for business. Not only do we welcome foreign investment, but we encourage it.

Without foreign investment we risk stifling our economic growth, missing opportunities for our local businesses and endangering the way of life that we have worked so hard to achieve and maintain.

You can find a copy of CCIQ’s media release here.

You can find a copy of CCIQ’s submission to the Coalition’s discussion paper on Foreign Investment in Australian Agricultural Land and Agribusiness here.


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