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February 12, 2015

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says many people in his electorate will welcome the announcement of improved oversight of foreign purchase of agricultural land.

The Commonwealth Government has announced it will reduce the screening threshold of foreign purchases by the Foreign Investment Review Board from $252 million to $15 million from March 1, 2015.

The new $15 million threshold will apply to the cumulative value of agricultural land owned by the foreign investor, including the proposed purchase.

 The Government will also introduce a foreign ownership register of agricultural land to strengthen reporting requirements.

From July 1, the Australian Tax Office will compile data on foreign investment in agricultural land regardless of value. There will also be a stocktake of existing agricultural land ownership by foreign interests.

Mr Chester said the measures were key election promises by the Coalition and there was wide support from within regional communities.

“This announcement is not about deterring foreign investment. It is simply about knowing what is going on in our own backyard,” Mr Chester said.

“Foreign investment has always been critical to Australia’s agricultural success, starting from British and American investment in the years after European settlement, and we are going to see increased interest from our Asian partners in the years ahead.

“With this in mind, it is appropriate that the Australian Government has a robust and transparent way of providing a clear picture of which foreign entities are investing in our soil.”

Mr Chester said the old threshold of $252 million was meaningless, particularly in areas like Gippsland.

“I’d be astounded if any property in Gippsland would sell for $252 million, let alone on a cumulative basis. Foreign entities would need to buy a lot of dairy farms or vegetable flats to reach that threshold,” Mr Chester said.

“And under the previous arrangement, a foreign entity could have bought multiple properties worth millions, without regulatory oversight.

“Now we will have a common sense threshold, where we look at any sale purchase over $15 million, providing peace of mind for Australians who want to be kept informed.”

Mr Chester said the Government was considering recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee inquiry regarding foreign investment in residential real estate.

CAPTION: Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, seen here in Canberra, are among the Nationals MPs who advocated for a foreign ownership register of agricultural land.



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