Purchase of Agricultural Land by Foreign Investors
The Abbott Government delivered on one of its key election promises today, introducing new rules for the purchase of agricultural land by foreign investors.
From 1 March 2015, the Foreign Investment Review Board will begin screening foreign purchases of agricultural land valued at $15 million or more, down from the current threshold of $252 million. The lower threshold will also apply to the cumulative value of land owned by the same foreign investor.
Announced in a joint statement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, the policy is not intended to deter foreign investment. Instead, the Government says it is seeking to make foreign ownership in Australia more transparent, and reassure domestic stakeholders that their interests are paramount in Australia’s foreign investment regime.
A register of foreign ownership of agricultural land will also be established. The Australian Tax Office will begin collecting information on all new foreign investments from 1 July 2015, and will stocktake existing ownership interests. This process will be undertaken in consultation with state and territory governments.
The changes follow on from the Prime Minister’s commitment to make the matter a priority for the government after his address at the National Press Club on 2 February 2015. In that address, the Prime Minister said, “I am a friend of foreign investment, but it has to come on our terms and for our benefit.”
“The government will shortly put in place better scrutiny and reporting of foreign purchases of agricultural land and better enforcement of the rules”.
The Coalition has discussed the need for a national foreign ownership register since 2012, and the move has drawn praise from other parties.
An announcement on foreign investment in residential real estate, which the Prime Minister also highlighted in his Press Club address, is expected in the coming weeks.