Perhaps the biggest story not covered by the media is the sale of Australian property and farms to overseas corporations.
A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) claims there is no registration of a sale unless it exceeds $244m. This includes both property and business/farm sales. ABARES notes, ‘Some 44 million hectares, or 11.3 per cent of Australian agricultural land, was wholly or partly owned by foreigners, of which around half had majority Australian ownership.’ Another interesting claim from the report is that it’s the US, not China, that is buying up our land. Crikey’s Bernard Keane also wrote an article on this report, and pointed out that, ‘US investors get special treatment under Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) courtesy of the Howard government’s Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), followed by Malaysia, then the British.
Chinese firms had no investment applications at all that year.’ Lynne Wilkinson of Ausbuy weighed into the debate with a recent comparison to New Zealand. ‘They give priority to their own wealth creators and long-term national interests,’ she writes. ‘New Zealand dairy farmers recently won a case in their supreme court to stop the sale of eight dairy farms to China. The case was won on the basis that the long-term economic value of these farms would be lost to the New Zealand economy if foreign interests bought them. In the meantime our governments give subsidies to foreign companies to set up business in competition with local manufacturers (OLAM Singapore almond processing), or sell our assets and intellectual property to foreign interests (Victorian Dairy Research Centre to China) leaving local bidders out.’
The issue of sovereignty can sometimes be confused with being patriotic. The ‘patriot’ concept, however, causes much misery, bigotry and stupidity. Author of How To Make Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie, even said of it: ‘Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism – and wars.’
No, what I am talking about is an understanding by a nation that the land it occupies should be in the stewardship and autonomy of its entire population. Just ask Venezuela, who nationalised their resource sector despite the best efforts of the US. Both our major parties continue to ignore this important issue; the Independents and Greens are the only who have courage to speak up.