With consensus building across political parties to introduce a register to track foreign ownership of agricultural land and water resources in Australia, it is time for a broad public discussion about where the long-term national interest lies and how to protect it for today and tomorrow, the Australian Greens said today.
"Keeping control of our prime agricultural land and water resources is critical for the well-being of the Australian community, and I look forward to a productive and sensible public discussion about how we can act today to protect prime food growing land for tomorrow," Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said today.
"Tony Abbott's move today to adopt elements of policies promoted by the Greens, Senator Xenophon, the Nationals, and others concerned to maintain agricultural land and water resources in Australian hands is an important step towards building political consensus on this important long-term issue.
"All major parties now support a register so we can actually keep track of how much of our agricultural land and water resources are owned by foreign governments. Already, as food shortages elsewhere in the world worsen these countries are bypassing global trade and sending food back to their own countries.
"A register and transparency provisions as to who own a foreign entity are vital first steps so the community can have access to the kind of data we need to make informed decisions, and the Greens have already committed to working across the parliament to getting the most sensible outcome.
"But we also need to work towards appropriate controls on transactions, and I am pleased that the Coalition is grappling with this issue.
"Senator Xenophon and I have a bill before the Senate to change the way the Foreign Investment Review Board treats acquisition of our agricultural land and water resources and there are similarities with what is proposed by the Coalition, although we differ in particular on thresholds and on codification of the national interest test.
"I am keen to discuss with both the Coalition and the government how we find cross-parliamentary agreement on these questions which are important not just to farmers but to all Australians who understand that decisions we make about our land and water today are critical for our well-being tomorrow."