The federal government is introducing new rules for foreign investors looking to purchase agricultural land holdings or when trying to buy electricity assets.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government is committed to ensuring that Australians have the opportunity to purchase agricultural land.
“We welcome foreign investment in Australian agricultural land where it is not contrary to the national interest,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on Thursday.
Foreign investors will need to demonstrate that agricultural land they intend to acquire has been part of a public sales process and marketed widely to potential Australian bidders for a minimum of 30 days, and Australian bidders have had an opportunity to participate in the sale process.
Likewise, parties interested in acquiring or selling critical infrastructure assets like electricity transmission, distribution and generation networks will be encouraged to engage the Foreign Investment Review Board as early as possible to identify if ownership restrictions or conditions apply.
“Each case will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Mr Morrison said in a separate statement with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
“Electricity distribution and transmission infrastructure are critical national assets and a key security safeguard is the diversity of ownership of these assets,” they said.
The government is aiming to provide clarity to potential investors while avoiding surprises for state government and private sellers of electricity assets.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor will look at the details, but thought the changes don’t appear to be a substantive change to what is already open to the treasurer to decide under the FIRB rules.
“What this announcement does appear to be is another response to the extensive criticism the Liberal Party received in its handling of foreign buyer interest in the sale of the NSW electricity assets and when it completely dropped the ball over the sale of the Darwin port to foreign interests,” he told AAP.