Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The rage against Chinese ownership of agricultural land in Australia

When the rednecked populist radio jock Alan Jones attacked the Prime Minister on the subject of the free trade agreement with China, The Guardian reported this exchange:
The conservative 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones told Abbott he did not have a mandate for the new trade deal and repeatedly raised concerns over the sale of Australian dairy farms to Chinese entities. A Tasmanian investor, Troy Harper, said last month Chinese interests would be among investors in 50 dairy farms in Victoria as part of a deal reported to be worth $400m. 
After listing other prospective sales involvingChina, Jones told Abbott: “By this time next week who’s going to own little Tasmania? The public are very, very angry about this prime minister, I can tell you.” 
Abbott said he understood people were “always anxious at what’s often referred to as selling off the farm” but “no one can buy land unless the person who currently owns the land wants to sell”. 
“Presumably you only want to sell to an overseas buyer because the overseas buyer is offering you a better price than any Australian. That’s the first point,” Abbott said. 
Jones replied: “Of course … but can Tony Abbott go and buy a farm in China? The answer’s no, prime minister … nor can he buy a coal mine, nor can he buy a steel mill.” 
Abbott said: “Well, Alan, I’m no expert on land ownership arrangements in China but China is still run by the Communist party. I’m not sure that anyone is that able to own land in China on an individual basis.”
With seeming rattled aplomb Abbott had allowed the discussion to take him into territory where he could as usual 'make it up' with the assurance of the dunderhead who just doesn't know but does not fear to say. One of his ministers once famously used Wikipedia to refute official advice on climate change, it's a shame Abbott had not read Wikipedia on property ownership in China.

But it's a greater shame he didn't bother to clarify the situation of actual foreign ownership of agriculture in Australia, to do something to push back against the racist hysteria arising with Chinese interest in Australian agriculture.

The ABC's Rural Department has this excellent article on the subject of foreign ownership of agriculture.

In which, regarding the selling off of 'little Tasmania' we find such information as:

Foreign investment double-standard in Tasmanian dairying
Tasmania's dairy industry is heavily reliant on foreign investment. Its oldest dairy processor, Van Diemen's Land Company (VDL), has been in foreign hands for close to 200 years and the Tamar Valley Dairy recently sold to New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.Cows on the way for milkingPHOTO: A line of cows, on their way for milking (Supplied)While international ownership is nothing new, the story of these two processors highlights the mixed messages sent to some global businesses.
A recent Van Diemen's Land Company (VDL) tender for a multi-million dollar equity investment, sparked community and media concern about a possible Chinese takeover. At least one Chinese company dropped out of the process as a result of the negative press.
Yet last month Tamar Valley Dairy, a wholly-Australian owned dairy processor, was sold to a New Zealand agribusiness giant, without a murmur about foreign takeovers.
It's bigotry, ignorance, racism... and the Prime Minister has no way from his own cubby house at the end of that street to come out and help clarify the situation. He has risen to office on the tide of his fomented madnesses of populist hysteria. Who knows where he will go now to get it back behind him..

 Before you wander off to weep a bit, consider this:
...just under 99 per cent of Australian farm businesses are fully Australian owned and just under 90 per cent of farmland is fully Australian owned. 
But of course that's the work of public servants and this government knows what it thinks of public servants as it knows what it thinks of the ABC, with its evil propensity to deliver facts to refute government wisdom.

The federal parliament's own research organisation prepared this detailed study early in 2014. So the facts are knowable in the parliament. Here is  table from that paper:

That staid old farmers' paper The Land tried to get a few facts out in this article.

The author of this comment has tongue in cheek, click on name for other irreverent fun:
20/06/2014 9:45:57 AM
You can't fool us with statistics. We know there are foreigners under the bed. They are right beside the reds. 

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