NSW Nationals delegates vote to adopt a policy to place a moratorium over sale of farmland to foreign entities, including locally controlled overseas-offshoots, at the party’s annual conference.NSW NATIONALS have now got an official policy to halt the sale of agricultural assets to foreign entities–pending a review of the register of foreign government-ownership.
The partyalso backs a call toextend foreign ownership laws to include local entities that are owned or controlled by foreign government entities.
The policy motion,brought by a four branches from across the state to the annual conference at Tweed Heads on Saturday,generated heated debate.
Discussion traversed hot-button topics, including the sale of S. Kidman and Co.’s cattle empire and Chinese state enterprises activity in Australia.
Several state and federal MPs took to the floor to oppose the policy, but grassroots sentiment won the day.
NSW Primary Industry, Landsand Water Minister Niall Blair opposed the motion. He policy should focus on the long-term outlook of local agriculture “rather than saying to (foreign) companies ‘we don’t want you, goaway’”.
“Enterprises that buy and sell in this country will support young farmers,” Mr Blair said.
Gilgandra delegate Warwick Moppet backed the move, based on negative impacts offoreign companies buying assets for food security.
“This competes with our young farmers,” Mr Moppett said.
Tambar Springs delegate Ruth Strang said the federal government’s policies were effective, and many foreign property acquisitions had injected welcome funding to improve land and equipment.
Forbes delegateMax Swiftsaid “Australians should own Australia” and roused the room to back the policy.
“Free trade is a nice feeling. Asset sales help us balance the books. But can we go overseas and buy land? No! For God’s sake, grow a spine!” he said.
Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton said sales there are already mandates for theForeign Investment Review Board’sto scrutinise sales worthmore than $15 million. More regulation would impact Australian owners, he said.
“How far do you want the government to control what you do?,” he asked.
Mr Coulton pointed to the contribution of UK and US companies in pioneering the cotton industry and, unsuccessfully, asked delegates to vote against the motion.
It remains to be seen what, if any, impact the NSW state branch’s new policy will have on the Coalition government.
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