Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said there was no need to panic over figures that show China’s hold on Australian agricultural land has increased dramatically over the last 12 months.
The Australian Taxation Office released its second Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land report recently, which shows China’s ownership of Australian agricultural land has increased from 1463000ha to 14422000ha in the last year.
But Mr Drum said despite the dramatic increase, there was no need to get carried away.
‘‘The minority holdings that the Chinese have in the Kidman property, which is large land, is the reason for Chinese ownership growing so much,’’ Mr Drum said.
‘‘It’s an alarming trend but they own 33 per cent of one investment (the Kidman property). As long as they pay taxes all the way through, we shouldn’t have any fears.’’
Mr Drum said the country’s agricultural sector was still very attractive.
‘‘There should be no surprise that foreign and Australian corporates are investing in agriculture,’’ he said.
Despite the large increase in China, overall foreign ownership has decreased.
‘‘The total area of agricultural land in Australia with a level of foreign ownership has fallen from 52.1million hectares at June 30, 2016 to 50.5 million hectares at June 30 this year,’’ the report said.
In response to comments made by National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar about the effectiveness of the report, Mr Drum said it was a ‘‘fair comment’’.
‘‘As it is only the second report I think there is room for further improvement. I think that’s a fair comment.
‘‘Foreign investment has been around for nearly 100 years and has been a catalyst and stimulus for the economy and now we have a registry to keep an eye on the level,’’ he said.
To make sure the levels don’t get out of hand, Mr Drum said the main thing was to keep companies accountable by making sure they were employing Australian workers and paying the correct amount of tax.