POLITICS

'Codswallop!' Joyce Says Farmers Wrong On Foreign Investment

Deputy PM says two knock-backs are a nation's prerogative.

16/08/2016 8:46 AM AEST | Updated 16/08/2016 9:13 AM AEST
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Jason South/Fairfax Media
Deputy Prime Minster Barnaby Joyce would only cite national security grounds.

CANBERRA – Despite two major foreign investment rejections, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has dismissed concerns about potential buyers disappearing as "codswallop".

Multi-billion dollar Chinese bids for the NSW electricity grid, Ausgrid and the giant Kidman cattle property have fallen through in recent months after failing the national interest tests on national security grounds.

Marina Neil, FAIRFAX
The 50.4 per cent sale of Ausgrid, the NSW electricity transmission and distribution network, has been blocked on national security grounds

Both significant bids were knocked back by the Treasurer and the Foreign Investment Review Board but the exact nature of the threats have not been spelled out for security reasons.

The rejections have risked insulting Australia's biggest trading partner and there have been concerns about anti-Chinese sentiment and claims protectionist politicians like Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson are being appeased.

Now, in an unusual intervention, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) is now calling on the Turnbull Government to provide greater clarity around foreign investment rules.

"They need to provide leadership and invest in greater transparency around the screening process," NFF chief executive Tony Mahar told the Australian Financial Review.

"To fail at this will be to constrain our nation's growth and place clear limitations on industries, like agriculture, which have potential to thrive to the benefit of all Australians."

Barnaby Joyce has rejected the NFF's concerns about barriers to foreign investment as a "complete furphy".

"I have the latest report on foreign investment in this country. It is not going down it is going up," the Nationals leader told ABC radio.

"There are people lined up wanting to buy Australian farmland."

Joyce insists Australia will remain a favoured destination for foreign investment.

"This idea that because you say 'no' once or twice out the myriad of times you say "yes" that it is going to have some insidious effect on the price of real estate in Australia is a load of codswallop."

"We have the right to say 'yes', by gosh we have the right to say 'no' too."

"I have great respect for the NFF and Tony Mahar is a great bloke, but if we gave complete transparency on security details of Australia on national television and national radio I don't think that would serve the purpose that we have the national security committee for."

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