Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon slams ‘political’ decision to block Kidman & Co sale
Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has slammed the Government for its decision to prevent the sale of Kidman & Co to foreign investors.
The sale of Kidman & Co — Australia’s largest cattle property portfolio consisting of ten cattle stations — was blocked by Treasurer Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison said the size and location of the properties meant that foreign investment in the land — equating to 1.3 per cent of Australia’s land mass — would be “contrary to the national interest”.
But Mr Fitzgibbon said foreign investment was essential to ensure the sustainability of Australian agriculture.
He told the ABC Australia was “running a discriminatory foreign investment regime scheme” to the detriment of local farmers.
“Australian agriculture needs enormous amounts of infrastructure investment in the coming years and much of that investment, by necessity, will come from foreign sources,” he said.
“Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison need to understand that they stand in the way of our ultimate success in terms of the dining boom and those demand opportunities in Asia.”
Despite his support for the sale, Mr Fitzgibbon — a former defence minister — acknowledged there could be national security issues with one section of land located next to the Woomera Protected Area.
Mr Morrison had previously defended his decision to block the sale, stating that he welcomed foreign investment but he “will always make sure that that investment is done in Australia’s national interest”.
Decision on Kidman & Co a ‘political’ move: Robb
Mr Fitzgibbon also responded to comments made by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who told Fairfax Media the decision was “political”.
Mr Robb has denied he has been critical of the decision after calling for greater foreign investment in Australian agriculture.
A spokesperson for the Trade Minister said he does not oppose the decision made by the Treasurer, but Mr Fitzgibbon said Mr Robb was right to call the move political.
“Andrew Robb’s intervention as a senior cabinet minister is extraordinary, and adds to the theory that the decision on Kidman was purely a political one and not one in Australia’s interest or in the interest of Australian agriculture,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also weighed into the issue, saying there was “division and dysfunction” within the Government over the blocked sale.
“You’ve got the Treasurer of Australia saying one thing about foreign investment and you’ve got the Trade Minister saying something different,” he said.
“This is a very unhealthy message to send foreign investors.”
Mr Shorten also accused the Government of being hypocritical for citing national security concerns as a reason for blocking the sale, stating that the Darwin port lease went ahead despite the presence of Defence facilities.
The ABC understands eight bidders were shortlisted for the purchase of the property portfolio, both Australian and international.
It has been reported that a bidding war above $350 million has been playing out between China’s Genius Link Group and fellow Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin for the vast cattle enterprise.