A former Australian politician has accused foreign investors, including Qatar, of purchasing agricultural land in Australia in exchange for implementing a political agenda.
Speaking in response to a column by former Liberal Party politician, Alexander Downer, Nick Minchin claimed that state-owned company’s motives for acquiring land abroad are less commercially-driven than private investors.
“The real issue is the purchases are being made by a state-owned enterprise,” he said.
“SOE (state-owned enterprises) direct investment in Australia’s agriculture and resource industries raises quite serious issues which Alexander’s column fails to address.
“The truth is many Australians are just opposed to foreigners investing in land.
“If that’s the message we want to send to the world, then we will end up a poor, isolated, sad place. We need to encourage investment in SA, not send investors to Latin America and Africa,” he added.
Michin’s comments follow days after it was reported that Hassad Australia, an Australian-based subsidiary of the Qatari Hassad Food Company, was interested in purchasing agricultural land in Australia, including a AUD$9bn (US9.2bn) cattle estate.
Media reports suggested the firm will pay up to 40 percent above the going market rate for the real estate and also requires sellers strict sign confidentially agreements.
Downer defended the report, which has angered many Australians, saying the country needs more foreign investment in resources and property.
Hassad Australia currently owns nine Australian farms selling produce to both domestic and foreign markets.
Trade between gas-rich Qatar and Australia stood at US$1.03bn in 2011-2012, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.