THE fight against foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land has begun from a Ballarat office.
Victorian Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan has launched an online petition demanding action against the purchase of farmland by overseas interests.
The petition calls for federal parliament to: ensure foreign investors are not able to purchase Australian agricultural land; to modify the mandate of the Foreign Investment Review Board to allow foreign investors to purchase up to 25-year lease agreements for agricultural land; and to enforce a $15 million threshold on foreign investment of agricultural land.
Senator Madigan insisted the petition did not represent an attack on foreign investment.
“There is a misunderstanding about the difference between foreign investment and foreign ownership,” Senator Madigan said.
“We’re not opposed to foreign investment.
“I met the South Korean ambassador and he’s looking for partnerships that are of benefit to them as an investor and to us as well.
“But selling off land is selling off our future.
“What is there to stop overseas interests shipping all the profits oversees?
“What is there to stop them employing people from overseas?
“It is losing our sovereignty.”
Senator Madigan said 5.8 per cent of the Australian landmass, including 11 per cent of the nation’s agricultural land, was either foreign owned or controlled.
In Victoria, 0.8 per cent of land was foreign owned, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2010, but Senator Madigan said even that represented a significant proportion of land suitable for agriculture.
He said the buying up of land by foreign interests had a detrimental effect on small communities.
“It pushes up prices of land and makes it harder for young people wanting to get into farming,” Senator Madigan said.
“It also means empty houses and changes the whole make-up of a community.
“It just doesn’t work for rural communities.”
To view and sign the petition go to www.wewontsellout.com.au