The Turnbull Government has acted to ensure Australians will get every opportunity to purchase agricultural land holdings by introducing tough new rules that mandate vendors to advertise and market agricultural land to Australians first.
The Government is committed to ensuring that Australians have the opportunity to purchase agricultural land.
We welcome foreign investment in Australian agricultural land where it is not contrary to the national interest. Our foreign investment rules facilitate investment while making sure Australia's national interest is protected.
This includes ensuring adequate opportunity for Australians to invest in Australian land.
Concerns around the ability of Australians to participate in the sale process of agricultural land acquisitions have been a factor in my previous foreign investment decisions, including approval of the sale of S. Kidman & Co Limited.
Subject to exceptional circumstances, foreign investors will need to demonstrate that agricultural land they intend to acquire has been part of a public sales process and marketed widely to potential Australian bidders for a minimum of 30 days, and Australian bidders have had an opportunity to participate in the sale process.
All acquisitions of agricultural land by foreign investors for residential development will also be subject to standard development conditions requiring development to commence within a five year period to prevent land banking. This condition already applies to acquisitions of vacant land.
These requirements build on the Government's commitment to boost the transparency and integrity of the foreign investment regime and provide prospective investors with greater certainty about the rules.
The Government's previous initiatives include reducing the screening threshold for foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to $15 million and the establishment of the agricultural land register.
Last July the Government introduced a range of amendments to the foreign investment framework to reduce red tape and facilitate business investment. A key measure was the introduction of business exemption certificates to streamline the approvals process for low risk investors, such as large investment funds, undertaking a program of investment.
These certificates do not exempt foreign investors from the usual scrutiny and are targeted at investment that supports growth, jobs and innovation. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate the potential benefits of the proposed investment and will be subject to reporting conditions.
Business exemption certificates will not be granted for investment in sensitive areas such as critical infrastructure, and will no longer be granted for agribusinesses. They will usually have total acquisition caps of below $1 billion.
The updated guidance is available on the Foreign Investment Review Board website.