22 February 2016
Media Release - #2016012, 2016

Register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements

Joint media release with
the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP
Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Treasurer, Scott Morrison, have today released a consultation paper as part of the government's work to establish a register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements.

Minister Joyce said the register would give greater oversight of the ownership of Australian water assets, and he encouraged interested stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed approach for implementing the register.

"Foreign investment plays an important role in the growth and productivity of our agriculture sector, and the government continues to welcome foreign investment wherever it will support our long-term national interests," Minister Joyce said.

"However, we have also listened to the community's calls for greater clarity and oversight when it comes to foreign ownership of water access entitlements.

"This is why we have committed to developing a national register that will give us a clear and accurate picture of foreign investment in our water access entitlements, and will be introducing legislation by 1 December this year to give effect to the new arrangements."

Minister Joyce noted that the government has already made significant progress in its work to increase scrutiny and transparency in foreign investment in agricultural land.

"It makes good sense that we take a similar approach to our water resources—which are also a vital national asset, integral to our productive capacity," Minister Joyce said.

"These foreign ownership registers together will provide greater transparency to the public, participants in water markets and the agricultural sector about the value, extent and—over time—trends in foreign investment in the sector."

The Treasurer noted the government's plan to consult key stakeholders, including industry representatives and state and territory governments, in the development of the register of water access entitlements.

"Our agricultural land and water resources are arguably our nation's most valuable natural assets—so it is important that we have a good understanding of foreign investment levels in these areas, and that those investments are subject to appropriate consideration and scrutiny," Mr Morrison said.

"This is why we are not only introducing registers of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water access entitlements, but have also reduced the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) scrutiny threshold for private sector foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to a cumulative total of $15 million."

To find out more about the register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements, or to read the consultation paper, visit the Treasury website.

Further information on the Agricultural Land Register is available on the ATO website.

Further information on the reforms to strengthen the foreign investment framework is available on the FIRB website.