Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, welcomes the move taken by the Liberal and Nationals government to protect Australian businesses and investments that are under stress due to the Coronavirus.
Today’s announcement of temporary changes to the Foreign Investment Review framework are designed to protect Australia’s national interest as we deal with the economic implications arising from the spread of the Coronavirus.
Effective from the date of announcement, all proposed foreign investments into Australia subject to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (the Act) will require approval, regardless of value or the nature of the foreign investor.
“It is important that during these uncertain and trying times, businesses across Mallee and Australia are protected from predatory and opportunistic foreign investors.” Dr Webster said.
“It has been reported to me that prior to the current Coronavirus situation, there was significant interest in businesses in Mallee from foreign investors. These new changes mean that if businesses are under financial stress, foreign interests cannot poach them unfairly.
“These changes will provide a significant protection for agricultural land.
“Foreign investment is still welcome, and in some cases may be essential for a business to continue, but it must be in the best interest of our region and of Australia.” Dr Webster said.
Foreign investment review laws will be changed to ensure the interests of regional, rural and remote businesses are protected through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack advocated for these changes as leader of The National Party, and welcomed their introduction.
“Foreign investment in Australia can be very beneficial, especially when it supports Australian lives and Australian livelihoods,” Mr McCormack said.
“This pandemic is placing extraordinary stress on regional economies and local businesses and we will keep taking every measure possible to safeguard their future.
“Regional Australia is resilient and we will get through this crisis together.”
The temporary change will be achieved by reducing to $0 the monetary screening thresholds for all foreign investments under the Act. By temporarily reducing the foreign investment thresholds, the Australian Government will ensure appropriate oversight over all proposed foreign investment during this time.
To ensure sufficient time for screening applications, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) will be working with existing and new applicants to extend timeframes for reviewing applications from 30 days to up to six months.
In doing so, the Government will prioritise urgent applications for investments that protect and support Australian business and Australian jobs.
“Even in these uncertain times, Australia continues to welcome foreign investment, which remains vital to our long-term economic success and stability. The Government recognises that foreign investment will play an important part in helping many businesses get to the other side – securing jobs and supporting our economic recovery” Dr Webster said.
“However, these measures are necessary to safeguard the national interest as the coronavirus outbreak puts intense pressure on the Australian economy and Australian businesses”.
These are temporary measures that will remain in place for the duration of the current crisis.
The Treasurer will continue to review foreign investment proposals against the national interest on a case-by-case basis. Where appropriate, conditions will be applied proportionately to address identified risks on a non-discriminatory basis.
The changes announced today have the full support of the FIRB and its Chairman, Mr David Irvine AO.
Further administrative details to give effect to this announcement will be published on the FIRB website in due course.