Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, says Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision to approve the sale of Van Diemen’s Land dairy in Tasmania to Chinese company Moon Lake Investments is “wrong, wrong, wrong”.
And Senator Xenophon has foreshadowed amendments to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act to require the Foreign Investment Review Board and the Treasurer to take into account any credible local bid before approving a foreign investor for key assets.
Senator Xenophon wrote to Treasurer Morrison last month urging him to consider the alternative bid consortium by Tasmanian businesswoman Jan Cameron, which matched the Moon Lake bid, and to query whether the same tax rules would apply to Moon Lake as an Australian investor (letters attached). The Treasurer did impose tax conditions to the sale, but failed to give sufficient weight to the primary issue of the alternative local bid.
“This is Australasia’s biggest dairy with huge potential in local hands to expand and provide premium dairy products to Australia and the world. This lost opportunity shows how the current ‘national interest’ test is as clear as mud and virtually meaningless,” Nick said.
“You can’t blame Moon Lake for wanting to invest in a prime agricultural asset such as VDL. But you can blame the Federal Government for ignoring a local bid and all the benefits that would bring. After all, foreign investment laws are all about encouraging overseas investment where there is an absence of local investment.”
Senator Xenophon who has previously put up legislation seeking greater clarity and transparency in foreign investment, based on New Zealand’s effective laws, will again try to have the law changed by inserting a clause in the legislation that gives proper weight to any alternative local bids for an asset.
Finally, in relation to the Kidman sale, Senator Xenophon urged the Treasurer to consider an alternative bid by trucking magnate Lindsay Fox rather than “repeating the same mistake as with VDL”.