Tag Archives: national interest test

Is Free Trade Fair?

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
And so we come to you, our (goods), our heart above our head
Though we see the danger there
If there’s a chance for us, then we don’t care. (Mercer and Bloom)

It is welcome news to see some discussion from Westpac’s Senior Banker Rob Whitfield about the FTA with China. (No need to give away farm in FTA – the Australian 15/9/14). Years spent sitting on the side lines waiting to play might not seem so bad if we look at what has happened when we played the FTA game in recent years. In our rush to sign FTAs we have not considered whether they are fair to Australian interests. Trade is important, but should be win/win.

Over the past four decades our trading partner options have changed from a UK European focus. We were effectively locked out of the old trading relationships with the formation of the EU. The USA is a major trading partner with investment in many of our major companies operating here but did not necessarily give reciprocal rights to our farmers when we signed a FTA with them in 2005.

In recent years our exporters have had to deal with a high AUD$. Our mineral commodity exports hid the decline in exports in our food and manufacturing sectors to the national bottom line. Manufacturing has struggled to stay viable or move off shore, resulting in loss of jobs and critical mass in the supply chain in key industries. When companies close, the flow on effect is felt by those businesses here that supply goods and services. We lose critical mass.

Australia has had a wake-up call to better manage our income and debt, but we have not counted the costs of past Agreements. We can always live in hope.

However, hope will not pay our bills if we do not own the exports or set an equitable price for suppliers. And when our dollar goes down we will be dependent on rising import costs that impact inflation. Viable, locally owned and sourced businesses would be a buffer against our dependence on imports.

The idea that everyone gains from Free Trade Agreements is an oft cited motherhood statement, but not necessarily true if our history is any indication. For example, while not the primary cause for withdrawal by the motor vehicle industry here, its decline was exacerbated by FTA in 2005 with Thailand which allowed access for cars from South Korea and Japan via the back door into our market. In that case, we did not get a bilateral agreement so our exports to Thailand had the burden of high tariffs. Score – they win we lose. Instead we blame the workers’ wages when factories close.

History is not kind to our negotiators. This situation is not helped by a naive and commercially, inexperienced public service, who are our negotiators and political advisers.

   To gain from FTAs we have to obtain access to sales that our businesses and growers would not get locally or from other customers, and in return give access for imports of similar dollar values, but not in direct competition with our own.

     Since some of our domestic companies will lose as a result of import competition, our negotiators need to continually model the possible gains and losses. The least they could do would be to consult locally owned businesses not just the big end of town.

The rest of the world wants to “Feed Asia” and they are doing their own deals. Their own producers and processors will get priority. Agricultural products unfortunately are politically sensitive in most countries who “protect their farmers”, but not here.

The lure to allow these Agreements with Asia is concealing the real picture here. Current negotiation’s main target is agricultural products. However as we have highlighted over many years the majority of our food export commodities are controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign interests.

Fresh food may present other opportunities, but if we are importing fresh produce to satisfy FTAs then where are the efficiencies in transport costs and quality controls for our producers? Where is the assurance that our consumers and processors have access to quality, safe and affordable food here? Will AQIS and Biosecurity Australia be resourced to ensure diseases do not enter, and will poor growing conditions put our people at risk? Will our labelling laws require and enforce Country of Origin so consumers are free to choose?

    Earlier this year the Government is promising 1745 jobs will be created in the next year here, and the boost will continue for at least 15 years, with 950 new jobs expected in 2030. (Source DFAT). However, there is no evidence in government papers where these jobs will be created and what levels of exports are from Australian owned operators. Nor have we identified how many jobs will be lost.

A quick review of DFAT shows import duty into Australia shows 0% to 10% on many of the goods we are proposing to open our doors to off shore. Whereas in the case of South Korea our exports in the same products have export tariffs between 10% and over 500% plus and will be gradually removed over 15 years. Does this sound like a fair deal? Ask our rice growers who have been excluded.

Some owned growers and manufacturers will gain opportunities in these Agreements. But those products excluded are not happy.  Without due consideration of the real benefits to Australia we will continue to “paint ourselves into a corner” exposing our economy. It has been all too easy to call “takeover of our wealth creating assets” investment, locking Australia out of the decisions, real profits and putting our jobs, skills and reinvestment at risk.

And when we consider that many of our agriculture exports here are controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign interests, and our farmers’ income is declining as their on farm debt rises, then the real value to Australia is reduced further. It does not augur well for deals with China.  Who is looking after our interests?

The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) Lynne Wilkinson CEO

Stop the Sale of Graincorp – it is not in our national interest – please consider the sale of these assets continue to threaten our food security. How can we pay off our national debt if we continue to sell our wealth creating assets?

If you do nothing else this week send two emails before the election to these two politicians.


[email protected]
[email protected]

Spread the word for your friends to do the same. Here are the reasons why.
Whoever is the treasurer next week will have the final say on the sale of this public company to the US owned ADM. The sale has already been approved by the FIRB (all public servants) and the ACCC. Together these organisations have a history of never saying no to foreign takeovers. Every major food commodity except rice is now majority controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign interests.
It is not foreign investment when they buy our assets and our cash flow. It is takeover.
When foreign companies or countries own the assets beyond the farm gate is makes our farmers price takers not price makers. Foreign owned companies do not pay the same taxes as Australian owned businesses – only 10% withholding tax on their declared profits, and borrow off shore at low interest rates which then adds to our national debt.
We do not count the cost of loss to Australian if these assets are owned by private interests or a public company which does not trade here.
Already 20% of our grain exports are owned by Cargill a private US family company that also controls many of our beef exports and the processing infrastructure. Once Australian grain was sold as the best in the world, now it is bundled in so that the foreign owners’ countries give priority to their own.
25% of Graincorp shareholders have said no. ADM needs 51% to buy the company.
If they want to invest then they can buy up to 49% of the shares and keep the company here so Australians have the chance to invest in our own country and companies.
If Australia is to take advantage of the Asian Century then we urgently need to secure the benefits all Australians will derive.

Selling Our Land & Wealth Creating Assets to Foreign Interests & Countries

If anyone can put up a rational case for what is happening in this country and who is really making the decisions, then we would welcome the discussion.

The sale of our wealth creating assets, our land and our businesses continues to be condoned unabated by our decision makers in Canberra. The countries buying our assets do not reciprocate the opportunities even to their own citizens. No one seems prepared to count the long term cost to Australia’s long term security and financial viability when you combine the lenient tax rules for foreign interest to buy our assets and cash flow, and the Australians acting as real estate agents with companies set up to siphon profits off shore.

Again we see a Chinese company not only purchase the farm, it has bought the port facilities that were built using Australian taxpayers money. The Chinese company has been allowed to buy assets giving it a vertically integrated operation from paddock to plate to sell to itself. While over the past few decades we have allowed the control of every major food commodity except rice to be controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign companies. Several of which are privately owned and dominate in more than one commodity sector.

How does it benefit Australia when they own the land, the supply chain and are exporting to themselves?

How does it benefit Australia when Australian governments give foreign interests money to invest here – $450M from WA Government and $174M from the Federal Government to encourage the Chinese to buy the lease for Stage 2 of the Ord – a $600m asset from which they will benefit. Fifty years is a long time in a country’s history.

It has taken Australian over 200 years to build these assets, it will take less than two decades to dismantle our control of these.

In the meantime our farmers are under great financial pressure and our government wants to “lend” them money at variable market interest rates to help them survive the drought.  Is this representing our short and long term interests?

 

Australian Broadcasting Corporation http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2013/s3809433.htm

Broadcast: 23/07/2013

Reporter: Bronwyn Herbert

China’s biggest state-owned agricultural conglomerate has bought farmland and port facilities in Western Australia and the move has sharply divided responses.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: It’s an emotive issue across rural Australia. Cashed up foreigners buying land and speeding the demise of the family farm.

In the latest example China’s biggest State owned agricultural conglomerate has for the first time invested in the Australian market, buying up vast tracks of farmland in Western Australia as well as port facilities to ship its grain out of the country.

There’s no doubt foreign capital helps boost economic growth but it’s also breeding resentment, as Bronwyn Herbert reports.

WILL CROZIER, VICSTOCK GLOBAL: Yeah, g’day, mate, it’s Will. Good, really good, thanks. Look, just want to go over that asset register for our eastern property.

BRONWYN HERBERT, REPORTER: Will Crozier has a lot on his mind. The former farmer from Geelong is now an international deal maker in agriculture.

WILL CROZIER: Yeah, fantastic. Ten mills, overnight.

BRONWYN HERBERT: And the purchase of this farm four hours south of Perth is one of the biggest he’s negotiated. It’s part of a $150 million investment by China’s largest agricultural company.

WILL CROZIER: The vision is massive. The development is massive so far and it’s only a start.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Beidahuang lays claim to being the world’s biggest farming operation. It already grows more than 70 million tonnes of grain globally, has a permanent work force of 300,000 people and operates in more than 30 countries. But the purchase of more than 40,000 hectares of farmland in WA’s south is the company’s first foray into Australian agriculture and this is its first crop.

WILL CROZIER: Beidahuang farm all over the world. They’re the biggest farming operation in the world. I think it’s 70 million tonnes of grain annually that they crop. This is the first time that we’ve, that they’ve been introduced to Australia, Australian techniques, Australian technology and Australian climate.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Beidahuang through its new Australian subsidiary Heilongjiang Agriculture, hasn’t just bought the farm. It’s also purchased port facilities at nearby Albany to vertically integrate its operations. This creates its own paddock to plate supply chain from WA to northern China.

MARY NENKE, WEST AUSTRALIAN FARMER: They’re going to be shipping the grain out of Albany. Are they going to be bringing in empty ships or are they going to be filling them with their own machinery, their own fertiliser, their own chemical?

BRONWYN HERBERT: Mary Nenke and her family are fourth generation wheat farmers in southern WA who have also diversified into yabby farming.

MARY NENKE: These are business people, they’re not there for our good, they’re there for their good. In our patch there are people paying up to 17 per cent interest. These people will be, you know, it will be Chinese money, what interest rates will they be paying? When you can’t compete in your own country what next?

WILL CROZIER: There’s nothing to be afraid about. This is simply a new stream of capital coming in to rural Australia.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Beidahuang deal like the Ord River expansion signed last year with a private Chinese firm are exactly what the WA Premier Colin Barnett and his ministry are promoting.

KEN BASTON, WA AGRICULTURE MINISTER: I believe that that investment, you know, employs people, employs jobs, it has regional development because they’re obviously they’re not city centric, they’re out in the country so regional areas thrive with that capital investment there. And of course what we’re actually doing is we’re supplying the food chain of the world.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Bill Heffernan leads the Senate rural and regional affairs committee which has been investigating whether purchases like these are in the national interest.

BILL HEFFERNAN, LIBERAL SENATOR: It would be a great pity if Australia’s farmers ended up as tenants and tenant farmers and unlike the prospect of capital growth to hand on to the family, only have the job to hand on and I guess there’s a warning there.

BRONWYN HERBERT: At last count around 11 per cent of the nation’s farmland was in foreign hands. But Bill Heffernan says no one really knows what the exact figure is, which is why it’s crucial a foreign land registry is set up.

BILL HEFFERNAN: We need to do that and then we need to model that out for 20 or 30 years given the present law and the present practices and then say to ourselves “is that where we want to be in 20 or 30 years as a nation?” Because it’s my view that under the present arrangements we are redefining sovereignty.

MARY NENKE: The thing is they’re saying it’s good for us. Would it be good if all our suburbs of the city were owned by China and then we were renting back the houses from China? That’s exactly what it is. They’re suggesting, and banks are suggesting this, that it would be better for farmers to sell their land and then rent it back.

BRONWYN HERBERT: For Will Crozier, it’s the way of the future.

WILL CROZIER: Looking at substantial gains, we’re looking at substantial markets coming in here. It’s a great thing for Australia. I’m very, very proud to be a part of it.

LEIGH SALES: Bronwyn Herbert reporting.

Dairy Farmers in Victoria cannot afford to feed their cows because of the drought. So what is the Government doing about it?

What is the “intent” of our governments as they continue to compromise Australian farmers’ and businesses’ capacity to create wealth and reinvest here? The Weekend Australian identified Victorian dairy farmers’ plight during a drought which has impacted the largest dairy producing areas in Australia. The Victorian Government has said they have to have a two year drought before they are entitled to help. Mother Nature is harsh, but dairy farmers are not being paid enough to cover their costs, hemmed in by rising energy and water costs aided by carbon tax imposts. Add to that Coles sell milk for $1lt compared to bottles of water for $2.50 for 350ml. Where is the justice in that?  This also puts great pressure on the Australian dairy processors who use Australian milk, and do not want to source off shore.

The Farmer Power Group that formed in Victoria earlier this year had already raised the issue of declining on-farm income and rising debt. The Victorian and Federal Governments were obviously not listening.

In addition,  last year the Victorian government allowed the Chinese to buy the Victorian Dairy Research Centre and allowed them to outbid the dairy farmers by just $10K as the farmers stretched their bid using their own money.  The centre was developed by and for Australian farmers. It is now idle until the Chinese send their scientists to operate it.

Last year New Zealand stopped the sale of eight dairy farms to the Chinese because it did not meet the national interest test. New Zealand had the largest dairy company in the world, Fonterra. Australia has not major food companies since Fosters was sold.

How can Australia take advantage of the Asian century if we do not own the assets and support our skilled farmers and their knowledge of our land?

This is not the only issue impacting our capacity to feed ourselves and benefit Australia. Graincorp’s future is precarious as USA owned ADM will own assets that once belonged to Australia, and the US will determine the price our farmers get.  n fact, our Governments  have condoned the sale and majority foreign control of every major food export except rice.

Earlier this year the Federal and WA government gave over $600M to the Chinese to “invest” in the Ord with a 50 year lease. $Bs have been given to Ford and Holden only for them to leave and not reinvest in this country. Yet we cannot find money to alleviate the plight of those who feed us.

Interviews can be arranged with Lynne Wilkinson, CEO AUSBUY on (02) 9437 5455.

What You Can Do as a Concerned Australian!

We urge concerned Australians to talk to those proposing to represent us in the next Government. Ask them:

  1. what priority they give Australia’s long term interest when we have an open door policy to imports which do not meet our standards;
  2.  why do we have a “for sale” sign on our wealth creating assets so foreign countries and companies can buy our land and our businesses;
  3. why our government fund foreign purchases – over $600m to China to lease the Ord Stage Two;
  4. why they allow foreign interests to pay less company tax from the profits they declare (10% withholding tax), after consultancy fees and interest repayment are sent off shore;
  5. why they do not apply the laws we have in place to ensure products do not come here or are removed from sale that do not meet our standards;
  6. why government procurement tends to favour foreign owned business operating here who then do not necessarily source from our businesses and often replace inferior quality;
  7. why products are dumped here and nothing is done;
  8. when will they apply labelling laws which show were products are grown and sourced; where they are made and who really owned the;
  9. why they have not called for an amendment under the WTO to give protection to our key industries and our knowledge base;
  10. why they do not acknowledge the implications of decades of policies based on a false principle that everyone is playing by the same rules. Only Australia does this to our own. All the countries we trade with ignore our intellectual property, do not allow domination of key sectors in the supply chain to dictate prices and profits to their suppliers and import goods to replace their own. Australia cannot take advantage of the Asian century if we do not own our land and our manufacturing.
  11. Sign the AUSBUY petition

We are losing over 200 years knowledge of our land and our capacity for innovation as countries and global companies circle to buy our wealth creating assets. That is why AUSBUY goes to the people. Every $ you spend on Australian owned and made goods and services has a multiplier effect within our economy. $50 a week for every household becomes $50B multiplied in our economy. Sign 

No Money for Food – Where is it Going?

 

According to a journalist who has taken a forensic look at the Budget, the Government will be spending nearly half $B ($464M) in the next six weeks to promote something yet unknown. The inference is to buy votes or promote the NBN. This is either borrowed money or our money, yet we do nothing to plan for the long term future and sustainability of our food processors and farmers.  The Farmer Power Group established recently identified the plight on farms as incomes continue to decline.

 

Concerned people need to understand that food security is an issue of national importance – our farming skills, knowledge of the land, and investment in processing and value adding represent what is left of our manufacturing here in our cities and across regions. Australia has no major food company left relative to global brands. Our open door policies to imports, many of which do not meet our standards, our high dollar and the For Sale on our businesses and land exacerbate the problem. We have been complicit in allowing this to happen through poor policies and failure to plan long term. What we need to see is our Governments represented the long term interests and sustainability of the people they purport to represent. We need to support our owned while we still can.

 

 AUSBUY represents Australian owned companies exclusively and initiated a Food Security group nearly four years ago which identified the lack of research since 1998 to show the impact of policies on farm gate profitability and potential loss of skills. 

 

 Interviews can be arranged Lynne Wilkinson CEO AUSBUY 0294375455 or 0418314923

 

Who is Looking After Our Interests?

The SPC story of declining demand highlights the plight of our farmers and manufacturers yet again. We can only hope that a public company can get the attention of the Ministers for Agriculture and Trade, because they have certainly not been listening for decades. The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) has warned of the consequences of poor policies and loss of control of our assets for nearly 22 years. Reduced demand for farm goods, value added by manufacturers here needs to be addressed because the food industry is the last major manufacturing sector we have which represents a broad cross section of small, medium and large business throughout our regions.

The story is more complicated than at first appears. We have been complicit in the deteriorating situation for over two decades. Australia’s largess without a long term strategic plan has exacerbated our food security. Open door policies signed under the WTO and OECD Agreements, Free Trade Agreements that have rarely been to our advantage; reduced funding over the years for gatekeepers such as Bio Security Australia and AQIS; little control over the standards of imports relative to the standards required of our farmers and manufacturers; poor labelling laws showing country of origin; the high dollar; ACCC’s approval of control of every major food commodity except rice beyond the farm gate by foreign owned companies making our farmers price takers not price makers; loss of major iconic brands which are Australian owned; the growth of private label further eroding profits for local manufacturers;  and the ACCC’s recent  determination that there will be no code of conduct for retailers, all add to our food industry woes.

While SPC cites the high dollar and competition from own brand, private labels in supermarkets, the issue is a little more complicated. SPC’s lower demand for Australian fruit was exacerbated in recent years when they dismantled a factory in Shepparton and set it up in Spain, because Australian exports have an 18% tariff into the EU. This made sense for SPC and the Spanish farmers and factory workers there, but not for Australia. Coca Coal Amatil appreciated the value of the SPC brand. Its prestige both here and overseas built up over generations by the farmers’ cooperative.

What is happening to all the Australian owned manufacturers who do not have the might of Coca Cola Amatil? We should be supporting our owned brands. We can only hope that this will be wake up call. Consumers are increasingly concerned about where our food comes from and where our jobs are generated. That concern should be reflected by our policy makers. We need to listen to our owned while we still can. Sign the AUSBUY petition to ask for a hold on foreign sales until we have a national interest test.

Lynne Wilkinson

CEO – Australian Company Institute Limited

 

 

In Reference to:

SPC production cut to slice 50 percent of fruit growers crop

  • April 24, 2013
  • Sophie Langley

Australian industry groups are offering support to 170 Goulburn Valley fruitgrowers after food processing company SPC Ardmona said it would not be taking their produce from 1 May 2013.

The Company, which is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil (CCA), said the high Australian dollar and competition from cheaper imported products have left it no choice. It forecast a reduction of up to 50 per cent in intake for some fruit categories for the 2014 season.

Australian Food News reported in February 2013 that SPC Ardmona’s troubles had led to a 22 per cent drop in earnings for its parent company CCA.

SPC Ardmona said it is currently half way through what it termed a three-year “business transformation strategy”, which aims to address issues of efficiency and waste reduction throughout the entire business. The Company said it plans to work with key retailers, who it believes do want to support Australian fruit growers.

“We are not competing on a level playing field against the overseas sourced private label products,” said Peter Kelly, Managing Director SPC Ardmona. “We are competing against products from countries that have considerably lower labour and production costs and arguably lower quality standards than we have in Australia,” he said.

“A more than 50 per cent appreciation in the Australian dollar in the past four years has made cheap imported food even cheaper and has also severely impacted on our export markets,” Mr Kelly said.

SPC Ardmona said market share of imported private label canned fruit had grown to 58 per cent, while SPC Ardmona canned fruit share had declined to 33 per cent and the Company’s export market volumes had declined by 90 per cent in the past five years.

According to data from market research organisation Nielsen, published in ‘Retail World Grocery Guide 2012’, SPC Ardmona had 50.2 per cent value share and 40.8 per cent volume share of the shelf-stable fruit category in 2012. The grocery guide showed that in 2012, private label products had 29.1 per cent value share in the category, and 39.8 per cent volume share.

The Company said it would be seeking temporary tariff protection relief from the Australian Government to assist the fruit processing industry during the period of the strong Australian dollar, and more effectively market its brands to consumers with “stronger Australian grown and Australian made messages”.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) AM radio program, John Wilson, spokesperson for industry body Fruit Growers’ Victoria, agreed that the high Australian dollar was a big challenge for the sector.

“A combination of the collapse of global markets in North America and Europe and an oversupply of canned fruit; at the same time our Australian dollar purchasing power increased,” Mr Wilson told the ABC program. “And unfortunately the cannery can’t meet that competition on a short-term turnaround,” he said.

Mr Wilson said the fruit growing sector needed a “restructure program, a restructure package that has a transition and an exit component in it for the health of fruit growing right across the district”.

Labelling Laws – Still waiting for action while consumers confused and local manufacturers and growers are undermined

When the Senate Enquiry into “Truth in Labelling” was undertaken in October 2009 there was some hope that Australians would finally see where their products come from even though the label says “Made in Australia”, even though at the time most industry groups rejected the concept. While the Senate has rejected “Made in Australia” the key issue then and now in AUSBUY’s submission was the need for Country of Origin. This has now been recognised. Now the work really begins. Let’s hope our industries and our farmers can hold on long enough.

Labels are complicated. They are also costly to replace for manufacturers already under cost pressure. While discussions have been consumer focused, the suppliers also need to be considered, especially those locally owned businesses whose ethic is to source from Australian farmers and suppliers whenever possible. Of course Australia does not produce every ingredient, but then not all ingredients are cited on a tin of pears or more complicated sauces etc.  “Made in Australia” infers products are sourced here. Local and imported confuse the issue further.

Change cannot be avoided as the source of our foods are increasingly complicated by our Free Trade Agreements, high dollar and virtual open door policy to imports. To their credit Coles and Woolworths manage “Country of origin” reasonably well on their private label brands. They may be replacing locally made and grown foods because our businesses cannot compete on price against cheap imports, but at least consumers have a choice to avoid imported foods, even if they are made here because the label tells them the source.

Some consumers in sheer frustration use bar codes when they shop. The problem is the 93 barcode for Australia means the company has a registered office here and may be foreign owned and imported.

In the meantime AUSBUY has attended many meetings and discussions where the various sides had their say (or did not). Many meetings were chaired with a pre-determined outcome, so discussion appeared to be superfluous. Or the issues were so complex that Senators where clearly bamboozled having had no industry experience of the complexities. No need for this as the experts were in the room, time was limited and an outcome expected.

As AUSBUY has highlighted in the past, if the intent is misplaced then the action is misplaced, and without a clear objective it is easy to sustain inertia when confusion reigns. Few see the bigger picture or acknowledge the consequences. You guessed it, after more than four years the announcement this week on “made in Australia” is no action as the Senate rejected. The changes do not go far enough. We can only hope it does not take another four years to get an outcome that benefits Australia.

The food sector is the largest manufacturing sector we have left where there is a spread of businesses across our communities and regions sourcing from local farmers. Many small businesses drive the innovation in the food sector. These are the businesses that “value-add’ our commodities – but we have stopped talking about “value adding” and control of the supply chain and key industries.

In the past four years we have seen multinationals take over more local brands, farms bought because on farm income has been in decline for decades, commodity industries such as dairy, fruit and vegetable growers under threat, or factories close here and move off shore to sell back to us. No one has counted the cost to our manufacturers and growers as imported foods replace local produce and still carry the “Made in Australia” label as long as it meets the 51% test of substantial transformation (including packaging costs). For a country that prides itself on our agriculture we have no major global brands since Fosters was sold.

The issue is from “where”. We have signed Free Trade Agreements with countries that do not reciprocate opportunities as our exports incur tariffs (USA, EU), open our doors to countries that do not meet our standards, or imports that bring the threat of disease when we have under-resourced our gatekeepers AQIS and Bio-Security Australia. Diseases are being introduced to our once clean, green growing environment via the back door and the front door.

Ask our orange growers. We cannot take foods across state borders but import foods that do not meet our standards, yet oranges from overseas compete in the same growing season at the same price as our local produce. These activities are hidden in processed foods. At least we have “Country of Origin” on fresh produce, championed by AUSBUY over a decade ago. But again this is not policed at local and state levels, except where big supermarkets err.

Then there is the seasonality of food. If manufacturers want to sustain their production line the excuse is to import out of season. Whatever we can do to support our local manufacturers and growers and give priority to their sustainability the better. Labelling laws are important, but only part of the problems facing our essential industries. AUSBUY’s focus is on informed consumers and working with manufacturers and growers,  but then we only represent Australian owned businesses so our message is not compromised.

Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) is a not for profit organisation representing Australian owned businesses exclusively since 1991. Interviews can be arranged.  Lynne Wilkinson 02 9437 5455 0418 3149 23

Clash of Concerns over Foreign Ownership of Australian Agriculture

AUSBUY‘s comment on the story on ABC’s The World Today – http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3701228.htm

Good to see discussion about this issue. AUSBUY raised the issue of Food Security over four years ago, now it is fashionable to talk about it. AUSBUY raised a petition asking for a national interest test early in 2012 based on the need for a national interest test. New Zealand stopped the sale of 8 dairy farms to the Chinese because it did not meet the national interest test. We have no mechanisms.

Ownership and investment are important issues. Put simply only Australian majority ownership means the decisions, profits, jobs, skills and reinvestment stay here. As a country we do not have a strategic long term plan about any industry let alone the industry which helped build our wealth, based on our clean green growing environment. Over the past few decades we have allowed control beyond the farm gate of all major food commodities except rice, as overseen by the ACCC.  We have deregulated industries and made our farmer price takers not price makers. Hence on farm income has been in decline for decades matched by rising debt. Any wonder farmers are selling their land. These skills and knowledge of the land are being lost.  And there are no mechanisms in place to give priority to our owned.

All our trading partners fund their growers (average $41k compared to $4k for Australian farmers). Policies were based on the false assumption that we export most of our food, whereas we only export more than 50% of our beef, wheat and fibre. Based on this false assumption we have signed FTAs giving ready access to our markets. We have not counted the decline since 1998 (simply do not want to recognise the unintended consequences of decisions).The high AUD$ is hurting our growers and manufacturers ever  more.

Foreign owned manufacturers close factories here, set up off shore and sell back to us.  Our tax laws favour foreign interests (10% withholding tax) and FIRB thresholds mask what is really happening. Canadian Super Funds are buying our assets yet there are no mechanisms for Australians to invest in our own country.

Bill Heffernan is one of the few politicians prepared to look at this. AUSBUY has been focusing on the importance of ownership since 1991. A petition about foreign ownership was presented to Parliament in December 2012 with 55,000 signatures.  Who will pay off our rising debt? It will not be the foreign countries and companies buying our wealth creating assets.