Stronger foreign investment regime comes into force

Stronger foreign investment regime comes into force

The Coalition Government’s robust new foreign investment regime, improving scrutiny and transparency around foreign ownership of Australia’s agricultural production, came into effect from yesterday, 1 December 2015, Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley said today.

“The Government understands that the average farming business may be smaller than other businesses and that simply applying the $252 million general threshold for foreign investment screening excludes a large part of the agricultural sector.

“This is why we have reduced the screening threshold for proposed foreign purchases of agricultural land by private investors to $15 million. Additionally, direct interests in agribusinesses (valued at $55 million or more) will now also be screened by the Foreign Investment Review Board,” said Ms Ley.

The Australian Government has also acted to create a new agricultural land foreign ownership register and expanded the agricultural land register (established in July this year) to include residential land and water entitlements.

“The Coalition Government is continuing to work collaboratively with the States and Territories to ensure that sales of critical infrastructure to foreign investors are properly scrutinised, ensuring the public that they can have confidence that foreign investment will not be contrary to the national interest,” said Ms Ley.

Foreign investors who have breached the residential real estate rules had until 30 November 2015 to voluntarily come forward under a reduced penalty period, with investors caught in breach of the rules after this date facing severe penalties.

The ATO has taken over full responsibility for enforcing residential real estate purchases by foreign citizens and existing criminal penalties have been increased to $135,000 or three years’ imprisonment, or both for individuals; and up to $675,000 for companies.

For more information on the changes visit www.firb.gov.au