Outspoken Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has likened Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to having the Venus de Milo, a Greek statue of a woman with no arms, play as wicket keeper for the Australian cricket team.
His assertion that the FIRB “looks good but catches nothing” notches up the rhetoric from conservative politicians against Australia’s policy towards foreign ownership of local assets, particularly farming land.
Mr Joyce told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) the review board was overweight with investment bankers, who had a vested interest in selling assets overseas.
“Merchant bankers make a commission out of the sale of assets to foreign entities,” Senator Joyce said.
“It needs to be balanced with people from small business, people from farming—and genuine farming, not big corporations—who represent the people who have to compete against these entities.”
The FIRB advises the federal Treasurer whether to approve foreign investment proposals over $244 million. All proposals by foreign governments are reviewed.
The AFR quoted a spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan as criticising Mr Joyce’s comments.
“Mr Joyce would be an absolute disaster for Australia if he ever held a position involving national economic responsibility,” the spokesman said.
Nationals leader Warren Truss earlier this week called for laws forcing some foreign investors to list on the stock exchange and pass rigorous national interest tests.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott, in a speech in Beijing on July 24, backed proposals that northern Australia be cultivated as a food bowl for Asia, but said it “would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business.”
The Labor-led Federal Government denounced Mr Abbott’s comments as contradictory.
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