From the Australian:
BARNABY Joyce, who has built his political career opposing foreign investment, is under fire for hypocrisy after giving his blessing to the sale of two of the Northern Territory’s best known cattle stations to Indonesia’s biggest live cattle importer.
The Agriculture Minister, who two weeks ago asked Australians to “make a big noise” and oppose the Indonesian government’s plan to purchase a million hectares of cattle country, said he supported the latest sale after talking to the Northern Territory cattle industry.
The Santori company – a subsidiary of the Indonesian agribusiness Japfa group – is purchasing two large Northern Territory cattle properties, Riveren and Inverway stations.
Mr Joyce said last night he made the decision to support the sale after talking to northern Australian cattlemen.
“They wanted the sale to go forward,” he said.
The Deputy Nationals Leader said the purchase of the two cattle stations was a joint venture on lease-hold land, that would kick-start the live cattle trade to Indonesia.
He dismissed the charge of hypocrisy, declaring the Greens wanted to “shut down the trade all together” and Labor had created the slump in cattle exports in the first place. “We are just trying to sweep up the dishes they dropped,” he said.
Mr Joyce’s decision to support the sale is a stark departure from his public call – about two weeks ago, before being appointed to the ministry – for Australians to “make a big noise” and oppose a similar plan from the Indonesian government to buy farmland and raise cattle for the domestic market.
“I cannot possibly see how it is in the national interest, what benefit is it to Australian farmers, to Australian taxpayers, if another entity buys our land to breed their cattle, exports them to their own facilities and pays tax in another country,” Mr Joyce said at the time.
The Nationals deputy leader’s about-face received a mixed reception from his party colleagues yesterday. Some of them have flagged a tough fight on the potential sale of Australia’s largest listed agribusiness, GrainCorp, to US firm Archer Daniels Midland if it is approved by Joe Hockey.
NSW Nationals senator John Williams said Australia should own its own farmland, with the profits going back into regional and rural towns.
“Have the owners of those stations had them on the market for a long time?” Senator Williams said. “Are they desperate to get out? If they can’t get a local buyer, then I wouldn’t blame them for selling to a foreign buyer. But I like to see Australians own our farmland. I want to see the profits of those farms spent locally in our regional towns.”
Queensland LNP MP George Christensen said Mr Joyce was only meeting the demands of industry.
“You have to talk to the local industry, and my understanding is that they are all behind it.
“In that case, as Australia’s Agriculture Minister, he is (fulfilling) the wishes of the Australian agricultural industry,” he said.