Tag Archives: FIRB

Barnaby Sells Out?

4 Oct

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.

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“It’s Full Of Merchant Bankers”: Barnaby

17 Mar

One of the actions that has endeared Barnaby Joyce to many thinking people, is his proven track record of going against the party machines and indeed, crossing the floor to vote against the Coalition, on matters he strongly believes in.

He has done it “about 28” times.

He is doing it again.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Senator Joyce said the review board should have rejected the takeover of the AWB's commodity trading business by the multinational Cargill, and of Sunrice by the Spanish company Ebro Foods, which was ultimately scuttled by shareholders". Photo: Stefan Postles

Barnaby breaks ranks over foreign ownership of farmland

THE Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce is pushing for even tougher restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland and agribusinesses than those advocated by his party, fuelling Liberal anger at Tony Abbott’s failure to rein in National Party ”freelancing” on sensitive economic issues.

Senator Joyce told the Herald a Coalition government should impose a ”much more definitive test” of the national interest when the Foreign Investment Review Board considered foreign purchases of farmland and agribusinesses. ”There has to be a more definitive test … because right now we are not tripping the tripwire for things that are quite obviously against the national interest,” he said.

Senator Joyce said the review board should have rejected the takeover of the AWB’s commodity trading business by the multinational Cargill, and of Sunrice by the Spanish company Ebro Foods, which was ultimately scuttled by shareholders.

Citing ”palpable” concern in rural communities about foreign acquisitions, Senator Joyce advocated a shake-up of the review board to include people with agribusiness expertise.

It’s full of merchant bankers, which might explain why the only time we have seen it say no is with the takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange, because that would have meant a lot of merchant bankers in Sydney would be out of a jobeven some of my Liberal colleagues were encouraging me to speak up about that, even though we are supposed to be nasty, backward agrarian socialists,” he said.

[And why didn’t these “Liberal colleagues” speak up about it themselves, ‘eh? Food for thought. More below]

The Nationals leader, Warren Truss, has advocated lowering the threshold for review board scrutiny from $244 million to $20 million but has not specifically suggested the board use a tougher national interest test.

Last week Mr Abbott, the Coalition leader, appeared to back Mr Truss’s position, saying he was ”looking at a very significant reduction in the threshold” for scrutiny by the review board.

He did not nominate a new threshold.

Many Liberals, opposed to any big change in foreign investment rules, are furious at apparent policy announcements before decisions have been made.

One Liberal MP said it was ”yet another example of National Party freelancing on economic issues, without clear repudiation from the leadership, despite the fact that there has not been a decision and the party room has not yet discussed it”.

Another said: ”The Nats are being allowed to say whatever they like, even though it is not policy.”

Quelle horror!

They’re “being allowed” to “say whatever they like”?

“Even though it is not policy”?

Just as they should.

As everyone should.

Party politics, the silencing of individual MPs, the enforcement of party policy even where contrary to the will of an MP’s local electorate and/or his own conscience, is a vile, despicable, morally (1) and intellectually (2) unjustifiable blight on so-called “democracy”.

It is WRONG.

I for one am stoked that Barnaby is making waves with his stance on foreign ownership of Australian farmland.

Your humble blogger has written on the topic of our governments selling the farm before.

Consider this – Try Asking 1.3 Billion Stomachs Armed With Nukes To Give Our Food Back.

Barnaby is right.

UPDATE:

h/t Twitterer @LyndsayFarlow

Barnaby: People Want A Positive Future

8 Mar

Senator Joyce writes for the Canberra Times (my emphasis added):

One of the useful parts of the obligatory election trudge around the countryside is that meetings, functions and party events become a great barometer of what is worrying people.

Don’t go on the road if you are looking for self-affirmation; voters do not turn up to tell you what they like about government and politicians.

If a summary was given of what is making people talk at the mandatory Q and A session at the local hall/bowling club/RSL you would not be surprised that it is a thousand miles from what seems to be the concern on the ABC’s Q&A. There are four issues that are becoming constants: excessive market power in our retail industry; foreign ownership of strategic Australian assets; the carbon tax; and coal seam gas.

The businesses that go to functions ask, when will anyone seriously deal with excessive market concentration and the resultant exploitation of smaller market players? This was once seen disparagingly as a ”poor bugger farmer” issue by the more enlightened in the corridors of Canberra. Now senior corporates are also starting to ask the same question. The chief executive of Coca-Cola Amatil, Terry Davis, has highlighted his difficulty in finding a margin for Coca-Cola on a shelf controlled by two very dominant retailers and a second-tier wholesaler.

Foreign ownership of key agricultural assets and our ever increasing reliance on foreign borrowings by our government is a two-for-one package. People do not believe that Swan has the debt under control, and he hasn’t, he has borrowed an extra $11 billion over the past four weeks.

They believe that there is a naivety pervading the carte blanche approach to any investment to any area for any reason. They ask when does the government ever say no and the answer is that our Foreign Investment Review Board is like the Venus de Milo acting as wicket keeper for Australia: looks good but stops nothing.

People are surprised to learn that if a foreigner wants to buy any residential land then approval must be sought. However, you can buy any farm in the country without seeking approval if it is worth less than $244 million. There is probably only one farm in Australia over that threshold.

People have a pathological dislike of a policy called a carbon tax. Sections of the left hate it because it is seen as a mechanism to create commissions for major sections of the banking sector. The right hates it because it is a totem for the fallacy that government is better at spending money than you are and has wiser and more noble motives than you have. Everybody in between hates it because it is just so patently absurd. Government policies that make people poorer don’t cool the planet, they just make people very angry.

Rather than help the proponents of the global warming debate the carbon tax has been completely counter-productive for them. The reality is that there is now a strong majority who have a strong scepticism of the global warming narrative and a large number who just don’t believe at all. Many of those who do believe in it, don’t want to pay for it.

Finally, and it is the issue du jour: coal seam gas. This issue is politically remarkable as it has linked the far left and the far right. It is the powerless landholder against the miner and the expectation that the government should act for the powerless. It is the usurping of an individual’s property right, the under pinner of an individual’s security, the seedbed of the individual’s liberty. It is the green issue that links to the shopping trolley.

Unfortunately for the government, it is in so much debt that its political future, based on the delivery of services, cannot be met without the income stream from the royalties and the tax.

What then really angers people is that the topics they see discussed on their TVs, and from their government, do not match these concerns.

People want a more positive future where government talks about the delivery of substantial new infrastructure and a vision of a new horizon of economic opportunity in the north and other undeveloped parts of our nation.

Instead we have a Labor government obsessed with its own machinations and a Treasurer who seems to think his main job is to pick fights with Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.

Damn!

He sure has his finger on the pulse.

Imagine such a man leading the nation.

The words of the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu spring readily to this blogger’s mind in picturing such a future:

“To lead the people, walk behind them.”

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

China Stops Encouraging Foreign Investment

30 Dec

Riddle me this.

A “developing” nation of 1.3 billion people, a country that is supposedly the “engine of growth” for “a new era” in the world economy, stops encouraging foreign investment in its local car manufacturing industry.

Meanwhile, a “developed” nation of 22 million people, a country that survives on digging huge holes and selling its coking coal and iron ore for steel production to said “booming” nation, not only actively encourages foreign “investment in” (read “ownership of”) all its vital industries (agriculture, mining, manufacturing) … it gives $25 million to the world’s biggest (foreign) car maker to build a car it was going to build anyway … sends billions in “stimulus” overseas to buy carcinogenic pink batts and crappy flat screens … and all the while, its Treasurer constantly bleats his continued expectation of a “huge pipeline of investment” to salvage the nation’s savaged finances.

Tell me … which of these two nations’ politicians are best serving the long term interests of their own people?

From Bloomberg:

China will stop encouraging foreign investment in car manufacturing to allow for “healthy development” of a market that saw sales growth plummet to a tenth of last year’s pace.

The change ends seven years of foreign-investor benefits including reduced tariffs on imported plant equipment, said Jenny Gu, a senior market analyst at LMC Automotive in Shanghai…

SAIC Motor Corp., the nation’s largest listed automaker, rose 4.1 percent to 13.88 yuan in Shanghai trading today, it’s biggest gain in almost two weeks…

The nation’s automobile manufacturers association estimated that 2011 deliveries may grow by the least in 13 years as a rollback in policies aimed at encouraging buyers curtailed purchases.

So, China doesn’t want more cars produced? Because a dramatic fall in sales is another red flag that the “China bubble” is bursting?

Or, they just want to guard their own economic destiny?

In either conclusion, by contrast our own politicians are made to look exactly like the short-sighted, self-centred, traitorous sell-outs that they really are.

China On ‘Treadmill To Hell’ Amid Bubble

9 Apr

From Bloomberg:

China’s property market is a bubble that may burst by as early as this year, according to hedge fund manager James Chanos.

The world’s third-biggest economy may need to keep up the pace of property investment because up to 60 percent of its gross domestic product relies on construction, said Chanos. The bubble may begin to “run its course” in late-2010 or 2011, he said in an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” that will air on PBS and Bloomberg TV.

China is “on a treadmill to hell,” said Chanos, who said in January the nation is Dubai times a thousand. “They can’t afford to get off this heroin of property development. It is the only thing keeping the economic growth numbers growing.”

Property prices in China rose at the fastest pace in almost two years in February even after officials this year re-imposed a tax on homes sold within five years of their purchase to curb speculation and ordered banks to set aside more funds as reserves to cool lending. The boom in China’s real estate has fueled concern that China may face a collapse seen in Dubai that has hurt the ability of some of its companies to repay debt.

Since his January prediction, Chanos, the founder of Kynikos Associates Ltd, has been joined by Gloom, Doom & Boom publisher Marc Faber and Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff in warning of a potential crash in China’s property market.

Barnaby Joyce has been warning about the external threats to the Australian economy since October 2009.  With every passing month, more and more evidence coming from economies around the world – including those such as China that are vital to Australia’s economic interests – indicates that there is big trouble brewing.  While the Ken Henry-led Rudd Government slumbers on in La La Land, spending like drunken sailors, confident of an unending China boom to lift us out of debt, more and more economists abroad are predicting a China crash.

Barnaby is also the only Australian politician with the courage to publicly question the Rudd Government’s weakening of Foreign Investment laws, which have allowed foreign ‘investors’ to help spike Australia’s already unaffordable housing bubble, and put our ownership of vital national assets at risk.  Only Barnaby Joyce has had the courage to call out the Rudd Government for ‘selling the farm’, paddock by paddock.

‘Boycott Australian Iron Ore’ – China

6 Apr

From The Australian:

A Chinese industrial group has urged domestic steel companies to stop buying iron ore from the world’s top three miners, including Australia’s Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, in protest of an alleged price monopoly, state media says.

The China Iron and Steel Association has asked domestic steel firms and traders not to import iron ore from Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil’s Vale for two months, the China Net, a government news website said.

The association called for the boycott on April 2 as the most effective means to fight the “monopolistic behaviour” of the three iron ore giants, the report said.

The Rudd Government, economically-led by (unelected) Treasury secretary Ken Henry, are banking on another China-fueled mining boom to bring the budget back to surplus.  In fact, Ken Henry has predicted a “period of unprecedented prosperity”, possibly stretching to 2050, thanks to his belief in a continuous 4-decade China Miracle.

Many leading economists believe that China is in a massive bubble. Some believe it will burst within ten years… others believe by 2012.

Whoever is right, this latest event makes it clear that China is flexing its economic muscles.  Barnaby Joyce’s warnings about changes to the Foreign Investment rules by Rudd Labor only appear more prescient in light of these developments.

Australia’s Property Bubble: It’s Here

27 Mar

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

It’s official: 60 per cent of investors believe Australia has a property bubble. A confluence of housing shortages, low interest rates, speculative fervour and last year’s move by the Rudd Government to relax foreign ownership rules on real estate have turbo-charged house prices.

This is all scary stuff.  Investors played a key role in expanding the property bubble through the late 90s. In 1990 investment loans represented 16 per cent of Australian mortgages at $13 billion. By 2008 that figure had ballooned 2400 per cent to $310 billion, or 31 per cent of total mortgages. Investor attitudes matter.

The survey revealed, however, that moral hazard may be much larger than investors themselves admit, with 42 per cent expecting the Rudd Government to introduce another round of first home buyer grants if the current boom shows signs of ending.

The increase in foreign purchases also cannot be under estimated, following the decision last March by the federal government to relax its rules on property ownership. This abolished mandatory reporting of such acquisitions in a bid to ”enhance flexibility in the market”.

Before the change, foreign investment in Australian residential property had already started increasing, up 33 per cent to $20.4 billion. It is not known what the figures stand at in 2010 but there are suggestions that more than 30 per cent of homes auctioned are purchased by foreign speculators. If this is the case, it will dramatically add to the property bubble.

It is a potential political time bomb. Numerous readers have written in complaining that they are being priced out of the market by overseas bidders…

Another Investor Pulse reader wrote: “So much for Rudd’s ‘working families’. Australians should get priority over foreign investors for what limited housing we have. How can Australians compete when Chinese borrow at home at 1 per cent? The Australian property market is strong and doesn’t need to be propped up. The Government should act now to stop this misguided and UN-Australian policy. Shame on you, Mr Rudd, for selling out on Working Families.”

Barnaby Joyce is the only Australian politician who has been brave enough to endure smears and criticism, by daring to question the Rudd Government’s relaxing policies on foreign investment.

Here’s just one of Senator Joyce’s press releases on the topic from last year,  “FIRB Changes – Australia’s Sovereignty At Risk“:

Senator Joyce today called on Treasurer Wayne Swan to re think his undermining of the present system of reviewing foreign investments and takeovers.

Mr Swan’s announcement should sound very loud alarm bells to anyone concerned with maintaining Australia’s sovereignty over its resources and business interests given that  Mr Swan plans to remove  Foreign Investment Review Board supervision of over 20 percent of all business applications currently reviewed by the board.

This effective sidelining of the FIRB relating to a substantial number of applications is deeply troubling as it removes a long standing and much needed level of accountability and transparency of foreign investment in Australia particularly by individual investors from countries such as the Peoples Republic of China.

It is astounding Mr Swan would seek to punch such a big hole in Australia’s foreign review processes, leaving the back door wide open for foreign interests to buy Australia paddock by paddock, business by business without any accountability to the Australian people.

Unfortunately for Australia each of the announced measures will allow that hole to get bigger to the detriment of Australia’s sovereignty and its national interest.

Yet again, Barnaby is the only one who is on the ball.

UPDATE:

From The Age:

Foreign buyers inflating market

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens says foreign buyers are a factor in rising house prices.

Mr Stevens said the bank was monitoring how much the federal government’s decision last March to relax its rules on foreigners owning property had contributed to surging prices for housing.

He said the role of foreign purchases was ”an important one and it’s one we’re giving some attention to”.

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