We're known as a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains - but how much of that land is actually ours?
China has its sights sets on what could be Australia's most expensive farm – a $300 million bid by textile company Shandong Ruyi to buy Queensland's Cubbie Station was given the okay by the Foreign Investment Review Board last week.
The massive cotton crops the farm produces will reportedly fuel the production of luxury suits for China's emerging middle class.More stories from Today Tonight
Xavier Duff from the Weekly Times Xavier says we're rolling out the welcome mat for foreign buyers.
“Virtually every other country in the world has some kind of control, some registration or approvals process and we don’t have that”, Mr Duff said.
“It is quite ludicrous that you can’t buy a flat in South Yarra or Toorak but you can buy thousands of hectares of productive, prime agricultural land," Mr Duff said.
Non-residents cannot buy established dwellings in Australia. Foreigners who are temporary residents can, but they need to meet a number of strict conditions. Only one established dwelling may be purchased and it must be used as their residence in Australia and cannot be used as an investment property.
But to buy thousands of acres of our rural land there are practically no conditions at all.
Purchases are only looked at if they're worth more than $244 million.“Countries like China and the Middle East are on land buying sprees across the globe," Mr Duff said.
Jock Laurie from the Farmers’ Federation says many of the buy-ups are not from individuals but foreign companies which are government-owned.“That is causing a lot of angst within the industry and within the Australian community as a whole," Mr Laurie said.
It's estimated over the next 60 years, the world's population will balloon to 12 billion people. The question is will there be enough food to go around?Senator Bill Heffernan believes our overseas counterparts are gearing up for a population explosion while we're taking a short sighted approach.
“We don’t want to wake up in 50 years and say, 'My god how did that happen?” Senator Heffernan said.
“A billion people are predicted to be on the planet unable to feed themselves, 50 per cent of the world’s population poor for water," Senator Heffernan said.
“China, to its everlasting credit, has thought where it is going to be by 2070. They will have to feed half their population from someone else’s agricultural resource, so they're onto it," Senator Heffernan said.Doug Chant, a fourth generation dairy farmer at Colac in Victoria, has been affected by rising costs and stagnated milk prices but he's determined not to sell his business to an overseas buyer.
“One thing all of us have in common, from all walks of life, is we don’t last long without food," Mr Chant said.
“Some people will argue it is an opportunity for farmers to get out with dignity, is that what we're farming for, to get out with dignity," Mr Chant said.
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury says foreign investment will utlimately benefit all Australians.
He argues foreign investment has always been a big part of Australia's and in order for the agriculture sector to grow, we need foreign money to fund it.
“In the end, this activity that's occurring here in Australia will be taxed and Australians will receive the benefit of that once the Government collects the tax on their behalf," Treasurer Bradbury said.
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