Anti-China sentiment dangerous: Brumby

Lisa Martin

A former Victorian premier fears anti-foreign investment sentiment in Australia could compromise future economic prosperity and cost opportunities with China.

John Brumby is the national president of the Australia China Business Council, which is hosting a forum at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor's shadow treasurer Chris Bowen are among the MPs on the speakers line up.

"Countries around the world are competing for Chinese investment, and while Australia has a number of competitive advantages, unfavourable policy settings driven by a negative, anti-foreign investment narrative will compromise our ability to attract the investment we need to make the next quarter century as prosperous as the last," Mr Brumby said in a new report on the benefits of Chinese investment in Australia.

The forum comes amid controversy over foreign donations to Australian political parties, and a focus on Beijing's influence over Australian domestic affairs.

In the Partners in Prosperity report Deloitte Access Economics insists China's growth and transition to a consumption-led economy will go hand in hand with Australia's own structural change.

The report notes China is a relatively small investor in Australia compared to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Last year, China ranked as the seventh largest investor, with a stake of $87 billion, which accounted for less than 3 per cent of total foreign investment stock.

Chinese investment in Australia is increasingly focused on services and is consumption-related.

Agriculture, health products and tourism have been earmarked as Australian industries that could capture some of the Chinese market as its middle class grows.

The report warned that unlike the mining boom, where commodities were shipped overseas in bulk, Australia needed to do some homework and improve its understanding of how to market to Chinese consumers.