To: THE SENATOR WHO TABLES THIS PETITION, AUSTRALIAN SENATE
STOP FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF OUR FARMS & PUBLIC ASSETS TO PROTECT OUR FOOD SECURITY & NATIONAL SECURITY
Your petitioners ask that the Senate will work with the Government to:
• Ensure that foreign investors are not permitted to purchase any further Australian agricultural land, agribusiness, water, or any public asset such as seaports, airports, council aerodromes (which the Chinese are buying and turning into Chinese flying schools but which could present a security risk in the future), bridges, railways, electricity grids, telcos, hospitals, medical companies which could present a patient privacy risk, or any government department entity or security-sensitive real estate.
• Revise the rules of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and ensure that the rules of the Critical Infrastructure Centre (CIC) together with FIRB PROHIBIT FOREIGN OWNERSHIP of any farm, agribusiness or agricultural land in Australia in the future. Foreign investors could be permitted only to lease agricultural land and farms for a maximum of 10 years with regular monitoring to confirm ongoing compliance with Australian standards and environmental laws. There should be strict limits on the percentage, area and QUALITY of Australian land that could be leased. For too long our politicians and bureaucrats have been calling foreigners buying up our farms and assets foreign "investors" when they are actually foreign BUYERS who will never sell back to us.
• The decision as to whether or not a purchase by a foreign entity is in the NATIONAL INTEREST should be made clearer and more consistent than it is currently in order to protect our food security, water security and national security. Selling our food-bowls, farms and water should be considered as NOT being in Australia's national interest. Preservation of Australia's food and water security should be considered to be of paramount importance by the government, the FIRB and the CIC.
• Ensure that the newly modified and more stringent rules about whether or not a foreign purchase is in the national interest is applied retrospectively to all previously purchased or leased public and strategic assets (such as ports, airports, power grids, railways, large iconic farms, water, telcos, government entities and iconic brands and companies) by foreign or foreign-backed companies, individuals or state-linked interests. If a sale or lease is found to be not in the national interest of Australia, that sale or lease must be reversed.
• Revoke the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin and the 98-year lease of the Port of Newcastle because these long-term leases are NOT in Australia’s national interest, particularly with China's increasing militarism in the South China Sea and its expansion into the Pacific. China has declared its intention to use the Port of Darwin for its Belt and Road (BRI) / Silk Route initiative, and in so doing we are at risk of losing our trading autonomy under China's control of trade routes.
• Ensure that every single foreign purchase of land and property (including agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial) is given a $0 value threshold for registration on the FIRB and CIC, and this should be retrospective and PERMANENT. The Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land should be available for the Australian public to view. It should NOT be kept secret to protect foreign owners' privacy. Australians have a right to know who has bought / is buying their food-bowl. Australians' rights should be protected above privacy rights of foreigners buying our country.
• Apply the new Water Register retrospectively. This should also NOT be kept secret. All Australians have a right to know exactly who owns their water.
Why is this important?
We the petitioners believe that:
• Foreign ownership of Australian farms and rural land will only harm the Australian economy and is not in the national interest. Foreign owners are already setting up their own processing facilities on farms they purchase. These farms will compete with Australian farms and ultimately force Australian farmers out, ruining our own agribusinesses such as dairy, beef, lamb, fruit, wine and seafood. Foreign owners will ship out the value-added produce, dairy, wine, seafood and meat through the Chinese-leased Port of Darwin and other ports and airports that they own with no benefit to Australia, and cause severe hardship to our farmers. There is currently (March 2020) a proposal by WADE (WA Dairy and Energy) to build a Chinese-backed baby formula factory in WA which will use 20,000 Australian cows and 100 million litres of Australian water to export 30,000 tonnes of baby formula per year which will all be shipped to Asia and none will be available to domestic customers. Local dairy farmers are deeply concerned that the establishment of this Chinese-backed factory will destroy their livelihoods.
• Foreign ownership of our farms and rural land will result in the loss of Australia’s food security. We are already being forced to import inferior, possibly contaminated food because our own food will be scarce, unavailable or too expensive as the result of foreign farmers in Australia or Australian farmers who have sold out to Chinese interests exporting what was once Australian-owned food to to China or other parts of Asia. Chinese diners are now consuming our rock lobster (95% of which is exported to China). This is being accelerated by free trade agreements such as the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA). Australians, on the other hand, are finding it increasingly difficult to source premium Australian fish so are forced to dine on imported Vietnamese catfish and Asian basa farmed in the Mekong River.
• Foreign-owned farms and rural land could be degraded and /or contaminated due to poor land and agricultural management practices and by the unlawful use of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals. This could render the land useless and contaminate adjoining lands and waterways. This has happened in other countries that now want to buy our pristine farms because they have polluted their own food-sources. Bulldozing of habitat will deplete populations of our iconic wildlife, possibly leading to extinction of some critically endangered species.
• Foreign ownership of large tracts of land and selling / long-term leasing of our assets such as seaports, airports, railways, electricity grids, government departments and entities such as Medicare, the ATO and Centrelink is completely against the national interest of Australia and poses a significant THREAT to our individual privacy, national security and sovereignty. Chinese ownership of our hospitals also presents a security risk for patient confidentiality.
• Selling our land and selling / long-term leasing of our assets to foreign private investors or foreign state-owned interests such as sovereign wealth funds puts us at risk of diplomatic incidents in the event of Australia wanting to change the terms of a free trade agreement, or not being willing to sign up to China's One Belt, One Road (BRI), or in the event of military unrest in the South China Sea region or the Pacific. With every sale of a farm or critical asset we lose some of our sovereignty when we should be strengthening it. The 99 year lease of the Port of Darwin to Landbridge, a Chinese company with state-owned links to the Chinese military greatly increases our national security risk, particularly in the light of our long-standing close relationship with the USA. The buying of some of our electricity and gas networks by the State Grid Corporation of China is worrying in view of the fact that the State Grid Corporation of China has intimate links to the Chinese military and Intelligence collection. In fact, most private companies in China must also be assumed to have links to the CCP and therefore must not be given the leniency that other countries with which we have free-trade agreements have been given. Hong Kong, too, is coming increasingly under the control of the CCP and must also not be allowed to buy our land, infrastructure or other assets.
• Once our land and assets are sold to foreign countries we will never get them back because the foreign buyers want our farms to feed their own people. The Chinese will never sell Australian land they buy because they are not allowed to buy land in China - they can only ever lease it.
• This petition is in no way aligned with any political party. It is about national security, individual citizens’ security, food and water security and sovereignty.
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS OF AUSTRALIA.
PLEASE SIGN, LIKE AND SHARE.
How it will be delivered
All signatures will be emailed to the Senator who tables this petition in the Australian Senate.