Free Trade/ Foreign Investment

Scott Morrison deserves credit

In recent times, speculation had been mounting over the potential Chinese acquisition of the S. Kidman and Co portfolio. The private entity, which composed of ten stations; made up 1.3 % of Australia’s total landmass, and 2.5 % of its agricultural land, was keenly sought after by the Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Pengxin Group, as part of the the nation’s latest pursuit of dollar imperialism. However, in excellent news, Federal treasurer Scott Morrison knocked back the sale of this portfolio, stating that a Chinese purchase of the land would ‘not be in the national interest’. Despite Morrison reaffirming the importance of foreign investment ‘that is critical to our economy in providing jobs and growth’, this is perhaps a landmark moment in Australia’s history, and an especially welcome one.

Just as Scott Morrison stated in his address, I and most other Australians, recognize the utmost importance of foreign investment. It would be foolish to turn a blind eye to its influential impact (particularly after in the post- war era), in contributing to the wealth and prosperity we now enjoy. But there is a difference between foreign investment, and foreign ownership. Even more than that, there is a difference between the purchase of some agricultural land, and of foreign countries buying up land, in a manner not outrageously dissimilar to invasion. China clearly has ambitions in the Asia- Pacific region, and the more land, ports and assets they control in Australia, the more leverage in any given time of tension, they will have established. If Australia maintains a desire to promote peace, the rule of law, and its traditional allies, it must remain wary of any Chinese inversion.

The blocking of the Chinese purchase of S. Kidman and Co, is exceptionally important, for Australia to continue its control and absolute authority over its agricultural land, that in the decades to come, will reap enormous economic benefits. Given Australia’s position in the Asia- Pacific, combined with the region’s burgeoning middle class, it is perfectly positioned to greatly benefit from this ongoing trend. We should not let foreign buyers, whether they be Chinese or other, buy Australian land en masse during a time of such opportunities.

Beyond the immediate economic impacts, being a net exporter of food, should be looked upon as being an incredibly valuable and priceless status. Booms may come and go, technologies may rise and fall, but food has remained a necessity for human life. This is something that should be recognized more as part of our country’s great and unique nature, and something that further adds justification to the blocking of S. Kidman and Co sale. The saying ‘you can’t eat money’ is surely more relevant than ever, and our position of strength in this area, must never be rashly thrown away.

Without question, the Chinese ambitions in Australia and throughout the region are far from finished. But Australians should rest content and with some degree of pride, that finally, its Federal government is firmly protecting Australia’s national interests and sovereignty, above all other concerns. I can only hope this remains consistent.

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