For all the updated information regarding Covid-19 click here.   For my latest media as Prime Minister click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

January 2019

The solution isn’t as simple as it may seem.

As part of our plan, the Government is backing reliable 24/7 power by underwriting the new electricity generation. This will improve competition, increase supply and reduce wholesale prices.

In January, we saw significant supply and demand pressures on the energy grid. The conditions experienced in New South Whales, South Australia and particularly Victoria where 200, 000 customers experienced blackouts, reinforce the need for more reliable 24/7 generation.

Coal remains an important part of the Australian energy mix, and the Coalition Government recognises the important role of the 23 existing coal-fired power plants play in keeping the lights on.

Labor wants to have an ideological debate about energy. They have no plan to lower power prices, no plan to back up intermittent wind and solar, and under Bill Shorten we will see a repeat of the blackouts in Victoria and South Australia.

Labor’s reckless 50% renewable energy target and 45% emissions reduction target will be a wrecking ball through the economy. In fact, Labor’s 45% emissions reduction target will require a carbon tax many times greater than their original carbon tax. This is Carbon Tax 2.0.

Australian taxpayers will have to pay for Labor’s reckless targets with billions of dollars of higher taxes.

Only the Coalition Government has a balanced, sensible approach to meet Australia’s energy needs.

Feb 2019

Labor’s Retiree Tax would hurt retirees and low income earners, by abolishing tax refunds for share dividends. It would punish those who work hard to be self-reliant.

When retirees and low income earners get a refund on share dividends, it is because the tax has already been paid by the company.

Labor’s Retiree Tax would change the goal posts. It would hike taxes on 900,000 individuals, 200,000 self-managed super funds and 2,000 super funds. This is unfair and short sighted. It would lead to more people relying on the Age Pension.

The average Australian retiree stands to lose $2,200 a year and those with self-managed super funds stand to lose $12,000 a year.  For many, the losses will be much higher.  Over 7,700 retirees in the Cook Electorate rely on tax refunds from share dividends to help pay the bills. We need to stand up for them.

The Coalition Government will keep tax refunds for franking credits. By carefully managing the economy, we can guarantee essential services and keep taxes low.

Unfortunately, Labor can’t be trusted to manage Australia’s economy. When Labor runs out of money, they end up coming after yours.   

Labor’s retiree tax is ripping over $45 billion out of retirement savings and it forms part of Labor’s plan for $200 billion in additional taxes to people’s properties, incomes, power bills, businesses and savings.

Find out more here on what a Labor Government would do to your retirement savings https://www.liberal.org.au/

As someone who cares about animal welfare I understand the publics concerns about live animal exports and I will fight to ensure that animal welfare is always a priority.

Animal cruelty in any circumstance is abhorrent and must not only be condemned but perpetrators brought to justice.

The Coalition Government is taking necessary action to improve animal welfare outcomes for exported livestock and strengthen regulatory oversight of live export companies. Unfortunately, the Labor Party has played politics with this issue and their actions have meant our plan to vastly increase penalties for those individuals and organisations doing the wrong thing cannot currently be enforced.

However we won’t be deterred from further acting to protect animal welfare. We have accepted all recommendations from both the Moss and McCarthy reviews, reviews that we commissioned. As a result we will appoint an external, independent Inspector General of Live Animal Exports, who will oversee regulation of live export and report to both the public and the Minister. And we have already established the position of Principal Regulatory Officer within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to improve regulatory practice, compliance and culture.

It can often be overlooked that Australia requires a level of animal welfare much higher than other countries. Of the more than one hundred live exporting countries, Australia is the only one that requires World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare standards to be met as a minimum for exported livestock.

However the Government is pleased that the live export industry has taken on some self-regulation, in part due to the Government’s response to the McCarthy Review, by imposing a three month moratorium on the sheep trade to the Middle East during the northern summer.

We are getting on with the job of strengthening animal welfare outcomes and we are doing it in a way that doesn’t destroy families.

Thousands of people who work in the industry would be unfairly affected by a full ban on the trade. The industry contributes around $250 million to the Australian economy every year, meaning much needed jobs for our regional communities and livelihoods for our farmers, the best in the world.

My first priority as Prime Minister is to support farmers and farming communities as we deal with the drought.

We can’t make it rain, but we can support farmers and keep towns alive.

The Government has committed over $5.7 billion for relief and recovery and to improve preparedness and resilience. Key measures include:

  • Supporting 10,000 households with $30 million to key charities.
  • Extending the Farm Household Allowance payments, increasing the asset threshold and providing an initial lump-sum payment for immediate relief.
  • Extending the Drought Communities Program from 60 to 81 local governments – providing each with $1 million for local projects.
  • More funding for local mental health services.
  • A new online Farm Hub as a single trusted listing of available support and resources.

To boost drought preparedness and resilience we are establishing:

  • The Future Drought Fund. This will provide around $100 million each year to help farmers and communities prepare for and respond to drought.
  • The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme. This assists with the costs of piping, tanks, bores, troughs, pumps and fittings and desilting.

To remove red tape, we have shortened and streamlined the Farm Household Allowance application process.

To get fodder to farmers more quickly, we have also allowed longer and higher loads on roads. This will save up to 54,000 days per year applying and waiting for permits.

More details about drought assistance are available at www.agriculture.gov.au

We do not know how long the drought will last. We cannot make it rain. However, I know that no matter what is ahead, Australians will stand together.

We want farmers and their communities to get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet.

The Government is also focused on building resilience in our farming sector.

Despite ongoing drought, over the next few years the value of farm production and exports are both expected to rise by an average of 1.2% per year.

Around 70% of Australia’s agricultural production is exported.

Our farmers are already benefiting from landmark free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea. We’re working to deliver more export opportunities, including new agreements with Peru and Indonesia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Our 2015 Agriculture White Paper put in place a long term plan to help farmers, through: better farm gate returns; better water, transport and communications infrastructure; better drought and risk management; smarter farming; and market access for agriculture exports.

This program is backed by $4 billion in funding, for:

  • Farm Business Concessional Loans.
  • Accelerated depreciation to help invest in fencing.
  • Water reticulation and fodder storage.
  • Stronger biosecurity and control of pest animals and weeds.
  • New investment in R&D.

The Government is providing dedicated professional support for farmers, with:

  • A new Agriculture Commissioner.
  • An ACCC unit to tackle unfair trading.
  • New Agriculture Counsellors to help farmers export to growth markets.
  • A new Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot project.

From 1 July 2018, the Regional Investment Corporation is delivering $4 billion of farm business concessional loans and water infrastructure loans.

We have introduced Country of Origin Labelling laws so Australian customers can see which products are Australian made and contain Australian ingredients.

To support Australian farmers with labour shortages, we are making the Working Holiday Maker Visas and the Seasonal Worker Program more flexible.

To help get more Australian job seekers into work we are also helping to fill farm shortages through the National Harvest Labour Information Service.

What is the Farm Household Allowance?

The FHA is a payment for farming families in financial hardship. It is an income support allowance, which can help families with money for bills, school fees, groceries etc. It is to help keep body and soul together, and ease some of the pressures of the cost of living.

The Farm Household Allowance is a fortnightly payment of $985.60 which eligible families are already receiving. In June we extended the FHA from three years to four.  In addition, families receive a concessional health care card, access to the pharmaceutical and telephone allowances and many can receive the remote area allowance.

How do you know if you’re eligible for the Farm Household Allowance?

We would encourage people not to self-assess. Please call 1800 686 175 to find out if you’re eligible for the Farm Household Allowance, or check here.

How can we help?

Individuals and businesses can help by donating money to responsible recognised drought and rural charities. Make sure they are registered not for profits.

What about other businesses in rural areas? What are you doing for businesses in town that are affected by the drought?

Local towns and communities are also affected by drought conditions. When we help farmers stay in business with support from the FHA and through concessional drought loans, we are helping them to continue spending in local businesses in rural and regional communities.

Why are we sending aid overseas when it is needed in our own backyard?

Foreign aid is in our national interest because we benefit from trade and security cooperation and a secure region, means a prosperous Australia. For example, Indonesia is an important neighbour and friend to Australia. We invested $316 million in aid to our Indonesian neighbour last year, and our principal agricultural exports (wheat, live cattle, raw cotton, sugar etc) to Indonesia were over $3 billion. The aid official budget is only 0.8% of the total Federal Government Budget.

Why don’t we use the defence force?

Commonwealth assistance may be requested by a State or Territory Government at any time, either for specialist services that are otherwise not available, or in times of crisis or disaster. Defence liaison officers have consulted  with relevant State Governments this week, including NSW, to offer assistance should they require it. No requests have been made to the Commonwealth for emergency support. State authorities are directly managing the drought responses.

Australia is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world. Cultural diversity is one of our greatest assets – sparking innovation, creativity and vitality. It has also strengthened our economy through diverse skills, knowledge and networks.

The Government recognises the importance of integration, mutual respect, and mutual responsibility – where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, our prosperity.

Additionally English is and will remain our national language and is a critical tool for migrant integration – but our multilingual workforce is giving new opportunities for Australian businesses horizons and boosting our competitive edge.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia’s diversity and prosperity continues, and the multicultural statement is key to that.

I encourage everyone to take a look at the statement and the accompanying inspirational videos and stories that reflect our multicultural Australia. You can view the statement and access the stories from www.dss.gov.au/settlement-and-multicultural-affairs.

The Government’s reforms will ensure applicants are competent in English, have been a permanent resident for at least four years and commit to embracing Australian values.

You can provide your views to the Government via email to the citizenship submissions mailbox at citizenship.submissions@border.gov.au with suggestions to the Government on changes to values and other citizenship test questions.

In 2015-16 the coal industry was Australia’s second largest export earner, with exports worth over $34 billion – almost twice that of beef, wheat, wool and wine combined.

In 2016–17 Australia’s coal exports were forecast to increase to $40 billion due to significant increases in coal prices since mid-2016.

Between 2007-08 and 2013-14 royalties and company taxes paid by the coal industry totalled almost $38 billion.

In 2015-16 the coal industry directly employed 44,000 people and paid over $5.7 billion in wages and salaries – it is a significant employer and economic activity generator in regional Queensland and NSW.

The Government’s priority is to deliver energy security and affordability as we transition to a lower emissions future. We must ensure the lights stay on and prices stay low for Australian households and businesses. The Government is taking a technology-neutral, non-ideological approach to emissions reduction.

The Government has already put measures in place on this issue. Firstly through the announcement in April of the Australian Domestic Gas Mechanism giving the Government the power to impose export controls on companies when there is a shortfall of gas supply in the domestic market.

Export restrictions will apply if LNG operators drain too much from the domestic market leading to a shortfall in domestic supply and an increase in prices. 

Secondly the Government will start work on an electricity game-changer: the plan for the Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0.

This plan will increase the generation of the Snowy Hydro scheme by 50%, adding 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market – enough to power 500,000 homes.

This unprecedented expansion will help make renewables reliable, filling in holes caused by intermittent supply and generator outages. It will enable greater energy efficiency and help stabilise electricity supply into the future.

This will ultimately mean cheaper power prices and more money in the pockets of Australians.

I often get “told” to stop selling Australia. What people forget is the Government does not own many of the property or assets that they hear of in the media. For example if the Kidman family want to sell their farm, they are entitled to sell it to the highest bidder. Just like any Australian who owns an asset, your goal is to achieve the highest price. The Governments role is to ensure it is in the nation’s best interest and security.

Foreign investment and foreign capital is vital for growth and innovation, and can contribute to the prosperity of businesses, communities and the Australian economy. Without foreign investment, production, employment and income would all be lower.

Under Australia’s foreign investment framework, foreign persons need to apply for foreign investment approval before purchasing residential real estate in Australia. The Government’s policy is to channel foreign investment into new dwellings, as this increases the total dwelling stock in which Australians can live as well as creating additional jobs in the construction industry and supporting economic growth.

Non-resident foreign persons are generally prohibited from purchasing established dwellings in Australia. However, reflecting the fact that foreign persons who are temporary residents need a place to live during their time in Australia, temporary residents can apply to purchase one established dwelling to use as a residence while they live in Australia. The purchase of an established dwelling in these circumstances is conditional on the foreign person selling the property when they leave Australia. Temporary residents cannot acquire established dwellings to rent out or for use as a holiday home.

From 1 December 2015, significant reforms to the foreign investment framework came into effect to improve monitoring and ensure that the rules that prohibit non-resident foreign investors from purchasing existing homes are more vigorously enforced.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) now has responsibility for the administration of the residential real estate functions of the foreign investment framework including compliance and enforcement functions. The ATO has the ability to data match across agencies including the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). The introduction of application fees also ensures that the cost of the system is no longer borne by the Australian taxpayer.

The ATO is now issuing letters to individuals and companies suspected to be involved in breaching the foreign investment framework and conducting investigations of property sales reported to them by the public. The ATO is also conducting random audits to identify properties which may have been acquired illegally.

As of February 2017, the Government had ordered the forced sale of 61 Australian residential properties, with a combined value of $107 million, held by foreign nationals in breach of the foreign investment framework.

The ATO has detected more than 570 foreign nationals who have breached the rules. This has resulted in forced sales, self-disposals, variations to previously approved FIRB applications and retrospective approvals with strict conditions. Breaches of these conditions will result in civil penalties or criminal prosecution.

Under the Government’s enhanced penalty regime the ATO has issued 388 penalty notices to foreign nationals in breach of the rules, attracting penalties of more than $2 million. Penalty notices have been issued to people who have failed to obtain FIRB approval before buying property as well as for breaching a condition of previously approved applications.

In terms of agriculture, the Coalition has increased scrutiny around foreign investment. From 1 March 2015, the screening threshold for agricultural land was lowered from $252 million to $15 million (cumulative).

There has also been an increased transparency on the levels of foreign ownership in Australia through a comprehensive land register. An agricultural land register with information provided directly to the ATO by investors commenced collections on 1 July 2015.

In contrast to the Government’s prudent approach, Labor’s intention is to dismantle the reforms we have made to ensure agricultural land and asset sales are not contrary to the national interest – they will allow the sale of Australian farms and agribusinesses without any meaningful scrutiny by the Australian Government, and without regard for the possible repercussions for rural communities and the national interest.

Labor’s Agricultural land threshold they announced would “liberalise” screening thresholds for the farm and food sectors, removing any meaningful screening by lifting the land threshold from $15 million cumulative to $50 million on a non-cumulative basis. This would mean any private foreign investor could buy Australian farms costing up to $50 million without any scrutiny, and do so again and again. – $50 million can buy a lot of agricultural land in Australia, for example 30,000 hectares in the Hunter valley, or 700,000 hectares of pastoral land in northern Australia.

The Coalition reforms to foreign investment thresholds for agricultural land and agribusiness are all about attracting foreign investment that is not contrary to the national interest, and giving the Australian community confidence in our oversight of that investment.

For more information please visit the Foreign Investment Review Board website at: www.firb.gov.au.

Whilst I cannot list which companies are being targeted what I can say is this. Everyone, including multinational companies, has a responsibility to pay their fair share of tax in Australia on the profits they earn in Australia.

The Coalition Government has already taken significant action to shut down loopholes and tackle tax avoidance head on. This includes introducing a strong Diverted Profits Tax and establishing a Tax Avoidance Taskforce in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The Diverted Profits Tax imposes a 40 per cent penalty tax rate on Australian profits artificially shifted offshore by large multinationals. Commencing on 1 July it will provide the ATO with a formidable new tool to stamp out multinational tax avoidance. The Coalition’s legislation will prevent large corporates using schemes to avoid Australian taxation by transferring profits or assets offshore through related party transactions that lack economic substance.

In this financial year the ATO has already raised $2.9 billion in tax liabilities from seven large multinational companies, and the ATO expects more than $4 billion in total liabilities this financial year from large public groups and multinationals.

This action includes challenging global restructures that introduce debt into Australian corporate groups and shift profits to low or no tax jurisdictions, often in conjunction with intra-group non-arm’s length transactions.

A further $550 million has been raised in this financial year from action against avoidance by private companies, trusts, high wealth individuals and promoters of tax schemes.

These tough actions are further supported by the Multinational Anti Avoidance Law, legislation that Labor opposed. This legislation prevents large multinationals from using an ’operate here, bill overseas’ model to avoid a taxable presence in Australia.

Other important initiatives include the alignment of Australia’s transfer pricing laws with OECD recommendations, increased penalties for large multinationals that breach their tax disclosure obligations, and initiatives to improve corporate tax transparency.

The Multinational Anti Avoidance Law will be further strengthened in the Budget by extending it to corporate structures involving foreign partnerships and foreign trusts.

The Coalition Government is taking action to address the significant, complex and growing economic and social problem of the black economy.

In December 2016, the Government established the Black Economy Taskforce to develop a whole-of government policy framework involving new proposals to tackle black economy activity.

The Government has released the Taskforce’s Interim report and accepted its recommendations for early action, including:

  • The extension of the Taxable Payment Reporting System (TPRS) to the courier and cleaning sectors.
  • A ban on the manufacture, distribution, possession, use or sale of sales suppression technology.

Following public consultation now in progress, the Taskforce will deliver a Final Report to the Government in October this year. The public are invited to make submissions at www.treasury.gov.au/blackeconomy.

Australia is also participating in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that requires companies and governments to report annually on payments in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

In addition, the Government has legislated the Common Reporting Standard, which will provide tax authorities with information on individuals with offshore accounts located around the world.

These latest actions build on the Coalition Government’s strong action to address multinational tax avoidance and to further the fight against serious and organised crime.

There has been ongoing community debate about parliamentarians’ work expenses.  Australians are entitled to expect parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money wisely, appropriately and accountably.

That is why the Coalition Government is undertaking the most comprehensive reforms to federal parliamentarians’ work expenses in a generation.

In February 2017, the Turnbull Government abolished the life gold travel pass for all parliamentarians, except former prime ministers. The life gold pass was a relic of a bygone era and did not meet community expectations so we have axed it.

Furthermore, the Government has transferred responsibility for monitoring and auditing parliamentarians’ work expenses to the new Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA). The IPEA will ensure that reports on parliamentarians’ expenses are released monthly to create a more transparent system.

In coming months, the Coalition Government will also implement more of the recommendations of the Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System Review to further strengthen the accountability and transparency of parliamentarians’ work expenses.

Additionally contrary to what media coverage occasionally implies, most parliamentarians including myself are not entitled to a pension upon retirement or leaving Parliament.

The previous defined benefit parliamentary pension scheme, to which people refer, closed more than a decade ago.  In fact, any Member or Senator first elected since and including October 2004 is unable to access it. 

Almost 90 per cent of Federal Parliamentarians are members of the new superannuation scheme that then took effect, under which superannuation benefits provided to parliamentarians are similar to many that apply throughout the community. 

These arrangements provide for the payment of monthly employer superannuation contributions during a parliamentarian’s term of office. No defined benefit pension is payable to them when they leave Parliament.

Over time, as the small number of MPs first elected prior to October 2004 decreases, the number of beneficiaries under the old pension scheme will be reduced to zero.

I often receive comments like “freeze the payments on welfare to every area and encourage these people to actually work for a living”…. If only if it were that simple. There are many various reasons people access Australia’s welfare system, many of whom do so through no fault of their own.

The Government’s position is to support those who need support whilst providing platforms and programs to help them get back on their feet and into some form of employment if they are able to.

The Government remains committed to ensuring the welfare system is fair and supports those who are genuinely in need.

In saying that, a more sustainable welfare system helps to guarantee these crucial services for current and future generations of Australians.

The Government has instituted a number of measures to strengthen the integrity of the welfare system by identifying and recovering overpayments.

In total, these integrity measures are expected to return around $4 billion to the Budget in cash terms by 2021, and will help to ensure the sustainability of Australia’s welfare system.

The Government will simplify and streamline the welfare system by introducing a new JobSeeker Payment which will consolidate seven existing income support payments.

The new JobSeeker Payment will make the welfare system easier for people to navigate and will deliver a fairer social welfare system by ensuring that people in similar circumstances receive similar support.

The best way to get the welfare budget under control is to get Australians back to work. The new JobSeeker Payment better reflects the expectation that working age people with a capacity to work should be in employment, looking for work or improving their skills to gain employment.

The Government is creating clearer mutual obligation requirements for working-age welfare recipients and increasing support to help them find employment.

Clearer rules that can be properly monitored and enforced will assist people to prepare for, search for and secure employment.

Work for the Dole continues to be a cornerstone of the mutual obligation system. The Government is streamlining the administration of the program and ensuring it provides participants with the skills employers want, while giving back to the community. I note you disagree however it is a program we are continuing to support.

A new, targeted Job Seeker Compliance Framework will commence from 1 July 2018 and will apply stronger penalties for those who deliberately and persistently fail to turn up for job interviews or take suitable work while ensuring that genuinely disadvantaged and vulnerable job seekers are supported.

Additionally the Government is delivering on its commitment to support 120,000 young Australians to get into work. The Youth Jobs PaTH program is assisting young Australians to get a job by providing them with practical pre-employment training, and with real work experience through internships. Businesses are also being encouraged to hire young job seekers through wage subsidies.

The announcement of $9.5 million from the foreign aid budget was for the third phase of SPRINT, which Australian Governments have funded since September 2007. This funding reinforces our longstanding commitment to addressing the needs of women and girls in humanitarian crisis/natural disaster situations.

SPRINT provides access to safe birthing, family planning services, HIV prevention and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to survivors of rape and violence in crisis-affected places. 

Sexual and reproductive health services are critical to reducing maternal and child mortality. SPRINT assists vulnerable people in crisis to access a minimum standard of sexual and reproductive health services, which include clinical services for safe birthing (e.g. clean delivery birthing kits, setting up of maternity wards, emergency obstetric care).

These services are helping women and girls to stay healthy, remain in education, and participate equally in society and the economy.

The Australian aid program, including the SPRINT program, supports the same range of sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries as are available in Australia, subject to the laws of those countries.

Australia does not support or fund sex-selective abortion. 

Additionally the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is not eligible and does not receive any Australian aid funding contrary to what is currently being publicised on various internet sites.

The Kidman station is a privately owned property. Like any Australian property owner, the Kidman family are entitled to review expressions of interest on the sale of their property. As per my comments made in the press on Friday 28 Oct 2016 when asked about the current pending offer on the Kidman estate.

“That’s a matter for the Kidman family to make a decision on who their top bidder is and who their purchaser is going to be. If there are foreign investment implications from that decision, then that will be considered by the Government in due course. On two occasions I rejected the foreign investment applications for previous bids. I’m pleased to see that there are now a number of Australian bids for this iconic empire. It’s now up to the Kidman family to make a decision on how they want to proceed and the Government will take it from there, if the Government is required at all to consider any of those matters.”
Please also consider my comments regarding the first application for sale on the Kidman property on 29 April 2016

PRELIMINARY DECISION OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT APPLICATION FOR PURCHASE OF S. KIDMAN & CO LIMITED

As part of my long and careful deliberations regarding the acquisition by foreign investors of S. Kidman and Co. Limited, consistent with the formal process required, I have today informed the investor that my preliminary view of the proposal that has been put to me is contrary to the national interest.
 
Australia welcomes foreign investment, however we must be confident that this investment is not contrary to the national interest. Australians must have confidence in how we regulate foreign investment, to ensure continued support for foreign investment that is critical to our economy in providing jobs and growth. This is a relevant consideration.
 
On 15 April I exercised my statutory discretion to extend the period in which I have to review this application. I did this in order to provide me with sufficient time to consider this complex case. Without this extension I would have been required to have made a decision that week. This additional time has assisted me in forming my preliminary view.
 
The Kidman land portfolio is the largest private land holding in Australia. The Kidman portfolio holds approximately 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total land area, and 2.5 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land. Even after the excision of Anna Creek and The Peake properties, Kidman will still be Australia’s largest private land owner and hold over 1 per cent of Australia’s total land area, and 2 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land.
 
Given the size and significance of the Kidman portfolio I am concerned that the acquisition of an 80 per cent interest in S. Kidman & Co Limited by Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (Dakang) may be contrary to the national interest. I have today made my concerns known to the applicant and provided them with a natural justice period in which they may respond and consider how they wish to proceed. The applicant shall have until next Tuesday 3 May 2016 to respond.
 
I have concerns that the form in which the Kidman portfolio has been offered as a single aggregated asset, has rendered it difficult for Australian bidders to be able to make a competitive bid. The size of the asset makes it difficult for any single Australian group to acquire the entire operation.
 
On 20 April I commissioned an external and independent Review of the Kidman sale process to examine market integrity issues around the Kidman sale process so that I could be fully informed. The Review, conducted by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, was tasked with providing advice on whether the competitive bid process offered fair opportunity to Australian bidders to participate.
 
The Review contains sensitive commercial in confidence material which precludes its release. While the review found the sale process followed a satisfactory commercial practice that offered opportunity to Australian parties to make an offer, the review also found there remains significant domestic interest in Kidman.
 
I outlined my concerns in my announcement and decision on Kidman on 19 November 2015. I noted then that the size and significance of the total portfolio of Kidman properties in the proposed form as a single composite property asset was not in the national interest. I am not yet satisfied these concerns have been addressed by the revised proposal that has been submitted to me.
 
The size and significance of the portfolio, combined with the impact the decision may have on broader Australian support for foreign investment in Australian agriculture, must also be taken into account in this case.
 
The Coalition Government welcomes foreign investment where it is consistent with our national interests. However, we must always ensure it is on our own terms. There are not too many jurisdictions anywhere in the world where foreign acquisition of large holdings would be permitted.
 
As Treasurer I approved many significant foreign investment proposals and I considered each on its merits. Foreign investment has underpinned the development of our nation and we must continue to attract the strong inflows of foreign capital that our economy requires. Without foreign capital and investment, Australia’s output, employment and standard of living would all be lower.
 
Foreign investment rules facilitate such investment while giving assurance to the community that the investment is being made in a way which ensures that Australia’s national interest is protected We will continue to welcome and support foreign investment that is not contrary to our national interest.

As the Treasurer I announced many changes to bolster foreign investment rules.

  • Formal requirements on foreign investment applications to ensure multinational companies investing in Australia pay tax here on what they earn;
  • Greater compliance powers for the Australian Taxation Office and strict new penalties for those caught breaking the rules;
  • A new agricultural land foreign ownership register and reduction of the screening threshold for proposed foreign purchases of agricultural land by private investors to $15 million;
  • FIRB screening of direct interests in agribusinesses valued at $55 million or more;
  • The appointment of Mr David Irvine (a former Director General of both the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service) to the FIRB, bolstering the Board’s ability to advise on national security issues;
  • Appointment of Mr Peever to the FIRB (retired as Managing Director of Rio Tinto Australia in October 2014 after 27 years with the company and recent chair of the Minister of Defence’s First Principle Review of Defence);
  • Forced sales of 27 properties, worth more than $76 million, illegally acquired by foreign nationals.