Russell has welcomed the announcement of a working group to consult on the development of a national register of foreign ownership of agricultural land, following over-whelming concern expressed by constituents in a recent electorate survey.
McMillan constituents, along with many Australians, have very clearly identified foreign ownership of agricultural land a substantial issue of national sovereignty.
A national foreign ownership register for agricultural land would provide the community with a more comprehensive picture of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings over and above what is currently available.
Views on the establishment of a register, could include:
What ownership interests should be captured under a register;
How the register would interact with existing state and territory land title registers, including the Foreign Ownership of Land Register in Queensland;
Ways to monitor and enforce compliance; and
How information would be reported on and disclosed.
Russell said, "A register would clearly improve transparency of foreign ownership in agriculture and would enhance existing data collections in this sector."
"While foreign investment in the agricultural sector brings significant benefits to Australia and opportunities for Australian farmers, closer scrutiny is to be welcomed," he added.
Currently the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) contribute to surveys and reports regarding foreign investment in agriculture.
Factors to be considered when assessing foreign investment applications in the sector would also be examined.
While there has been minimal change in foreign ownership levels of agricultural land in Australia since 1984, an ABARES report highlights the need for better data sources to provide a more comprehensive picture of how the landscape of foreign investment in agriculture may be evolving.