Foreign investment debate

THERE is a tax disincentive for Australians wanting to invest in domestic agricultural interests, a Senate committee inquiry heard on Friday.

David Farley, the head of the nation's oldest company, Australian Agricultural Company, spoke to a Senate inquiry investigating foreign investment.

The committee hearing in Canberra came a week after the Coalition released a discussion paper on foreign investment, reigniting debate about the issue.

Mr Farley said AACo had relied on foreign investment since its inception, and the source country of any foreign investment was not the major concern.

He said any foreign investment, whether it came from China the United States or other countries, should be welcomed, but on Australian "terms and conditions".

One of the chief reasons Australian companies were not willing to invest in Australian agriculture, he said, was that the tax system was working against them.

"The reality is Australia has been asleep at the wheel, not only did we almost miss the coming boom in hard commodities, we are missing what's coming in soft commodities (agriculture).

"I don't think it's an issue of where the capital comes from, it's the terms and conditions with which we allow that capital to be employed in Australian land or businesses."

Mr Farley said overseas investors he had spoken to were interested in Australian land and businesses primarily because of large tax incentives Australia gave to foreign firms.

But he said these same tax incentives were not available to domestic companies, putting them off investing in the market.

The Senate committee will report its findings to parliament in September.


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