The Sale of Australia’s Wealth Creating Assets Continues

55,000 Petitions have not been heard despite the fact it was presented to Parliament in December 2012.

Things to do:

1. Read below

2. Sign the petition

3. Share with your friends

4. Send an email to your Federal Member and the candidate running in your Federal Seat.

Ask: How can we take advantage of the Asian Century if we do not own the assets supplying those markets.

In 2012 over fifty five thousand people signed a petition for a moratorium on the sale of our wealth creating assets until we have a national interest test. In the last few days Graincorp has announced that they have accepted a bid by a ADM, a US owned company to see accept a take over price. That includes all the assets of the business including ports, silos and customers. Note Cargill, a private US company is a major owner of our grain and beef exports. Our farmers are not part of the price negotiations. The ACCC would stop such dominance of an Australian company, but not of foreign interests collectively dominating key industry sectors once Australian owned.

Australia’s once great grain interests are now majority controlled by foreign interests who do not differentiate the quality and integrity of our products. Our reputation for quality built over more than a century is no more. Our farmers are prices takers not price makers. On farm debt is rising. And we have done and continue to do this to ourselves.

The Weekend Australian 27/28 April 2013 confirmed what AUSBUY has been warning about for over 22 years. We have no major foods companies in this country. The Australian cites Fonterra a New Zealand owned company that is the largest dairy company in the world.

How did they do this? Since the 1970s New Zealand has focused on supporting their owned and incentivizing their business people to grow and expand their businesses. New Zealand has been prepared to say NO when foreign ownership is not in New Zealand’s interest. Our national debt is rising, jobs are being lost and Government tax income is declining.

Why? Because foreign interests do not pay the same taxes as Australian owned companies operating here. Because foreign ownership means the decisions are not made here, profits go off shore before tax in consulting fees etc, and our jobs, skills and reinvestment are at risk.

What we want:

• Stop the sale of assets until we identify strategic assets which cannot be controlled by foreign interests.

• We are not against foreign investment but it should be on our terms not theirs. We want at least 51% ownership of assets. We want transparency in transactions so that the real profits are evident.

• Review of the 10% withholding tax for foreign companies – reduced from 15% in 2005. Does this meet the national interest test? Are you concerned about the sale of our wealth creating assets and our land to foreign countries and companies, especially those countries which do not reciprocate the opportunity?

The countries buying our assets have long recognised the importance of food security, yet successive decades of our policy decisions have forced our farmers off their land. This is an issue of national importance.

We ask you to have your say. We urge you to send links for this petition and the survey to other concerned Australians. AUSBUY represents the voice of Australian owned companies and growers across our communities - they deserve our support. CLICK HERE to sign the AUSBUY petition. 

Read below for background to the discussion:

Last year the then minister for Trade Dr Craig Emerson said we could not stop the sale of our land to foreign interests because of Free Trade Agreements. We contend that this excuse is nonsense. The reference to trade in the Australian Constitution signed in 1900 states that: “All other matters related to trade Section 92 provides that "trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free". The precise meaning of this phrase is the subject of a considerable body of law.

Chapter IV deals with finance and trade in the federal system. Section 81 prescribes that all Commonwealth revenue shall form the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Parliament can make laws as to the appropriations of money (Section 53). Unlike most other powers of the parliament, laws made under the appropriations power are not ordinarily susceptible to effective legal challenge. Section 90 gives the Commonwealth exclusive power over duties of custom and excise. The Government of the day determines the parameters of trade of goods and services between countries. There is no mention of the sale of land in the Constitution under Trade. The argument is that we have always had foreign ownership of our land. In 1788 Australia was regarded as “terra nullius” no man’s land. In 1992 the Mabo Case recognised the rights of the indigenous Australians as custodians of the land. But the rights of Australian citizens both now and into the future are being overlooked.

Current Government action threatens Australia’s sovereignty for all Australians and is not in the national interest. The implications are beyond the sale of our land. In past decades Australia has signed Free Trade Agreements with many of the countries buying our land, which include free access to the Australian market, but tariffs are still applied to Australian exports. Many imports are subsidised by their governments and our high dollar means that Australia is importing more than we are exporting. In the meantime our national debt is rising. We have allowed foreign control of our food assets beyond the farm gate and foreign interests now control the majority of all but one of our food commodities.

This means Australian farmers are price takers not price makers. Our farmers are among the most productive and innovative in the world and with their backs against the wall are being forced to sell their farms. Future generations of farmers no longer see the opportunities that their forebears saw and the benefits Australia enjoyed.

We say we are developing a service economy, but these jobs too are being taken off shore. They do not grow our food and manufacture equipment. Many low paid service jobs are part time casual, low skilled jobs. We contend that we are a developing country not a developed country and the long term effects on our national debt and our sovereignty are compromised by short term thinking.

Reference to a Recent Case in New Zealand: 

NZ decides who buys their assets – What can we learn? NZ decides who buys their assets – What can we learn? Media Release We can learn a lot from New Zealand as they give priority to their own wealth creators and long term national interests. New Zealand dairy farmers recently won a case in their Supreme Court to stop the sale of eight dairy farms to China. The case was won on the basis that the long term economic value of these farms would be lost to the New Zealand economy if foreign interests bought them. New Zealand has several issues in their favour. Their government must be notified and approve any sale of land over five hectares. The Maori Treaty signed with the British allowed the sale of land to the Crown but protected the people from the acquisition by other foreign powers.

In Australia foreign sales are not noted unless they exceed $244m or in the case of the USA $1001m. last year Cargill, a privately owned US family company has bought the prized Billabong station near Wagga Wagga through its Hedge Fund, the Black River Asset Management Group (an unlisted Cargill family company). They paid around $9m for the property. Given that Cargill already dominates beyond the farm gate in our beef and wheat exports, the wealth created from these assets do not stay in Australia. If this was an Australian company the ACCC would limit its dominance in the local market place. Under the rules of withholding tax in Australia, foreign buyers who borrow off shore or use off shore consultants as expenses to purchase and run business here, pay only 10% withholding tax on expenses paid off shore. This means profits from these assets are not circulated within the Australian economy as they go off shore before profits are declared and tax paid on profits. Unlike public companies, private companies are not easily scrutinized and $millions in profits are siphoned off Australian shores before tax. When foreign companies/ countries buy our assets we do not have access to the profits derived from those assets.

We do not control the farming practices on that land. We do not control what jobs are created on that land. In the meantime our governments give subsidies to foreign companies to set up business in competition with local manufacturers (OLAM Singapore almond processing) or sell our assets and intellectual property to foreign interests (Victorian Dairy Research Centre to China leaving local bidders out). Our interest rates are among the highest in the world and we have a “for sale” sign on our assets. We need to learn how to manage our wealth creating assets for our long term benefit not just the benefit of foreign interests and a short term fix. We have much to learn.

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