A Senate inquiry into the adequacy of the "national interest test" after community concerns about foreign acquisition of Australian agricultural land was launched in July, chaired by Senator Bill Heffernan.
Submissions were due by 2 September 2011.
According to the terms of reference, the inquiry will include an examination of:
- how the test was applied to purchases of Australian agricultural land and agri-businesses by foreign companies, foreign sovereign funds and other entities in the past 12 months;
- the role of the Government, regulators (including ASIC) and receivers, including their obligations under legislation;
- the global food task and Australia's food security in the context of sovereignty;
- the role of the foreign sovereign wealth funds in acquiring Australian sovereign assets;
- how similar national interest tests are applied to the purchase of agricultural land and agri-businesses in other countries.
The findings of the inquiry are due on 30 November 2011.
The "national interest test" is the fundamental consideration under which FIRB makes its decisions on foreign investment applications. The aim of this inquiry is to improve the transparency of investment decisions in industry sectors, such as the agricultural, mining and energy sectors, when applying this test.