The Foreign Acquisitions Amendment (Agricultural Land) Bill 2010 proposes changes to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and is currently before the Senate.

One of the key changes is to introduce a “national interest test” that requires any interest in Australian agricultural land greater than five hectares to be subject to application to the Treasurer.

The current position is that private foreign investors only need to obtain Government consent if the purchase price is over $231 million.

This is considered a very high threshold and significant purchases may have been made without drawing Government attention.

Penalties have been set out to apply to foreign entities which enter into an agreement and have not notified the Treasurer. Contravening the Bill is punishable by imprisonment or a fine.