Foreign investment is a hot topic that seems to polarise Australians. It’s also a matter that isn’t always a black and white issue.
Australia needs foreign investment to develop our nation, just like it needs immigration. The real questions are who, where and when.
There will be many differing opinions on those questions but a good starting point for investment and land ownership is found in the ethic of reciprocity. Let others invest in Australia on the same terms and conditions that Australians can invest in their nation.
If Australians can’t own farmland or houses in another country, why should their citizens be able to purchase ours? If a leasehold interest is the only thing available overseas then provide the same limitation here.
It’s not the perfect solution but it operates as a common sense starting point.
There is however another area where we have to be much more vigilant - that of sovereign wealth funds. These government-backed investment corporations are often driven by strategic and political (rather than commercial) considerations. That can mean Australia’s interests are actually disadvantaged by their involvement in our natural resources.
Much has been made publicly of sovereign wealth investment in Australia by China but there is a more urgent area of investment that needs to be addressed. That is the tiny but very wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
Qatar has a wealth fund with significant investment in Australian agriculture. It controls an estimated 300,000 hectares or around 3000km2 of prime agricultural land in Australia. That’s bigger than Luxembourg and around one quarter the size of Qatar itself.
Qatar is also a state sponsor of terrorism and the bankroller of terror groups around the world. This has recently been acknowledged by its near neighbours who have ceased all diplomatic relations. Qatari citizens and airlines have even been banned from transiting through a number of Arab countries.
Even the leaked emails from the ill-fated Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign acknowledged the direct link between Qatar and terrorism funding in the Middle East. Of course that didn’t stop the Clinton Foundation from taking their money - a damning indictment of donor and recipient alike.
So if we accept the evidence and findings of other nations that Qatar is closely linked to the funding of terrorism, it begs the question as to why we allow them to put their dirty money in Australian farmland or any other strategic Australian asset.
We wouldn’t accept such a circumstance from other rogue nations like Libya or North Korea so why from a wealthy Middle Eastern state that’s funding global terrorism?
The evidence suggests that Qatar is directly and indirectly funding our enemies. They are then, for all intents and purposes, our enemy too.
As such, we are right to question their activities in Australia. Whether it be Qatar Airways’ access to Australian routes, or sponsoring the Sydney Swans, investment in our agricultural resources or anything else.
It’s time for us to get tough on protecting our national interest. That means ceasing to turn a blind eye to the activities of nations undermining our national interest and sponsoring our enemies.
We can start by forcing Qatar to divest itself of its investments in Australia.