I am disappointed that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have refused to intervene in the sale of the Van Diemen’s Land Company to another foreign enterprise.
The New Zealand owners of VDL had accepted a bid by a majority Australian consortium committed to producing premium branded dairy products. But they’ve been gazumped by a Chinese bulk commodity firm.
We’re talking about the largest dairy asset in Australia which, if it was back in Australian hands, would provide enormous benefits to the economy and community. For the Government to wash its hands of the matter and leave it to the Foreign Investment Review Board is a weak position and not in the public interest.
The constant sell-off of Australian assets shows an alarming lack of government understanding of the importance of strategic assets, both military and economic.
To allow a foreign buyer to purchase VDL also shows a worrying government disinterest in Australia’s potential to be a global leader in premium food production. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the public interest as this decision is entirely out of step with what the public want and expect. And it shows a startling disregard for the effects of climate change as Tasmania’s dairy industry is assessed to be less affected by climate change than the rest of Australia.
Some consolation might be drawn, however, from the Treasurer reminding the Parliament that the Government did stop the sale of the Kidman cattle empire to a Chinese buyer. Although this was done on the advice of FIRB, the episode did demonstrate the Government’s preparedness to stop the sale of a strategic agricultural asset to a foreign buyer, at least in some circumstances. We can but hope that common sense prevails in this case too.