FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has rubbished a claim he is “beating xenophobic drums” by objecting to the $3 billion takeover bid for GrainCorp.
The accusation was made by former Treasurer Wayne Swan last week ahead of the government making a final decision on the controversial offer.
Mr Swan, who oversaw a dramatic surge in overseas investment during his time as treasurer, said some MPs were simply fanning racist sentiment.
He questioned the government’s motive for delaying a decision on the offer by US agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) until December 17.
“What you had was a lot of populist rhetoric from the likes of Barnaby Joyce, who was simply beating xenophobic drums because it suited him politically,” Mr Swan told Fairfax Media.
“Now he’s in government, you might notice he has stopped.”
But Mr Joyce told The Leader he completely rejected Mr Swan’s argument that because he objected to this particular deal, he was opposed to all foreign investment.
“I have an objection to a certain transaction – the GrainCorp sale to ADM – and my objection resonates and is the overwhelming view of the people of New England,” he said.
“And (Mr Swan) says ‘Well, because you have an objection to one, we’re going to say that you object to all forms of foreign investment”.
“The same argument is used when finding a person having a beer and calling them an alcoholic, or finding a person who missed a shower one day and calling them a grot.
“That is the form of argument that Mr Swan follows, but that would be expected. He is in opposition and the only solace I can take is that his own people – his own party – believes he’s not the right person to be shadow treasurer.”
Mr Joyce said the ADM offer, which is being considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board, could prove disastrous for the region’s many grain growers.
“I’m certain it has the potential to create a monopoly on the eastern coast in crucial grain infrastructure,” he said.
“What this means is that the person who receives your grain, is also the person responsible for the movement of the grain, is also the person who owns the port, is also the person who in many instances buys the grain.”