Frontbencher Christopher Pyne has declared the Federal opposition “obviously” supports foreign investment after Treasurer Wayne Swan approved the sale of Australia’s largest cotton grower, Cubbie Station, to a Chinese-dominated consortium.
Under the terms of the approval, textile manufacturer RuYi – owned by investors based in China and Japan – will initially take an 80 per cent stake in Cubbie. That will be sold down to 51 per cent within three years.
Mr Swan says if the sale proceeds it will protect jobs and support economic activity in the Dirranbandi and St George regions of Queensland.
Mr Pyne on Saturday appeared to back the treasurer’s decision.
“Most Australians are in favour of foreign investment,” he told Sky News. “Of course they are – our country is built on foreign investment.”
Earlier, opposition regional development spokesman Barnaby Joyce labelled the sale a disgrace and accused Mr Swan of failing the community.
“Mr Swan has basically let go of Australia’s biggest property,” the Nationals senator from St George told ABC Radio.
“The whole proposition now that we talk about a so-called national interest in agriculture ... it’s a farce.”
Senator Joyce said Cubbie held Australia’s biggest water licence and was responsible for 10 per cent of the nation’s cotton crop.
Therefore it had the capacity to “influence markets”, he said.
Mr Pyne was reluctant to discuss Senator Joyce’s attack, claiming he hadn’t seen the comments.
“But in principle obviously we support foreign investment in the coalition, as does the government,” he said.
A month ago Opposition leader Tony Abbott promised to increase scrutiny of foreign investment in Australian farms if the coalition won the next election.