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The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will call on the Government to stop the sale of the Van Diemen’s Land Company in northern Tasmania to the Chinese.

“The Van Diemen’s Land Company is the largest dairy asset in Australia, was established in 1824 and is the last Royal Charter company to farm land exclusively within the original land grant,” Mr Wilkie said.

“It involves about 30,000 cows and 20,000 hectares over 25 farms.

“The New Zealand owners of the company 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 enterprise and that matter is now before the Victorian Supreme Court.

“A prestigious place of origin food brand, and especially one with associated tourism components, promises to be a much more lucrative operation for Australia than one doing little more than shipping bulk milk or bulk milk powder off to another country.

“Moreover Tasmania’s dairy industry is assessed to be less affected by climate change than in the rest of Australia. So this asset will be even more strategically important to Australia’s dairy food production if it remains in Australian hands.

“We’ve already leased the Darwin defence port to a foreign company and the last thing we should be doing now is selling off the farm as well. If this asset was back in Australian hands the benefits to the economy and the community would be tremendous.

“Ensuring this asset is in Australia’s hands is also a sensible move considering how premium food production for global markets promises to be our next resources boom.

“I call on the Government to intervene and restrict the sale of the Van Diemen’s Land Company to a wholly or at least majority Australian-owned enterprise. This matter must not be left to the Foreign Investment Review Board alone.

“I expect to ask a question about this matter in Question Time today.”

WILKIE TO QUESTION PM ON VAN DIEMEN’S LAND COMPANY SALE

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will ask the Prime Minister the following in Question Time today. Please check against delivery.

“Prime Minister, Van Diemen’s Land Company started in 1824; is the largest dairy asset in Australia, owned by New Zealanders and up for sale.

“The owners 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 enterprise.

“Prime Minister will you intervene to ensure this iconic and economically strategic holding is returned to Australian ownership?”

WHEN: Approximately 2:15pm TODAY 2 December

WHERE: House of Representatives (watch live at http://www.aph.gov.au/News_and_Events/Watch_Parliament)

THE GREAT AUSSIE FIRE SALE SET TO CONTINUE

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.