Referral of inquiry
On 25 November 2015, the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate
Economics References Committee (committee) for inquiry and report by 4 February
An examination of the foreign
investment review framework, including the powers and processes of the Foreign
Investment Review Board, in relation to Australian assets of strategic or
national significance being subject to lease or purchase by foreign owned
interests, and whether there ought to be any legislative or regulatory changes
to that framework to ensure Australia’s national interest is being adequately
considered, with particular reference to:
- the decision by the Northern Territory Government to grant a
99-year-lease over the Port of Darwin to Landbridge Group;
the planned lease by the New South Wales Government of TransGrid;
the decision by the Treasurer to block the sale of S Kidman and Co on
national interest grounds; and
any other related matters.
Conduct of inquiry
In accordance with its usual processes, the committee advertised the
inquiry on its website, and wrote to relevant organisations and individuals in
order to invite submissions.
To date, the committee has received 17 submissions and has conducted one
public hearing, held on 15 December 2015 in Canberra. The names of witnesses
who appeared at the hearing are listed at Appendix 1.
During the hearing, the committee heard evidence on the decision, which
came into effect on 16 November 2015, by the Northern Territory Government to
grant a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin to the Landbridge Group.
The committee acknowledges the organisations and individuals that have
made contributions to the inquiry so far through submission and appearance at
Purpose and structure of interim report
This interim report focusses on term of reference (a), the decision to
grant a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin to Landbridge Group. It considers
evidence provided in submissions to the committee, along with evidence given at
the 15 December 2015 public hearing.
Drawing on the Port of Darwin matter, the interim report makes
preliminary recommendations reflecting concerns raised in evidence regarding
the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), Australia's Foreign Investment
Review Framework and recent regulatory changes and the decision-making process.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of the Port of Darwin lease process and
the winning bidder, the Landbridge Group. Chapter 3 details the foreign
investment review framework and in particular, the role of FIRB in relation to
foreign investment in Australia. Chapter 4 considers the evidence before the
committee in support of the foreign investment framework with focus on the Port
of Darwin lease process. Chapter 5 considers the concerns raised in evidence
regarding the framework and its processes as well as evidence in support of
changes to the legislative and regulatory framework. Chapter 6 provides the
committee's view and a recommendation.
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