Foreign investment laws 'lopsided' says senator

AUSTRALIA'S lopsided rules on foreign investment have protected urban homes and residential land but allowed open slather on farming land, according to New South Wales Senator John Williams.

Senator Williams made the comments after questioning the executive director of the Treasury's markets group, Jim Murphy, in Senate estimates this week, about the sale of the nation's largest cotton farm, Cubbie Station.

The sale of the massive station to a Chinese-led consortium was approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board in August and finalised last week.

Senator Williams said he was told the rules were tougher for foreign interests to buy homes and residential land than for farm land, "so as not to inflate the housing market".

Similar concerns about overpriced foreign offers on agricultural land pushing up valuations in regional Australia were raised by Nationals MPs and Senators in recent months.

"Foreign persons are prohibited from acquiring established dwellings for investment purposes or as homes except in certain circumstances, and there are tight restrictions on other residential purchases, some of which need approval," Senator Williams said.

"However, it is open slather on farming land.

"Foreign investors can buy up and force the prices up which is good for equity, but can price those wanting to expand their holdings out of the market.

"It is a policy that seems lopsided."

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