Nationals’ leader Warren Truss.
Nationals’ leader Warren Truss. Adam Hourigan

Rudd's foreign investment comments a mere 'thought bubble'

KEVIN Rudd's "more cautious approach" to foreign investment in agriculture has been tagged a "thought bubble" that conflicts with his stated position on investment in northern Australia.

Nationals' leader Warren Truss made the comments after a National Press Club address in Canberra on Thursday.

It came after Mr Rudd's comments in a leaders debate on Wednesday night that heard "loud and clear" the concerns of regional Australians on foreign investment.

"I am a bit nervous, a bit anxious, frankly, about simply an open slather on this," Mr Rudd said on Wednesday.

But Mr Truss said the Prime Minister's comments conflicted with comments he made that more investment was needed, especially in northern Australia.

The Nationals leader also said he still had "serious reservations" about the proposed takeover of Graincorp by United States oilseed giant ADM.

"That leads to real questions about whether you lose control over your own destiny and (the) capacity to make decisions about where we want to expand our grain industry," he said.

The comments have re-opened the national debate on foreign investment, coming as the Foreign Investment Review Board considers the merits of a potential takeover of Graincorp.

While both parties have committed to a new foreign investment register, Mr Truss said only the Coalition had committed to lowering the board's inquiry threshold for such investments from $244 million to just $15 million.

He said the policy - a key plank of the Nationals' election platform - would result in a more rigorous assessment of such investments.

The Coalition has also pledged to install two new FIRB members with agriculture and business experience, to help bring a different voice to the assessment process.

Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was also reported as saying Labor was not looking at any changes to the board's national interest test, but had had discussions about "building public confidence".



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