Last 8 February, Senator Fraser Anning posted the following message on Twitter:
“We must stop the Chinese takeover of Australian land and infrastructure. They already control 9.1 million hectares of land and key assets like the Port of Darwin. We must not bow to the Chinese government and risk our national security.”
“Australia for Australians!! End the Chinese takeover.”
The controversial Queensland Senator echoed the sentiment of many Australians who are not pleased over China’s expanding property investments in the country.
The lease of Port of Darwin to China, the ownership of 9.1 million hectares of land by Chinese investors and the ongoing foreign buyouts of infrastructures and properties prompted Anning to make a bold stand for Australia.
In 2015 a 99-year lease to operate the Port of Darwin was awarded to a Chinese company.
The agreement signed with the Landbridge Group worth $506 million created a wave of geopolitical dissent in Australia.
Many citizens accused Adam Giles’ government of selling the port to China. Washington was not pleased with the move either.
The port was the southern flank of the US operations in the Pacific and former US President Barack Obama complained they were not made aware of the transaction.
At that time, the silent tug of war between United States and China on the South China Sea issue had already begun.
The deal did not sit well with defense experts as it entails serious security implications. There were even speculations that it could act as a front for Chinese “espionage or sabotage” of US Navy vessels in the port.
Two years later, Australians were alarmed by Landbridge group’s move to refinance the Port of Darwin.
The company used the port as security for a loan of up to $500m from the Chinese government-owned Export-Import bank (Exim). It was reported that the company pursued the loan to develop the port as well as other Darwin-based projects.
Currently, Landbridge owns oil and gas assets in Australia and is building a luxury hotel and industrial park in the area.
Another point of concern for Anning is the escalating Chinese ownership of Australian land.
In December 2018, it was reported that China has added another 50,000 hectares to their Australian property portfolio.
Despite the growing concerns over foreign intrusion and security threats, the total area of land under China’s control has ballooned to more than 9.1 million hectares.
Australians need to brace themselves for a possible increase of China’s stake on their land because inquiries on residential properties from Chinese buyers have increased in the final quarter of 2018.
The renewed interest may have been sparked by declining property values in Australia’s key cities and the strengthening of Yuan.
Carrie Law, CEO and Director at Juwai.com said “The Chinese yuan is now about 6% higher against the Australian dollar compared to this time last year. That means the relative advantage in currency rates is in favor of Australia compared to other major countries.”
“[That provides] an incentive for Chinese buyers to direct their investment to Australia and other countries where their purchasing power is still strong,” she added.
She also believes that the adverse effects of the US/China trade war on the economy are pushing Chinese investors to turn to Australia:
“With the trade war making some Chinese investors increasingly nervous about making new acquisitions of US real estate, some of those investors may turn to Australia as a natural alternative.”
While this remains to be seen, one thing is certain, Australians no longer welcome the idea of China owning a big chunk of their beloved land.
It’s time for the government to elevate measures to prevent a Chinese takeover to ensure their citizens that foreign investments will not compromise national interest.