Call for scrutiny on Chinese deals
CANBERRA’S conditional approval of a Chinese bid for local baby food maker Bellamy’s has sparked calls for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to clamp down on the Chinese company which now owns Tasmania’s biggest dairy farm.
Senator Jacqui Lambie says the Government’s approval of China Mengniu Dairy Company's proposed $1.5 billion takeover of Bellamy’s showed Australia “rolls over like a dog” whenever the communist country opens its cheque book.
Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson called the looming takeover of another Tasmanian dairy company ‘regrettable” and he welcomed Mr Frydenberg’s decision to impose enforceable conditions on the deal.
He now wants Mr Frydenberg to impose enforceable conditions retrospectively on Moon Lake Investment’s takeover of VDL Company in 2016.
The conditions placed on the Bellamy’s deal include that the majority of board members be Australian resident citizens, that the company keep its headquarters in Australia for the next decade at least and that Mengniu Dairy spend upward of $12 million upgrading its processing plant in Victoria.
“This move from the Treasurer clearly acknowledges the problems with the previous controversial VDL’s approval where promises were voluntary and have not been implemented,” Senator Wh ishW i lson said.
“I have repeatedly written to the Treasurer regarding Moon Lake Investments not meeting its voluntary undertakings and I outlined to the Senate in a motion in July the process to impose additional conditions on Moon Lake Investments to make them come good on their promised $100 million investment and 95 new jobs.
“Mr Frydenberg should do the right thing by Tasmanian communities and be consistent in applying the approach he has taken with Bellamy’s to VDL.”
Senator Lambie said the Foreign Investment Review Board was not acting in Australia’s interests.
“It seems that every time FIRB makes a decision it weakens our national food security,” she said. “And every time communist Chinese open their cheque book we roll over like a dog.”
Federal MP Andrew Wilkie said it was important the Bellamy’s deal did not mirror what had happened at VDL’s Woolnorth operation.
“Foreign buyers promised the world but failed to deliver on just about any of it. To that end, the FIRB must be sure that the Bellamy’s approval is accompanied by an iron-clad guarantee that Australian jobs will be maintained, and that the continued supply of baby formula to Australian markets is not interrupted,” Mr Wilkie said.
Mr Frydenberg said he, like the review board, had concluded the Bellamy’s acquisition was “not contrary to the national interest.”
“The conditional approval demonstrates our foreign investment rules can facilitate such an acquisition while giving assurance to the community that decisions are being made in a way which ensures that Australia’s national interest is protected,” he said.
“These conditions are enforceable under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and penalties apply to foreign investors that do not comply with their obligations.”