A major international report by Oxfam about the impact of agricultural land grabs around the world shows that current rules, regulations and attitudes about food production and trade are out of step with a new global reality, the Australian Greens said today.
The report's launch coincides with a Senate debate today on Senators Milne and Xenophon's bill for greater oversight and control of the sale of Australian agricultural land and water to overseas interests.
"Agricultural land grabs around the world are accelerating rapidly as climate change and population growth make food a national security issue for many countries," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"Oxfam has raised the impact of these land grabs on the poor and dispossessed around the world, an issue that is easily forgotten in Australia, particularly when many refuse to see that this problem exists at all.
"Australia is living in a fool's paradise if we don't start to recognise that the world has changed. Current attitudes to trade and to land ownership are leaving Australia vulnerable.
"Global trade rules are being sidelined by the new reality of outsourcing production, with real impacts already for least developed countries and potential impacts for Australia if we don't rethink our attitudes.
"As a rich country and a major food producer, Australia is well placed to lead a global conversation on this issue, as well as to look at our own domestic situation.
"As long as Australia maintains sovereign control over our agricultural land, our water and our food production, we can not only feed ourselves and sell our food into the international market, but we can also make appropriate decisions about where we might need to direct that food for humanitarian reasons."
Senators Milne and Xenophon's bill, being debated in the Senate today, would require potential investments over $5 million to be reviewed by the Foreign Investment Review Board. It would reflect existing legislation in New Zealand.
"A recent study by the Bureau of Statistics showed that already 24% of the Northern Territory's agricultural land is either partly or wholly foreign owned, and 31% of water entitlements for agricultural purposes in Western Australia are also partly or wholly foreign owned.
"It's time we had a national conversation about how far we want this to go."