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  • Foreign Investment Stakeholder Group key messages 25 March 2021

    Policy reform update

    John Breusch – Treasury

    Reforms to the foreign investment framework took effect from 1 January 2021 following parliamentary passage on 10 December 2020.

    New guidance material has been published consolidating 53 guidance notes to 15External Link.

    Foreign investment Review Board Guidance Note 15External Link – Transitional arrangements provides a series of flowcharts to help investors understand the transition to the new regime.

    Foreign investment Review Board Guidance Note 8External Link – National Security is a new guidance note introduced to help understand the main aspects of the new national security test.

    Following consultation in February with the Law Council of Australia’s foreign investment committee, Treasury is moving to update the guidance material in around a month.

    The Government has committed $86 million over four years to develop a new consolidated IT system. System design work is currently underway.

    Minor legislative changes will be included in a Treasury Miscellaneous and Technical Amendments Bill.

    A news item on the Treasury Evaluation of the recent foreign investment reformsExternal Link was published 22 February 2021 on firb.gov.au. In accordance with section 4 of the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, the Treasury is conducting an evaluation of the foreign investment reforms that commenced on 1 January 2021. The review is required to be completed by 10 December 2021. Further information is available on the evaluation process, including a copy of the terms of reference and details on stakeholder consultationExternal Link.

    Residential land update

    Libby Haydon – ATO

    Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announcedExternal Link the launch of a new tip off and compliance campaign through a Stronger foreign investment enforcement for residential real estateExternal Link media release on 21 December 2020. Information is available on ato.gov.au on how to Report a breach of the foreign investment real estate rules.

    We are continuing to promote increased use of Exemption certificates for foreign investors of residential real estate and benefits for foreign investors seeking approval.

    A range of compliance strategies are continuing to be progressed to take into consideration the circumstance of foreign investor clients who may be impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

    Publication of foreign held agricultural land and water entitlements reports as at 30 June 2020

    Josephine Mercieca – ATO

    The Register of foreign ownership of agricultural land - Report of registrations as at 30 June 2020External Link is the fifth publication of this report and was published on the firb.gov.au website on 11 December 2020.

    The Register of foreign ownership of water entitlements - Report of registrations as at 30 June 2020External Link was published on the firb.gov.au website on 1 March 2020.

    The reports deliver on the Government’s commitment to improving transparency of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water entitlements.

    The most recent public reports on agricultural land and water entitlements indicate as at 30 June 2020:

    • Foreign ownership of agricultural land is 13.8%. This has been relatively stable since 2016.
    • Foreign ownership of water entitlements is 10.9% – an increase from 10.5 for the prior year.

    Productivity commission inquiry into the register of foreign ownership of water entitlements

    Jennifer Farley - ATO

    The Productivity Commission (PC) published an issues paper regarding the register of foreign ownership of water entitlements on 17 February 2021.

    The inquiry is a legislative requirement to assess the effectiveness of the register including how well it is meeting the Government’s goals, assessing its costs and benefits, and to make recommendations in relation to it.

    The ATO is assisting the PC with information on the administrative processes to collecting, vetting, quality assuring and reporting on foreign ownership of water.

    FIRB website

    Simone Abbot – Treasury

    FIRB application portal upgradesExternal Link were deployed in January 2021 to reflect the foreign investment reforms that commenced on 1 January 2021. Information has been published on firb.gov.auExternal Link outlining the changes.

    As noted in the Policy Reform messaging update, an evaluation of the reforms is currently being undertaken by Treasury, with the terms of reference for that evaluation on the Treasury webpage.

    A reminder to stakeholders that a feedback widget has been included on each page of the firb.gov.auExternal Link website, providing a mechanism for users to provide feedback on whether the page has been useful. More details can be provided by email at firbenquiries@treasury.gov.au.

      Last modified: 13 Apr 2021QC 65288