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"Foreign ownership of water not a concern"
There was no need for major changes to the way Australia records
foreign ownership of water, according to the Productivity
As reported by the ABC, currently, 11 per cent of Australia's water is
owned by foreigners, with the highest proportion of foreign-owned
water held in Queensland and Western Australia.
Since 2017, any foreign person who acquires a water asset has been
required to notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Canada is the foreign nation that holds the most overseas-owned
Australian water, ahead of China, USA and the UK.
Water is able to be owned because the water reforms over the past
30 years have supported the development of markets for water.
The thinking is that creating water entitlements as tradable assets
has allowed water to be used more efficiently and has provided new
opportunities to invest capital — from both domestic and foreign
A draft report released by the commission on Tuesday found that
few Australians were aware of the Register of Foreign Ownership of
Water Entitlements, but that the information it provided was
The report made three recommendations:
That state and territory governments link their water registers to the
foreign register of water entitlements, and inform foreign
entitlement holders to register with the ATO;
That future ATO reports identify farm landholders among water
That the ATO better explain the mandatory need for the foreign
register and various terms linked to its use.
In its report, the commission noted that the public perception of
foreign ownership of water was often not shared by mining and
farming industries, which were responsible for most water
"The Australian community generally perceives the risks and threats
associated with foreign investment more prominently than the
"In contrast, the commission has observed that the agricultural and
mining sectors, which are the predominant holders of water
entitlements, have few concerns about foreign investment in water
entitlements and generally support it," the commission said in its
The report said that major industry groups from the farm and
mining sectors rarely raised foreign ownership of water as a
The commission said few water market participants referred to the
register and suggested that "maybe not a great deal" would change
if the register did not exist.
"The commission considers it unlikely that, in the absence of the
register, the Australian Government would significantly tighten its
policies for foreign investment or water markets in response to
pressure from community members," it said.
Adelaide, South Australia
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