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Joyce defends blocking of Kidman sale

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Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has defended the Federal Government’s decision to block the sale of S Kidman and Co, amid claims from South Australian Labor figures that the move was driven by anti-Asian sentiment.

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The Federal Government has blocked the sale of the company’s giant property portfolio, which covers about one per cent of Australia’s land mass, to a Chinese majority consortium.

Today, Australian Rural Capital, the listed partner of the Chinese firm bidding for properties, went into a trading halt ahead of an announcement about the bid.

ARC said it intends to make an announcement in respect of its joint bid with majority partner Dakang Australia Pty Ltd.

Treasurer Scott Morrison last Friday rejected the $371 million bid on national interest grounds and gave Dakang and ARC until Tuesday to respond to his concerns.

Today Joyce was unapologetic about the decision.

“We remain the most liberal nation on earth for investment by foreigners, yet people get the temerity to say because this government dares block one we’re going to absolutely throw the teddy out of the cot on this one. Well I’m afraid they’re just going to have to do that,” Joyce told ABC radio today.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the decision to block the sale was driven by xenophobia.

“I don’t think we’d be having this discussion if it was an American or a UK investor,” he told The Advertiser.

“I don’t understand why this would not just be looked at in purely objective terms to see whether it creates jobs and opportunities for SA.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison told the paper he examined all aspects of the sale on its merits.

Opposition trade spokeswoman Senator Penny Wong said the government was sending inconsistent messages to foreign investors.

“My concern is first with a process which says to foreign investors our process for deciding these things is politicised, incoherent and is chaotic,” she told ABC radio.

Wong also believes there’s a discriminatory policy towards Australia’s Asian free-trade partners, who face more onerous foreign investment scrutiny than the United States.

– with AAP

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