Australia’s opposition leader said in Beijing Tuesday it was “rarely” in his country’s interest to allow a foreign government to acquire a business in Australia, where China has been investing heavily.
Tony Abbott said Chinese investment in Australia, though welcome, was “complicated” given the prevalence of state-owned enterprises in the world’s second-largest economy.
Australia has emerged recession-free from the global financial crisis, helped by huge Chinese demand for its natural resources, but Chinese takeover moves on industries from telecoms to mining to agriculture have caused unease.
“It would rarely be in Australia’s interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business,” Abbott said in remarks to the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce during a visit to Beijing.
While investors from any country would be subject to equal scrutiny – including a national-interest test and Foreign Investment Review Board consideration – firms with government ties required extra attention, he said.
“The board looks very carefully at sovereign investment but it does that for all countries, not just China,” he said. “Chinese investment, though, is complicated by the prevalence of state-owned enterprises.”
Earlier this year, Australia excluded Chinese telecoms company Huawei from tendering for broadband contracts, citing national security concerns about critical infrastructure.
Several mining takeover bids have failed on similar grounds.