Foreign investors knocked back over national security concerns

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The pushback against foreign ownership of Australian real estate has continued, with the sale of Australia’s largest parcel of privately owned land to a Chinese investment group blocked.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced this week that the sale of the S. Kidman & Co. cattle ranches, which cover 101,000 square kilometres, to the Shanghai Pengxin Group would not go ahead.

The land, which equates to about 1.3 percent of the Australia total land area, is covered by 10 ranches and is home to around 185,000 head of cattle. It was expected to be sold for somewhere in the vicinity of $350 million.

Morrison said the decision to block the sale was made in the interests of national security, with one of the stations, Anna Creek, located in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), a military testing range in South Australia.

“The WPA weapons testing range makes a unique and sensitive contribution to Australia's national defence and it is not unusual for governments to restrict access to sensitive areas on national security grounds,” Morrison said.

“Given the size and significance of the total portfolio of Kidman properties along with the national security issues around access to the WPA, I have determined, after taking advice from FIRB, that it would be contrary toAustralia's national interest for a foreign person to acquire S. Kidman and Co. in its current form,” he said.

The blocking of the sale comes in the same week Morrison announced seven residential properties would have to be sold after it was found they were illegally owned by foreign investors.

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