Changes to Australia’s foreign investment legislation, especially an increased focus on punishing those who aid illegal foreign buyers, have been welcomed by New South Wale’s peak real estate group.

The Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) believes the changes are necessary step in clamping down on those in the real estate industry who are exploiting foreign buyers.

“Most foreign investors don’t come into Australia with the intention of breaking the law,” REINSW president Malcom Gunning said

“They tend to seek advice from someone who they have been referred to who speaks their native tongue and this is where the problem lies because they are often taken advantage of and given incorrect advice,” Gunning said.

Gunning said the REINSW has been told many foreign investors were being advised to only make Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) applications after they have purchased property.

Increased fines for those found to have breached FIRB rules and the establishment of application costs also got the tick of approval from Gunning and the REINSW.

“A major issue with foreign investment in the past was due to inadequate policing. We welcome the fee of $5,000 for properties valued at $1 million or less and higher fees to more expensive residential and agricultural properties as well as commercial real estate and business applications,” Gunning said

“The previous fines were not significant and these increases will act as a disincentive, we don’t want to scare off foreign investors as in many cases they are underpinning our construction industry.”

While the legislation changes have been widely reported in Australia, Gunning said the government should be more proactive and advertise the new laws and penalties through avenues such as local foreign language newspapers and major overseas newspapers.