FIRB Watchdog Says Australia should Chill Out about Chinese Cash!

Community Action Alliance for NSW

March 30, 2018: CAAN Facebook


AS we at CAAN read this article, it failed to challenge some of the statements being attributed to Irvine.

Whilst not wanting to appear ageist, it is a concern a person of his skill and background is chair of the FIRB at this point in his life.

-Is he in a position where the past represents more in his thinking than what is happening right now?

-Has the CIC been set up to ‘assist’ him overcoming some difficulties in understanding what a lot of Australians are concerned about?

-How well equipped is the FIRB to deal with the complexities of foreign organisations?

-Is the devil in the detail? Bloomberg’s Michael Heath says we ‘(Australia) should be more relaxed about Chinese cash’ .

Well, perhaps that is the very reason why we should be concerned:

.how do we know where this cash came from?
.how was it gained
.is it supposedly privately sourced, or is it derived from State involvement?

(In Australia some individuals and companies have already been identified, and are in the public record, at best, probable China-State connected operatives)


-Greenland, China-backed developer of Lachlan’s Line gated estate North Ryde Precinct

-John Holland, now owned by Chinese state-owned engineering and construction behemoth CCCC International Holding is set to diversify into residential development and hotel investments

-ASX-listed Boyuan Holdings the Chinese developer with a commercial in confidence proposal for the Badgery’s Creek land currently before the Greater Sydney Commission

-Pilot shortage: Chinese-owned airport in Australia looks to increase its flights by 1000%; Kempsey one of three pilot training schools used to train Chinese pilots

.do we have reciprocal access to China (heaven forbid why would you seek a slice of one of the most polluted places on earth) or even to their markets? The answer is clearly , no.

.’snapping up everything from real estate to infrastructure’ there it is, if any Australians were ever in doubt about what’s happening they should no longer wonder about our fait, the race is on to swallow up as much as possible

-Unlike the message we are getting in this article that our relationship needs to be managed and a balance struck between two very different countries and cultures, most Australians are indeed very concerned about being consumed by ‘our biggest trading partner’

A very modest review of Australia’s circumstance would most likely reveal concerns re:

-What about the vertical integration of Chinese business activities in Australia?

-Why aren’t the Chinese ‘companies’ investing in their own country?

-The TITLE DEEDS of our domestic housing being exported at frightening rate and even more alarming the purchasing of rural/mining/construction entities

-The lack of credible proof there is a real separation between State and private actors in the acquisition of assets in Australia

-The real extent of PROXY buying and visa manipulation, something that is probably beyond our current capacity given the preoccupation the Federal government has had with efficiency dividends for the past five (5) years; slashing departmental budgets and their remits

-Despite assurances to the contrary Australia is vulnerable to the subtle and overt coercion that has given rise to loss of SOVEREIGNTY from Australia’s ports to all manner of assets with less than a whisper … it has been effective.

Our openness and sensitivity to any blowback has allowed this to happen, as detailed by Clive Hamilton

Finally, it is an observation that as it is our misfortune to have inadequate regulations in place that protect our NATIONAL INTERESTS over private gain it is seen at the very least to be our fault, and so is an invitation to foreign entities and individuals to exploit such opportunities!

View CAAN article and CAAN Facts Sheet:


29 March 2018

Economic partnership is challenge, but ‘fact of life’: Irvine
Chinese investors eyeing commercial property, infrastructure
Bloomberg’s Michael Heath reports on Chinese investors boosting their stakes in Australian property.

Australia needs to be more relaxed about Chinese cash despite the political tensions that come with it, says the head of Australia’s foreign investment watchdog.

Chinese investors are boosting their stakes in Australian property and infrastructure, stoking concerns about the world No. 2 economy’s influence Down Under. But their growing presence simply reflects China’s burgeoning power, and Australia needs such capital for its economic development, said Foreign Investment Review Board chief David Irvine.

“Having a largest economic partner who is not a traditional ally, that’s I think one of the big challenges of Australian foreign policy,” Irvine said in an interview. “It’s a fact of life. We will adapt to it.”

Australia is struggling to strike a balance between security and prosperity. The former is underpinned by the U.S. and the latter by China, two nations currently butting heads over trade, investment and influence in the Asia-Pacific. That’s complicated by China being the fastest-growing foreign investor in Australia: scooping up everything from farmland to Sydney apartment blocks, and generating a political and social backlash in the process.

The U.S. still remains by far the biggest overall overseasinvestor in Australia, with China seventh in 2016 rankings, government data shows.

The Shopping List

Chinese investors are snapping up Australian property and infrastructure

Source: KPMG, University of Sydney

Note: Chinese outbound direct investment in Australia 2016 (excl. residential property)

Irvine, 71, was appointed FIRB chairman last year in the wake of a debacle over Chinese firms’ efforts to buy a power network in New South Wales state. He’d previously headed up Australia’s domestic and foreign spy agencies and served as the nation’s ambassador to China, providing him with a rounded view of Australia’s position in the international arena.

“It’s somewhat understandable, but I think it’s a mistake to look at foreign investment in Australia only through the prism of Chinese investment and of developments in Australia-China relations,” Irvine said. “The facts are that Australia has always welcomed and indeed encouraged foreign investment into our country. We’re a capital-importing country.”

China’s emerging role as a major investor comes as governments, particularly at the state level, are offloading utilities to help finance roads and rail projects. For local authorities, the size of Chinese checkbooks is enticing; for federal officials it raises questions over what infrastructure is essential, what is connected to national security and what’s in the national interest.

In response, Australia has established the Critical Infrastructure Centre to create a register of assets including water, ports and energy. It assesses risks such as espionage and cyber security, and Irvine said FIRB will be looking to the CIC for advice on foreign bids.

Happy Customer

China led Australia’s foreign investment approvals in fiscal 2016

Source: Foreign Investment Review Board

Note: Data is for total approvals 2015-16

The CIC was created in the wake of the Ausgrid fiasco, when two Chinese bidders for the electricity network were vetoed at the 11th hour on national security grounds, leaving global investors scratching their heads about whether Australia really wanted their cash. Irvine is seeking to improve the predictability of FIRB decisions.

“Whatever views people may have had of FIRB in the past, the current government is very keen to see people talk to the FIRB early,” he said.

The environment is growing more complex. Australia is planning 5G mobile phone networks — and the technology of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. will likely be competitive with U.S. and European rivals on price and performance. The company was blocked from tending for contracts in Australia’s national broadband network in 2012 on security concerns.

President Donald Trump raised concerns with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over Huawei and security, local media reported in March.

Australia’s parliament passed a bill Thursday protecting critical infrastructure. It strengthens the government’s hand to combat espionage, sabotage and coercion arising from foreign involvement in the nation’s assets.

Biggest Partner

China isn’t just a keen investor in Australia, it’s the nation’s largest trading partner. It buys around a third of Australian exports and dominates iron ore and education, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 overseas earners. China is also increasingly trying to harness the influence its commercial relationships provide.

As tensions rise over construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, so have perceptions of China as a potential enemy. In 2017, 46 percent of Australian adults said it’s likely China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years, up 7 percentage points from 2015, according to a Lowy Institute survey.

“How you negotiate the ups and downs of a relationship between two very different countries and two very different cultures, that of course all requires management,” Irvine said. “But I certainly see Australia’s future not excluding a very strong economic partnership with China. I personally approach investment proposals from China with that objective in mind.”

— With assistance by Kimberley Painter