Government blocks sale of Australia’s largest cattle station
The Federal Government has barred the sale of Australia’s biggest cattle station to a foreign buyer because of fears it could pose a threat to national security.
Treasurer Scott Morrison on Thursday announced he had blocked the sale of S. Kidman and Co., which owns 10 Australian cattle stations, to a group – reportedly a Chinese company – because one of the properties, Anna Creek, is home to a weapons testing range.
South Australia’s Anna Creek is Australia’s largest single land holding, about 50% of which lies inside the Woomera Prohibited Area, which has been used to test nuclear missiles and launch and track satellites and space missions.
In April, Anna Creek was put up for sale along with nine other Kidman-owned properties throughout regional South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, with China’s Shanghai Pengxin group understood to have led the bidding.
The WPA weapons testing range makes a unique and sensitive contribution to Australia’s national defence
But Morrison says in a statement that selling Anna Creek to an overseas group would be “contrary to the national interest” and that he wouldn’t allow the sale to proceed.
“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 (Foreign Investment Review Board), that it would be contrary to Australia’s national interest for a foreign person to acquire S. Kidman and Co. in its current form,” Morrison says.
“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.”
Kidman is Australia’s largest private landowner, with its properties covering a staggering 1.3% of Australia’s total land area, and 2.5% of its agricultural land. The land totals more than 101,000 square kilometres and has around 185,000 cattle.
Morrison says that all bidders to buy S. Kidman and Co. withdrew from the process once they learned of his decision. But he says he will consider future bids and proposals to sell the property if they meet the Federal Government’s criteria.
“Foreign investment rules facilitate such investment while giving assurance to the community that the investment is being made in a way which ensures that Australia’s national interest is protected.”
“Australia welcomes foreign investment where it is consistent with our national interests.”