The government has introduced new regulations that will see all foreign investments in Australia screened for approval, regardless of the value or nature of the foreign investor.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced temporary changes to the foreign investment review framework in a bid to “protect Australia’s national interest” as the country forges through the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
As of last Sunday (29 March), all foreign investment will be subject to official approval.
Mr Frydenberg highlighted that the regulatory changes are “not an investment freeze”.
“By temporarily reducing the foreign investment thresholds, the Australian government will ensure appropriate oversight over all proposed foreign investment during this time,” the Treasurer said.
“Australia is open for business and recognises investment as this time can be beneficial if in the national interest,” he added.
In accordance with the new regulations, and to ensure sufficient time for the screening of applications, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) will be working with existing and new applicants to extend the timeframe for reviewing applications from 30 days to up to six months.
In doing so, the government intends to prioritise “urgent applications” for investments that will “protect and support Australian businesses and Australian jobs”, according to the Treasurer.
Alternatively, the Treasurer will review foreign investment proposals against the national interest “on a case-by-case basis”, and “[w]here appropriate, conditions will be applied proportionately to address identified risks on a non-discriminatory basis.”
According to Treasury, the foreign investment review changes have the full support of the FIRB and its chairman, David Irvine AO, with further administrative details to be published by the FIRB in due course.
“Even in these uncertain times, Australia continues to welcome foreign investment, which remains vital to our long-term economic success and stability,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“The government recognises that foreign investment will play an important part in helping many businesses get to the other side – securing jobs and supporting our economic recovery.
“However, these measures are necessary to safeguard the national interest as the coronavirus outbreak puts intense pressure on the Australian economy and Australian businesses,” he said.
“These are temporary measures that will remain in place for the duration of the current crisis.”