Australia facing investment 'drought', review needed

Tess IkonomouAAP
Bran Black says Australia faces an investment drought that's threatening jobs and economic growth. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconBran Black says Australia faces an investment drought that's threatening jobs and economic growth. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

The Business Council of Australia is calling for an urgent review into foreign investment, warning the nation is facing a “drought” and stands to be left behind.

In a submission to Treasury ahead of the federal budget, the council urged a UK-style evaluation of whether Australia’s settings are fit-for-purpose.

Last year, the UK reviewed direct foreign investment after it became concerned about missing out on major opportunities going to other countries.

The review would look at the barriers to attracting foreign investment, federal and state efforts, and getting money into key growth areas including tech, critical minerals and energy.

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The Foreign Investment Review Board process - which looks at proposals on a case-by-case basis - and its fees could also be reviewed, the council says.

It also suggested an assessment of reforms made to the Foreign Investment Review Board from 2021 and the impact they have had on global competitiveness.

The council pointed to data showing Australia had dropped from fourth place for global competitiveness in 2004, to the 19th spot today.

They sounded the alarm over the nation being a net exporter of capital for the last four years in a row, which the council says hasn’t happened in more than a 100 years.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said the nation needed the right investment settings to attract money into sectors linked to the net-zero transition.

“Australia is currently facing an investment drought and if we don’t urgently fix the problem, then what is at stake is Australian jobs and the economic growth which our economy so badly needs,” he said.

“We cannot afford to be left behind and we can’t stand by and let economic investment and opportunities flow into other countries.”

Mr Black said “cumbersome regulation and red tape” had a negative impact on foreign investment, and resulted in capital being driven away from Australia.

The council said there hadn’t been a comprehensive review of how Australia can better attract foreign investment in decades.

The net capital outflow from Australia was due to other countries’ having more competitive tax settings, it added.

This also included Australian companies taking advantage of lower costs.

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