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Foreign Land Ownership Debate Brings Out the Compradors

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Duncan B.

In his important work Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society written in 1926, Mao Zedong asked the question, “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?”  He pointed out the need for the revolutionary party to identify the real friends and the real enemies of the revolution so that it can unite with the real friends to defeat the real enemies. To this end Mao made a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution.

One of the classes he identified was the comprador class. The Chinese comprador class was that section of the bourgeoisie which directly served the capitalists of the imperialist countries and was nurtured by them. Mao said they always side with imperialism and constitute an extreme counter-revolutionary group.

Although we don’t call them compradors in Australia, we have plenty of people who fit this description. The current debate about foreign ownership of Australian farm land is bringing these people to light. There are many who benefit from the sale of Australian farm land to foreign interests, and they have been vocal in support of the foreign takeover. As the statistics show, they have plenty to gain from it.

The latest figures on foreign farm ownership, released in 2014, show that 11% of Australia’s agricultural land (49.6 million hectares) was foreign owned. The Foreign Investment Review Board’s 2014-15 annual report, released in April showed applications for overseas investment in Australia’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries totalled $5.3 billion, up from $3.4 billion in 2013-14. The five-year annual average was $3.3 billion. China made the biggest investment, with deals worth $2.5 billion, followed by the US with $1 billion.

It is not surprising then to see people such as the Chairman of the Prime Super superannuation fund that has extensive investments in agribusiness to be quoted as saying, “We’ve always had it (the debate about foreign investment), but generally speaking to grow this country we need external investment in every field.”

There is also Lindsay Fox, who was the losing bidder for the Kidman & Co. pastoral empire, which the Kidman Company was seeking to sell to a Chinese backed consortium for $370.7 million. Speaking on the Government’s decision to block the sale pending an independent review of the sale, Fox said, “At the end of a day, if I have an asset, I would expect to be able to sell it to anyone. How can you restrict someone from making a profit by selling something?”

The Murdoch-owned farmer’s paper The Weekly Times is also a supporter of foreign investment in Australian agriculture. In its editorial of April 27, entitled Folk Law Versus the Future, the paper says “Australia needs to have an adult conversation about investment in agriculture. Not just foreign investment.” 

Discussing the Government’s review of the Kidman sale, and comparing this proposed sale with other sales that have gone ahead, the editorial continues, “The review poses more questions than it answers and reeks of inconsistency. It comes down to one thing: emotion. Kidman is part of Australian folklore. Opponents are too busy holding on to the past to see the future.”

Even farmer leaders support foreign investment. The Victorian Farmer’s Federation vice-president  David Jochinke said, “Sometimes we get tripped up on the word ‘foreign’, sometimes we even get tripped up on the nationality of that foreign investment , and it really detracts from the real game of agriculture or what agriculture needs.”

The Weekly Times editorial concluded with the above quote from David Jochinke, and added “And what agriculture needs is investment.”

It is obvious that the Weekly Times is the mouthpiece of the foreign investors, agribusiness corporations and all the others in Australia who benefit from the exploitation of Australia’s small and medium farmers.  If the future envisaged by those the Weekly Times represents means even greater foreign investment and greater exploitation of Australia’s people and resources, we want no part of it!


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