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Aus owned infrastructure sold to foreigners gets under the scanner

The sale of major Australian state-owned infrastructure to private foreign investors will face tougher scrutiny under new rules announced today, after a deal involving a Chinese company last year drew criticism.

The new rules will apply from March 31 and ensure that sales of critical infrastructure to private foreign investors will be subject to a formal review by Australia’s foreign investment advisory body.

Under previous rules, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) was only required to assess the sale of such infrastructure to foreign state-owned enterprises.

The rules cover major assets such as airports, ports, public transport infrastructure, and electricity, gas, water and sewerage systems, while existing and proposed roads, railways, telecommunications infrastructure and nuclear facilities could also be reviewed by the body.

“While we welcome foreign investment in Australia it is imperative that critical infrastructure sales are scrutinised to ensure any potential national security risks can be addressed,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said.

The new rules follow the granting in 2015 of a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin to China’s Landbridge Group.

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