News National Foreign investment bids to undergo national security test in major reform

Foreign investment bids to undergo national security test in major reform

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Josh Frydenberg has defended the takeup of the SME scheme. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty
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Foreign investors will face a tough new national security test designed to protect critical assets from falling into the wrong hands.

The Morrison government is proposing an overhaul of foreign investment laws which could further inflame tensions with China.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton denied the move was targeted at Beijing.

“It’s not country specific. We’re looking at lots of examples at the moment,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

“Our country at the moment faces more foreign interference than we’ve seen in decades. We want to make sure that we put our national interests ahead of anything else.”

The new test would apply to foreign bids for technology, telecommunications and energy companies, as well as small-scale defence and services firms.

No minimum dollar threshold will be needed to trigger the national security test.

The Treasurer will have expanded powers to force the sale of assets or impose conditions after a deal is reached if national security is at risk.

Currently, private foreign investments under $275 million – or $1.2 billion for countries that have free trade agreements with Australia – are not screened.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the reforms represent the most significant changes to Australia’s foreign investment rules since they were introduced in 1975.

“It is vital that the government have the ability to call in an investment before, during or after acquisition for review if it raises national security concerns,” he said in a statement.

“Australia has an enviable track record when it comes to welcoming foreign investment from around the world. These reforms will not change that.”

Mr Dutton said the changes would also protect health and tax information stored on servers.

“We need to make sure that we can monitor and exclude some people from ownership if we believe that that data or that information or our national security is going to be compromised,” he said.

“We’re in a situation where we just can’t tolerate a compromise of people’s personal information or of our national security.”