Darwin port, Kidman stations: Selling the NT, bit by bit


Sir – Three decades ago the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singappore cautioned Prime Minister Paul Keating that Australians were likely to become the poor white trash of Asia. He was spot on with that prediction. Future generations of Australians won’t even own the land they are living on, thanks to our stupidity.
Our Anzacs of yester-year, over 100,000 of whom sacrificed their lives for this country, would be rolling over in their graves if they could see what we are doing today.
Many people are oblivious to the dangers of foreign ownership of our land and infrastructure assets.
Our politicians are allowing this country to be sold off piece-meal. Very few of our elected representatives are heeding public concerns. Pauline Hansen, Bob Katter and Nick Xenophon are several who are but Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are two who are not.
More than 50% of the land in the NT is Aboriginal land while in excess of 25% of the remainder is fully or partially foreign controlled. The recent sale of the Kidman cattle empire has given a Chinese company a 33% share in 2% of the Australian continent.
While many of our ports are now foreign controlled, the disposal  of Port Darwin to the Landridge Group was shameful.
The CLP administration granted a 99 year lease to a Chinese enterprise without consulting with and contrary to the wishes of most Territorians.
Even the Defence Department wasn’t informed about the deal until the day it was publicly announced, thus causing Australia embarrassment on the international stage.
Of course the sceptics will claim that foreigners can’t take the port or pastoral properties back home with them but that’s pathetically poor reasoning.
Earlier generations of Australians together with our own have been fortunate to have seen the best of times in this country. Now we are seeing the country on a downhill slide. We should feel genuinely sorry for future generations for the mess we are leaving them. They will have good reason to curse our generation.
There are no legal requirements for foreign enterprises producing food on Australian land to sell it in Australia. Food prices in Australia are likely to rise substantially in future years when food produced on Chinese owned land in Australia is all sent to China.
A large percentage of our dairy products are already going there. For instance the country’s largest dairy, Van Diemen’s Land Dairy in Tasmania, is now Chinese owned. It is not producing dairy products for the Australian market.
Chinese owned and staffed pastoral properties in the NT will be using Chinese made trucks to transport Australian raised cattle over Australian taxpayer funded roads to a Chinese controlled port in Darwin to be loaded by Chinese waterside workers onto Chinese ships for transport to China.
There will be few economic benefits for this country, with minimal wages paid to Australians and little or no tax revenue for the Australian Government. This is not a xenophobic outlook but a realistic one.
Australia has always had some foreign ownership of its land and resources, mainly British and American, with some Japanese interests in Queensland a few years ago.
Never before has it been on the scale we are seeing today. We need foreign investment to develop the country but disposing of the land the way we are doing it at present is not the answer.
When foreign countries buy up our land, water and farms, it raises the issue of sovereign risk. Our government’s shortsighted grab for cash is seeing us lose the intellectual property of generations of Australian farmers.
The Chinese and other foreigners are not to blame for this situation and neither are the property sellers. They are merely availing themselves of commercial opportunities that have arisen.
The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of our elected representatives,  most of whom are looking for short term gain without considering the long term pain that will surely follow.
It is now time to stand up and tell our politicians  to stop allowing the NT to be sold off.
Bruce Francais



  1. Bruce. Kidmans stations are majority owned by an Australian and also most of the Stations in the Barkly, VRD, and Kimberly have been developed by overseas owners and a lot are now back in Australian hands.
    Americans and Poms (Vestys) spent a lot of money in that area and all have moved on.
    If a station owner spends his life building up a property he is entitled to get the price that he can.
    If you were selling your home would you take less money from an Australian rather than a higher offer from an overseas buyer?

  2. Mr Francais accurately identifies a very worrying trend of overseas ownership, not just in the NT, but throughout urban and rural Australia.
    I am observing firsthand the incredible invasion of our residential property market in my Melbourne northern suburbs childhood hometown by mainly Chinese investors.
    Approximately one million millionaires in China are able to buy new properties off the plan and are backed by China’s state interests. 80% of Aussie new home buyers in the last two years have been Chinese.
    This is being replicated in all capital cities.
    Our governments have dropped the regulatory ball very badly. Bigtime. Young Aussie first home buyers are definitely heading towards being a generation of tenants of overseas owned properties in our own land. It is quite frightening really.

  3. @ John Bell: Yes, this is an Australia wide problem.
    I understand that it is especially the case in the high end of the housing market in Sydney and Melbourne.
    It seems ironic to me that Chinese can buy properties in Australia but we can’t buy properties in China.
    John Hagan: You obviously didn’t read my letter very well. I certainly did not suggest that the majority of the Kidman properties are now foreign owned.
    I am well aware that we have had American and British ownership of pastoral properties in the past and that most of these properties have now come back into Australian hands.
    I suspect however that the current wave of purchasers are in it for the long haul.
    I am well aware that property owners are entitled to capitalise on their assets and sell for the best price possible. It is our regulatory system that is at fault, not the vendor or the buyer.

  4. Bruce. When the Indonesians bought Riverend and Inverway people were then saying that they would be here long term but in a short time it was back in Australian hands.
    I also suspect a lot (not all) of the recent buyers will sell out once high cattle prices come off the boil. In WA right now there is a recent high priced sale that is having their problems.


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