RISKS OF FOREIGN OWNERSHIP
Eureka! The penny has dropped. A light bulb moment has dawned.
Finally, and belatedly, the federal government has come to the realisation that not all foreign investment is good and related laws of governance are antiquated.
Precedence has been given to telecommunications, defence-related contracts and power generation.
These fields should be paramount in securing our nation's sovereignty and security.
Perhaps this may be an opportune time to also consider land and water ownership.
The stable door has been left ajar and some of the horses have already escaped.
The state of Victoria can attest to this when the sale of power generation plants fell into foreign hands. Outcomes were less than to be desired.
Foreign ownership can also complicate the protection of facilities and systems. Cyber security is another related issue and needs to be addressed.
In 2015, what is believed to be the world's first successful cyber attack on a power grid occurred in Ukraine. A blackout resulted in part of that country. The source emanated from a site in Russia. It has been estimated that wind power generation facilities are 70 per cent foreign owned.
It could be argued such projects would not have come to fruition without foreign investment and this may well be the case.
Investment is not the issue; it is the inherent potential dangers of outright foreign ownership of crucial infrastructure.
Just one prime minister ago we had the Huawei NBN saga. This should have sounded some warning bells and been the catalyst for the conversation we are now having.
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However, much better late than never. To be fair, numerous governments of both persuasions have ignored reform in this regard for a long period. Credit where credit is due. Ultimately, much responsibility rests with the sometimes-maligned Foreign Investment Review Board.
It is difficult to be objective when assessing their performance. Giving them a report card is a little like giving one to ASIS or ASIO. We have scant knowledge of what they do. We must just live in hope they do it well.
The FIRB does leave us with many unanswered questions. Perhaps one of the most disturbing ones is that conditions imposed on foreign companies when acquiring our assets are secret.
Whilst accepting the need-to-know principle, there should be a requirement for some transparency in their deliberations.
Other questions: Do they have the resources to monitor said conditions? Are they a toothless watchdog? Who watches the watch dog? For the sake of all our futures, let's hope the legislators get it right when updating and drafting new laws.
Wayne Pearse, Coolamon
RETHINK THE PERFORMING ARTS
Before both state and federal governments allocate more money to the performing arts following COVID-19, now may be a time to question the future of this sector.
The live music and theatre industry's large carbon footprint - as it transports people and equipment around the country - and the alleged rates of sexual harassment within the television and film industry are unacceptable. Publicly funded performance art could be completed by local amateurs who perform for the love of it and are not a burden on the taxpayer.
Christopher Kanck, Lake Albert
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