Foreign buy ups

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They've travelled halfway round the world to the Middle East ...to flog Australia but locals watch on in despair as their prime farmland keeps disappearing to foreign companies.

Aussie farmers are pushed aside, for a foreign company to come in and buy up government owned farmland.

In Kyabram...a small town two hours north of Melbourne and home to a multi-million dollar state of the art dairy research farm once owned by the Victorian State Government...

"They'd milk cows and then do research on the milk and how much they fed and how much they produced." Says farmer Mark

When it was put up for auction late last year local dairy farmer Mark Ryan was keen to buy... and run it as a dairy farm but redevelop the infrastructure into a much needed retirement village....Come auction day Mark was confident.

"There was another local group interested and we were the only ones bidding it staggered at 1.3 million dollars and it looked like nobody else was showing any interest and I thought I might be in with a chance here." Said farmer Mark

All of a sudden a group of Chinese businessmen started bidding ferociously...matching him bid for bid.

"Every time I put a larger bid in, they would come in straight over the top of me, they were pretty keen to get it." Said Farmer Mark
And they did...scooping up the farm for 1.81 million dollars....Mark could only afford 1.8.

"This is it this is a missed opportunity _ and now you're locked out _ locked out no more to be are you sad to think this could have been yours _ oh definitely yeah i wish it was Bec we had big plans and it would have been fantastic ." Said Mark

The local real estate agency, Walker, refused to reveal anything about the winning bidders.

"I didn't realise how secret it was until I started asking questions about who brought it, that does surprise me." Said Mark

Mystery surrounds the co that bought this farm it's called the agri alliance investment international, its sole director and sec is Chinese born David lee, strangely Mr. lee didn't event set the co up until 2 months after the auction of the farm...it also appears the bus is just a cover for an intl co based in the cayman islands, now that's a tax haven on the other side of the world... so who exactly now owns this former Aussie farm is anyone's guess

"Cayman Islands, tax haven, ownership hidden, why is there that secrecy, who is hiding, why are they hiding behind that convoluted ownership." Said group of farmers

Local farmers and business people are now left gob-smacked...

Dairy farmer Peter Costello felt the direct benefits of the Kyabram Research Farm.... He's now worried that help is now gone for good.

"I've been told they're going to bring Chinese students out here and train them up and also possibly do some embryo transfer work." Said Peter

We do know that the farm's new company director and secretary Mr Lee lives here in this non-descript townhouse...in fact the company is run out of his home...

No-one from inside the Victorian Government was prepared to talk about the sale...in a statement they said: "..........but it's not just this state government...former federal government ministers are helping to facilitate the Aussie buy-up.

Former Labor government ministers Senator Nick Sherry and Mark Vaile...led a trades mission of Australian big business to the Middle East under the Australia Gulf Council. ...in this interview with local tv network Dubai One...the politicians spruik their success.

"our mission has been very successful there are a number of deals that may be crystallised in the agricultural sector and live trade sector." Said Mark

The Australia Gulf Council CEO is former liberal politician Michael Yabsley ...former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is a distinguished adviser...Former treasurer Peter Costello has joined them on past trade missions to the middle east....At the top of the list this time? food security...Arab countries hungry for our land ...and our politicians are keen to help ....

The problem is we'll never know who has bought what...the trigger for investigation by the Foreign Investment Review Board is $244 million dollars...most farms in Australia sell for under 10 million...

"If you want to control your own destiny long term wouldn't you control your means of production rather than hand them over to another country." Said senator Heffernan

Liberal senator Bill Heffernan is chairing the senate committee hearing into the Foreign Investment Review Board...he's horrified to hear about the sheer lack of investigation done by the board on foreign buy ups.

"It's a series of phone calls, looking at the apers, there are no structures and hurdles. We haven't got a clue, we do not know what's going on." Said Senator Heffernan

Back in Kyabram Mark Ryan has had to move on....

"It certainly is a shame, very disappointed I didn't get it I hope they use it for Australian purposes and Australian workers." Said Mark

"The concept of sovereignty, that is controlling your borders used to be defense, it used to be army, navy and air force it looks to me that we're heading to a point where the foreigner won't need to have an army, a navy and an air force just a checkbook, come and buy the place." Said Senator Heffarnan

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