Labor has accused Joe Hockey of creating confusion over Australia’s foreign investment policy after the Treasurer said he blocked Archer Daniels Midland’s $3.4 billion bid for GrainCorp because the US company was “not of particularly good character”.
The Abbott government was “making up investment policy on the run’’, opposition trade and investment spokeswoman Penny Wong and finance spokesman Tony Burke said yesterday.
The opposition frontbenchers said Mr Hockey’s “extraordinary’’ claim — made public five months after blocking the ADM investment — raised serious questions about the transparency and fairness of the government’s approach to foreign investment.
The criticisms follow comments from Mr Hockey at a dinner in Sydney on Wednesday night, where he appeared to contradict earlier public comments about the reasons the deal was blocked last December.
He had said previously he blocked the deal for reasons including a lack of consensus in advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board; that there was a “high level of public concern’’ about the bid; that growers feared it could impede competition in the east coast grains market, where GrainCorp is the dominant player.
But asked last night by British journalist Andrew Neil why he had blocked ADM’s takeover bid for GrainCorp when Tony Abbott had said Australia was “open for business”, Mr Hockey said: “I had reason to believe that ADM at that time were of not particularly good character.”
It is the first time Mr Hockey has openly criticised the bidder.
Three senior ADM executives were jailed for price-fixing in the 1990s.