(Australian Associated Press)
More than 40 per cent of Australians are concerned about Chinese foreign investment Down Under, a survey has found.
The Daymark Community Monitor, which records community perceptions of overseas investment from China, found Australians were mainly concerned about Chinese buying up local agriculture and commercial real estate.
Nearly half of the 1,504 people surveyed also believed that investment from Australia’s biggest trading partner had accelerated in recent years, while only four per cent thought the same of United States and UK investment.
This is despite growth from all three countries having increased at about the same rate.
China is only the seventh largest foreign investor in Australia, well behind the US, UK and even Belgium, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The report said the survey confirmed widespread negative perceptions about Chinese investment that were out of kilter with reality.
“It is clear that more needs to be done to help the wider public understand the benefits that can come from Chinese investment,” the report said.
“The overall goal here is to remove the heightened concern around FDI (foreign direct investment)from China and have this trading partner viewed like any other.”
A competitive housing market and shortages blamed on Chinese buyers has contributed to the highly charged atmosphere.
In NSW, controversy is rising around the prospect of a Chinese state-owned company winning control of the state’s electricity grid Transgrid.
And last week Treasurer Scott Morrison chose to block Chinese buyers from the sale of Australia’s largest private land owner, S.Kidman & Co, on national interest grounds.
The report said that overcoming negative public attitudes was important to increasing the investment needed in industries like agriculture.
It also found that respondents were much less sensitive to Chinese investment in sectors like leisure, retail, technology and education.
Respondents also recognised the benefits of foreign spending in contributing to economic growth, creating jobs and building trade connections.
AUSTRALIA’S BIGGEST FOREIGN INVESTORS (AS OF DEC 2014)
* US: $748.2b
* UK: $484.2b
* Belgium: $226.1b
* Japan: $174.7b
* Singapore: $80.2b
* Hong Kong: $77.3b
* China: $64.5b