Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steve Ciobo took on the touchy subject of Chinese investment in Ausgrid, in a speech to Hong Kong business this week.
The speech to Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia forum on Monday was an attempt to reassure Chinese investors, CKI, that Australia held them in high regard, but had to consider the national interest of Ausgrid in the decision.
Following last month’s decision by Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison to block a 99-year lease of 50.4 per cent of the New South Wales power asset to Chinese-owned State Grid and Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure, the Chinese government was critical of Australia’s transparency in decision-making.
Mr Ciobo said foreign investment in Ausgrid had to pass a national interest test.
“There’s something very particular about Ausgrid. As the Treasurer has stated, Ausgrid’s footprint includes critical power and communications services that Ausgrid provides to business and government,” he said.
“The national security concerns relate to the transaction structure and the nature of the assets – not to any particular investor.”
The government is currently developing a policy to ensure Australia’s approach to foreign investment is non-discriminatory between nations, supportive of continued foreign investment and proportionate to the risks involved.