27 June 2017

Call for Australia to sanction Qatar

From The Australian, 14 June 2017, by MEREDITH BOOTH:

The federal government must force Qatari company Hassad Australia to divest of its $470 million portfolio of as part of wider sanctions against the Qatar government for its support of Islamic terrorism, Australian Conservatives say.

Australian Conservatives South Australian MP Robert Brokenshire wants the Australian government to force Qatari-owned agribusiness Hassad Australia to sell its property in Australia. 
Picture: Kelly Barnes

Party leader Cory Bernardi and South Australian MP Rob Brokenshire have asked Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to sanction Hassad and force the divestment of its 300,000 ha of prime sheep, grain and wool properties in five states which are “owned by a government that funds our enemies”

“If Qatar supports those who seek to kill our people and to destroy our way of life in the name of some global Islamic caliphate, we are right to say, ‘we don’t want you here — we do not want your investment in our country because it jeopardises our national interests’,” Senator Bernardi told the senate today.

The call comes a week after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed trade and travel bans with Qatar, criticising Al Jazeera and Qatar’s relations with Iran, and its funding of terrorist groups. 

Hassad Australia, owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, has bought 40 properties across Australia since 2010, building a premium portfolio worth $470m with sheep, wool and wheat produce shipped to the Middle East to boost the small nation’s food security.

In January, the company sold the first property it purchased in Australia, Victoria’s 2632ha sheep station Kaladbro, to Tom and Pat Brinkworth, who were part of a syndicate which lost a bid to buy S. Kidman & Co.

Mr Brokenshire, a veteran South Australian MP and dairy farmer who has previously railed against foreign ownership of farms in the state, has asked Ms Bishop to impose sanctions against Qatar, which may encompass other interests such as national airline Qatar Airways.

“We cannot have foreign investors in this country whose activities are in direct opposition to the wellbeing of our people,’’ he said.

“If the federal government is serious about combating terrorism then they will stand up to those who are linked to it.”

Senator Bernardi said Qatar Airways should be banned from Australian air space and prevented from sponsoring Australian sports teams to “get tough on protecting our national interest” and follows his calls last week for the ABC to remove content from Qatar-owned news channel Al Jazeera from its broadcasts. 

Premier Jay Weatherill said it was fraught for Mr Brokenshire to intrude on matters of foreign affairs.

“I’m going to leave matters of foreign affairs and international relations to my federal colleagues,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said foreign investment in Australia was a matter for the Treasurer, who acts on advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

Hassad Australia managing director John McKillop was unavailable for comment.