The Australian government is making a list of 'red-flagged' assets­ over foreign ownership fears

Photo: Getty Images.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull wants a list of “red-flagged” assets­ that will prompt additional national security scrutiny during foreign bids for their acquisition.

He has ordered an investigation into major infrastructure across the country, according to The Australian.

These “critical infrastructure” assets could be owned by the federal or state governments or private-sector and the list would be used by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

It comes after the government vetoed the estimated $10 billion partial sale of Ausgrid, which supplies electricity to Sydney and surrounding regions, to Chinese interests after the Foreign Investment Review Board concluded unanimously that a 99-year sale of the power network would pose an unacceptable security risk.

Another deal that sparked security concerns, but went through regardless was the controversial October 2015, $506 million. sale of the Port of Darwin by The Northern Territory Government to China’s Landbridge on a 99-year lease.

The proposed list is the latest in a string of new rules around foreign investment in Australia.

In March last year the rules around the sale of critical infrastructure to foreign companies were tightened.

Under the tougher regulations an agricultural land foreign ownership register was established and the Foreign Investment Review Board will now screen direct interests in agribusinesses valued at $55 million or more.

Today Attorney-General Geor­ge Brandis will unveil the Critical Infrastructure Centre, which will assess assets in the power, ports and water sectors, as well as their cyber operations.

He says the centre will enable a more “co-ordinated and proactive approach” to managing critical infrastruct­ure, as well as provide “a consolidated picture of the ownership of nationally important assets across the country, their associated risks, and how these can be best managed”.

The Australian has more.

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