Any decision on ADM's takeover of GrainCorp entirely a matter for Australian treasurer, prime minister says

CANBERRA, Australia , November 18, 2013 () – Prime Minister Tony Abbott says any decision on the foreign takeover of Australia's largest agribusiness GrainCorp is entirely a matter for Treasurer Joe Hockey, and cabinet will have no role in the outcome.

Days after it was reported Mr Abbott would press the treasurer to reject a $3.4 billion offer from US giant Archer Daniels Midland, or make conditions so onerous as to make it unviable, the prime minister said the buyout was a decision for Mr Hockey alone.

"It is entirely a matter for the treasurer," Mr Abbott told reporters in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

"I'm confident that the treasurer is giving this the attention that it deserves."

The offer from ADM has created deep divisions in the coalition, with the Nationals and some rural Liberals strongly opposed to the sale to be ruled on by Mr Hockey by December 17.

Mr Abbott said the coalition was "very happy" to have foreign investment in Australia, declaring Australia as "open for business".

However, he added that it had "to be the right investment, not the wrong investment".

"It does have to accord with our overall national interests and there is no better way of ensuring that that's the case, than the Foreign Investment Review Board process, with the final decision to be made by the treasurer," he said.

The prime minister's comments came after the union leader representing GrainCorp workers, Paul Howes, said if Mr Hockey was rolled on the buyout it would create "massive" sovereign risk for Australia.

Without foreign investment, the Australian Workers' Unions boss said Australia's agribusiness will "never become the food bowl for Asia that we talk about".

"What concerns me is that if the National Party wins in this fight against Joe Hockey over ADM and GrainCorp, is that there will be a massive sovereign risk for our nation in terms of our agribusiness sector," he told Sky News on Sunday.

"Allowing Joe Hockey to be rolled by the National Party will be a massive sovereign risk and will have massive ramifications right across the sector."

Mr Howes said that while a large number of AWU members at GrainCorp were not happy about the takeover, "the long-term gains for regional employment, for agribusiness, for the agricultural sector as a whole is worth that short-term pain".

"I support it personally, and our union will even though there will be some short-term pain for our members," Mr Howes said.

"We need to recognise that the current structural difficulties that are experienced in our agricultural sector will not be changed only by domestic players being involved, and we need that injection of foreign capital."

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