The Australian Government established the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements (the Register) in 2017 under the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land Act 2015 (Cth) (the Act). The Act obliges foreign persons to notify the Australian Government of their interests in certain Australian water entitlements and keep it informed of any changes to these interests.
The primary aim of the Register is to increase transparency about foreign ownership of Australian water assets and, more broadly, maintain community confidence in Australia’s foreign investment policy. A statistical report on foreign ownership levels is published each year.
The need for the Register was contested during Parliamentary debate on the Bill proposing its introduction. This led to incorporation of a requirement in the Act that the Productivity Commission conduct an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Register within 5 years of relevant provisions coming into effect. This requires the Commission to complete the inquiry by 7 December 2021.
The Productivity Commission has released this issues paper to assist individuals and organisations to prepare submissions.