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Turnbull backs Aust stake in agriculture

AAP logoAAP 9/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Malcolm Turnbull says it's great to see Australians investing in agriculture, as the government promised an arm's length decision on the Kidman cattle empire sale.

Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting has lodged a $365 million Australian-majority bid for two-thirds of S Kidman and Co, with Chinese-owned real estate conglomerate Shanghai CRED holding the other third.

Previous Chinese bids for Kidman, Australia's largest private landholder, have been rejected by the federal treasurer.

Ms Reinhart said Kidman was an important part of Australia's pioneering and entrepreneurial history.

The prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Monday the matter would still go before the Foreign Investment Review Board, because there was a minority foreign investor.

"It's always great to see Australians investing in Australian agriculture," Mr Turnbull said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, a personal friend of Ms Reinhardt, said he made a point of not talking to the mining magnate or her staff about the bid.

"I want to make sure this is completely and utterly at arms-length," he told ABC radio.

The Nationals leader said he liked the idea of an Australian-majority bid for Kidman and other land assets, but it was an FIRB decision.

"I want to drive around the countryside, drive around the suburbs saying this is overwhelmingly owned by Australians."

Mr Joyce rejected a claim by independent senator Jacqui Lambie that the Chinese were using Ms Reinhart to control Kidman.

"I think she's talking out of her hat," Mr Joyce said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it would be great if such a significant asset as Kidman was kept in majority Australian hands.

"But there's a process to go through and I'll just let this play out," he said.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said she had faith in Ms Rinehart's business capabilities and her love for Australia and its assets.

"I believe Australians will be happy with this outcome given the vast majority of the company remains in the hands of Australia," Senator Hanson wrote on Facebook.

Labor senator Doug Cameron noted Ms Rinehart's generous donations to the Nationals.

"You should ask her best mate Barnaby Joyce. He'll probably know all about what Gina Rinehart is doing," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Gina Rinehart had to hire a tip-truck to tip the money off to the National Party during the last election."

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who wants an overhaul of foreign investment rules, said the bid made sense and he doubted Ms Rinehart will be controlled by her Chinese minority partners.

"I think Gina Rinehart is pretty much uncontrollable."

Independent MP Bob Katter moved a private member's bill on Monday which would prevent foreign investors from acquiring a 10 per cent or greater stake in land, water or other assets that are either of "strategic economic importance" or "strategic defensive importance" to Australia.

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