Worried about agents of foreign influence? Just look at who owns Australia's biggest companies

All four of Australia's big banks are majority-owned by American investors. So too are Woolworths, Rio Tinto and BHP.

12.9.2019

All four of Australia's big banks are majority-owned by American investors. So too are Woolworths, Rio Tinto and BHP.

An analysis of the ownership of Australia's 20 biggest companies reveals where those concerned with foreign investment should focus their attention.

Share on Twitter Most of Australia's biggest companies are majority-owned by US investors. The attention being given to possible covert influence being exercised by China in Australia shouldn’t distract us from recognising that very overt foreign influence now occurs through investment. Right now US corporations eclipse everyone else in their ability to influence our politics, through their investments in Australian stocks. Using company ownership data from Bloomberg, I analysed the ownership of Australia’s 20 biggest companies a few days after the 2019 federal election in May. Of those 20, 15 were majority-owned by US-based investors. Three more were at least 25% US-owned. According to my analysis, all four of our big banks are majority-owned by American investors. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s biggest company, is more than 60% owned by American-based investors. So too are Woolworths and Rio Tinto. BHP, once known as “the Big Australian”, is 73% owned by American-based investors. In the 1980s BHP advertised itself as ‘The Big Australian’. Now that’s all history. The ASX’s top 20 companies make up close to half of the market capitalisation of the Australian Securities Exchange. Such a concentration of foreign ownership should be a concern regardless of how much we see the US as an ally committed to liberal-democratic values, and appreciate that US corporate interests are not necessarily monolithic or necessarily exercised in accordance with a government agenda. Nonetheless, under so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses, which the US government has systematically pushed in its trade deals with other nations, US corporate investors are getting unprecedented rights in foreign markets. ISDS provisions mean a foreign investor can sue a government for compensation in an international tribunal if the government makes that “harms” an investment. This is something no Australian citizen can do. Philip Morris’ smoking gun Since I did my analysis, the composition of the ASX top 20 has changed. The bottom four companies – Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Fortescue Metals Group, ResMed and Newcrest Mining – have made way for Insurance Australia, Suncorp, Amcor and South32. This, however, has not significantly altered the dominance of US investor interests. It should also be noted that US investment firms also manage the wealth of foreign clients. But data from CapGemini and Merrill Lynch suggest the majority of assets the firms manage are American-owned, even if the precise number cannot be determined. There are arguably good grounds to include ISDS clauses in free-trade agreements, but the potential downside is exemplified by the case of tobacco giant Philip Morris, which challenged Australia’s plain-packaging laws for cigarette packs. The US company did so by moving ownership of its Australian operations to Hong Kong and then using the ISDS clause embedded in an investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. It used the clause to argue the Australian government’s law amounted to unjust confiscation of trademarks and intellectual property. The ISDS clause gave Philip Morris privileges no Australian company or individual had. Even though it lost, having its case thrown out on the grounds it was , it only had to pay half of Australia’s costs, which added up to almost A$24 million. Jonathan Bonnitcha and his co-authors argue in their book The Political Economy of the Investment Treaty Regime that when states take legal action against each other, they have an incentive not to advance legal arguments that may backfire on them down the track. They have defensive interests. Under ISDS clauses, though, private investors don’t have defensive interests. States cannot commence proceedings against them. They can attack with adventurous legal arguments, and not worry about defending themselves from those same arguments down the road. Unlike courts, ISDS arbitrations lack standardised rules of procedure. Predictability of outcomes is much lower. Proceedings are private, not public. Only the final outcome is routinely available, and only if the parties agree. Transparency matters foreign influence transparency laws that came into effect in March, “foreign principals” must declare their role in influencing governmental and political decision-making. Foreign principals include governments, organisations, individuals and “entities”. A company falls within the definition of a “foreign government-related entity” if its directors are accustomed or under an obligation to being influenced by a foreign government or political organisation, or if these governments and organisations hold more than 15% of the company’s shares or voting power, or can appoint at least 20% of the company’s board of directors; or otherwise exercise substantial control. All well and good. Australian democracy benefits when foreign efforts to influence policies are conducted in an open and transparent manner. But should not there be equal accountability and transparency over who owns our most powerful companies, the privileges they have under ISDS provisions, and what happens in any dispute proceedings? SOURCE | Read more: SBS News

Well, would you rather live in America or China where you are not free. If it were majority owned by China there would be a huge outcry. That it’s Americans is no better. Australian banks should not be allowed to be majority owned by foreigners due to the power to destroy our economy Capitalist influence in government is why democracy is an illusion... You forget to include the media, which works in tandem with corporate influence. Political donations/bribery by corporate and other influential people should be a crime against democracy!

But Australians can’t have 5g because it says Made in China So why are has the govt been protecting them No different to an Australian with an offshore company whiteswine Don’t forget that they provide significant in-market opportunities for colonists looking to develop their skills as overseers.

Gladys Liu 'cannot recall' being on China Overseas Exchange Association councilsThe Liberal backbencher is being urged to address Parliament over claims of her association with China's foreign influence operations. Resign! virgotweet We already knew she was a liar 🤥 How can she not 'recall' this? Either she was or she wasn't? A convenient memory loss - she needs to go. auspol ScottMorrisonMP

Gladys Liu backflips on claims she has no ties to Chinese influence groups | Sky News AustraliaLiberal backbencher Gladys Liu has backflipped on claims she was not a member of any groups linked to Chinese foreign interference operations or the country’s Communist Party, less than 24 hours after she denied the accusations live on Sky News.\n\n“I can tell you I cannot recall [the council membership] as is reported from 2003 to 2015 … if I can’t recall I can’t be an active member of that council,” Ms Liu told host Andrew Bolt on Tuesday night. \n\n“How can you not recall a membership of 12 years?” he replied.\n\nNow the member for Chisholm has backflipped on her comments, confirming her ties with the Australian Jiangmen General Commercial Association and the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia.\n\nMs Liu also admitted to holding a former honorary role with the Guangdong Overseas Exchange Association, which reportedly has ties to a propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party that works to influence foreign governments. \n\nImage: News Corp Australia Sack her. WTF

Companies are being pressured to be politically correct: Gerry Harvey | Sky News AustraliaSuperannuation companies are 'pressuring' businesses like Harvey Norman to adopt 'politically correct positions' according to Australian entrepreneur and businessman Gerry Harvey. \n\nMr Harvey told Sky News large super funds 'will not invest' in his company unless he changes his corporate practices.\n\n'Every week or two or three I get a letter saying 'you don't meet the requirements, and you rank very low on all the tick the boxes, so this doesn't allow us to buy shares in your company and would you please rectify this situation,'' he said. 'So I generally just put the letter in the garbage.'\n\nHe said pressure groups with small constituencies, like the 'nobody group the Sleeping Giants' like to put pressure on large companies. You mean like not supporting nut jobs like jones who hate women and sprout bullshit about scientists making stuff up. That could be a good reason for companys not to invest in assholes running appliance monopolies. Why an aussie would buy a stove off you is beyond me. Harvey is a social dinosaur Super firms don’t have a clue. Hence they cannot best the index. Keep slapping them down Gerry 👍

Labor says government should investigate controversial Aboriginal flag copyright dealLabor's spokesperson for Indigenous Australians says there should be scrutiny of the deal which handed the copyright of the Aboriginal flag to a privately-owned... She's right. It's a disgrace. Just create a new flag you silly people Create a new flag Wake up Create a new flag Still with this shit? The Federal Court awarded ownership to the creator, he licensed the production of items bearing the design to other people as is his right. His design to do whatever he wants with. Cash up if you want to change it.

The Real Housewives of Melbourne renewed for a fifth seasonPop the champers, our very own housewives are back. Said no one ever Yeah...nah. *crickets*

9News - Latest news and headlines from Australia and the worldBREAKING: Residents forced to evacuate because of bushfires will be able to return to their homes in the next few hours. 9News |



Greta Thunberg’s ‘antithesis’ emerges in the form of a German teenager | Sky News Australia

Calls for Australian political parties to introduce a 20 per cent target for non-white candidates

'National honours shouldn't be used in political grudge matches': Chris Kenny | Sky News Australia

Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally demand Bettina Arndt be stripped of Order of Australia

China bans all trade and consumption of wild animals

Equinor scraps plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight

Federal Government backs push to strip Bettina Arndt of Order of Australia honour

Write Comment

Thank you for your comment.
Please try again later.

Latest News

News

12 September 2019, Thursday News

Previous news

Dutton warns case over Biloela ‘anchor babies’ could go on for months

Next news

Tasmania's newest vineyard area to become a force in wine industry
Chinese company given green light to take over iconic Australian dairy brands | Sky News Australia Emails reveal Morrison office's role in $100 million sports grants program 'Maintain the rage': Bettina Arndt urges supporters to fight 'feral mobs' 'Egotistic' police allowed our families to be sacrificed, Bourke St widow tells inquest Emails reveal Morrison office's role in $100 million sports grants program Green New Deal is 'like a sacred cow which nobody can touch' | Sky News Australia GetUp political activist group 'angers' the public by using 'dirty tactics' | Sky News Australia Baboons on the loose lead to concerns about animal testing How should Australians prepare for a coronavirus pandemic? A second GetUp needs to be formed ‘to monitor the spending of the original’ | Sky News Australia 'I'm opposed to a royal commission into Australia's bushfires': Alan Jones | Sky News Australia Kirby says religious discrimination laws a 'weapon against non-believers'
Greta Thunberg’s ‘antithesis’ emerges in the form of a German teenager | Sky News Australia Calls for Australian political parties to introduce a 20 per cent target for non-white candidates 'National honours shouldn't be used in political grudge matches': Chris Kenny | Sky News Australia Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally demand Bettina Arndt be stripped of Order of Australia China bans all trade and consumption of wild animals Equinor scraps plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight Federal Government backs push to strip Bettina Arndt of Order of Australia honour Barnaby Joyce accuses NSW govt of ulterior motives in zero net emissions commitment | Sky News Australia Turnbull lashes former Liberal colleagues over climate policy | Sky News Australia Bettina Arndt urges her supporters to 'maintain the rage' | Sky News Australia Three baboons on the loose near Royal Prince Alfred Hospital 'These are not luxury items': Scotland set to make period products free for all women