FIRB to be headed by former Chinese ambassador David Irvine

FIRB to be headed by former Chinese ambassador David Irvine
FIRB to be headed by former Chinese ambassador David Irvine

The former director-general of domestic intelligence agency ASIO, David Irvine has been ­appointed as the new chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

It has been interpreted as a signal from the Turnbull government that national sec­urity is a key priority in the ­assessment of foreign bids for Australia’s critical infrastructure following controversial decisions including the sale of the Port of Darwin.

Irvine will replace the outgoing chairman, Brian Wilson who hailed from the investment banking sector.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment, foreign investment in the national interest … and I don’t see that changing,” Irvine told The Weekend Australian.

Irvine joined the FIRB board last year.

He has served as the director-general of both ASIO and ASIS and as a former ambassador to China.

Irvine on the board by Michael D’Ascenzo, David Peever, the former Australian head of Rio Tinto, Patrick Secker and Ms Alice Williams.

It has been long viewed the inadequately funded FIRB was weak on enforcement until recent initiatives.

Treasurer the Hon. Scott Morrison recently ordered the forced sale of a further 15 Australian residential properties held by foreign nationals in breach of the foreign investment framework, taking the total number of forced sales to 61, with a combined value of $107 million.

The 15 latest properties are located in Victoria and Queensland, with a combined purchase price of more than $14 million. The foreign owners come from a range of countries including China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Under the previous Labor government, no foreign nationals were forced to divest illegally held Australian property.

A further 36 foreign nationals have sold properties during the course of Australian Taxation Office (ATO) investigations, showing improved compliance with the rules and a strengthening of the enforcement program.

The ATO has detected more than 570 foreign nationals who have breached the rules. 

Under the Government’s enhanced penalty regime the ATO has issued 388 penalty notices to foreign nationals in breach of the rules, attracting penalties of more than $2 million.

Property investment

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