How Kerry O'Brien voted compared to someone who believes that the federal government should restrict foreign ownership within Australia, particularly where foreign ownership would be against the national interest

Division Kerry O'Brien Supporters vote Division outcome

2nd Feb 2010, 6:08 PM – Senate Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Amendment Bill 2009 - Second Reading - Add an amendment

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The majority voted against an amendment introduced by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and co-sponsored by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. This means that the amendment was unsuccessful.

The amendment would have added the following after the words "That these bills be now read a second time":

...but the Senate calls on the Government to bring forward the changes to law and policy necessary to ensure that:

(a) foreign governments cannot use corporate vehicles they control to purchase strategic assets within Australia;

(b) for non-state-owned entities, a ‘related entity’ test is applied, so that different entities under the same ultimate majority control are treated as one entity in assessing whether an acquisition will result in more than 10 percent of control of any strategic asset market in Australia;

(c) the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), in considering decisions on foreign ownership, is required to assess whether Australia has reciprocal rights of investment in the proposer’s country;

(d) effective laws are in place to prevent creeping acquisitions by foreign, state-owned entities of Australian businesses and assets;

(e) the FIRB provides clear criteria of what the ‘national interest’ test is;

(f) abbreviated versions of FIRB advice to the Minister are tabled in both Houses of the Parliament;

(g) clear definitions are advanced of ‘community interest’ and ‘common standards of business behaviour’, and major investment proposals are subjected to rigorous public scrutiny to ensure that they meet genuine common standards of business behaviour; and

(h) the human rights records of the country of state-owned entities seeking to invest in Australia be a key factor during consideration by the FIRB, and that all foreign non-state-owned entities be subject to consideration of their other investment activities and whether these conflict with Australia’s ethical positions.

Background to the bill

The bill amends the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 so that foreign investors are required to notify the Treasurer where there is a possibility (either now or in the future) that an investment arrangement will deliver influence or control over an Australian company's business or assets.(Read more about the bill, including its explanatory memoranda, here. Its bills digest (298 KB) also contains useful information.)

References

No Yes Not passed by a large majority

11th Oct 2006, 6:13 PM – Senate Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2006 and three related bill - Second Reading - Agree with the main idea of the bills

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The majority agreed the with main idea of the four bills (in parliamentary jargon, they agreed to read them for a second time). This means that the Senate can now discuss them in more detail.

The four bills were:

More on the Media Ownership bill

Of these four bills, the Media Ownership bill is the most controversial.

Main idea of the Media Ownership bill

The Media Ownership bill will introduce new laws relating to cross media ownership and foreign media ownership. Specifically, it will permit cross-media mergers in radio licence areas where sufficient diversity of media groups remains following the merger and remove media-specific restrictions on foreign ownership and control.

The bill states that there is sufficient diversity of media groups if there are at least five separate media groups in mainland State capitals and at least four groups in other licence areas following any merger activity.

What are cross media ownership laws?

Under the current law, a person can't control two types of media (including TV, radio and newspaper media) within the same licence area. For example, one person can't control a commercial television broadcasting licence and a commercial radio broadcasting licence within a particular area. Nor can they control a commercial radio broadcasting licence and a newspaper associated with the area.

A person is considered to be in control of the particular type of media if they have interests in the company greater than 15%.

What are foreign media ownership laws?

There are currently several controls on foreign ownership of Australian media. For example, there are strict limits on the degree of total foreign interest in newspaper ownership as well as a set limit on the interest of any single foreign shareholder.

No No Passed by a small majority

How "voted a mixture of for and against" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
MP absent 0 0 0
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 1 10 10
MP voted against policy 1 0 10
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 0 0 0
Total: 10 20

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 10 / 20 = 50%.

And then