Australia's regulation on foreign investment has sparked debate as to how open the world's 12th largest economy really is, but the country's trade minister told CNBC on Thursday that the situation was being blown out of proportion.
Recent messages from Canberra suggest the government is increasingly taking a tough stance on foreign business interests controlling domestic assets such as farmland.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said in November that he would block the sale of Australia's largest cattle property portfolio, S. Kidman & Co, to overseas buyers. And the government announced in February that it would launch a register of foreign ownership of water rights, citing data that showed foreign ownership climbed by 55 percent from 2010 to 2013. Australia boasts an advanced water-trading system whereby landholders can sell water on their property.
But Australia's Minister for Trade and Investment, Steven Ciobo, largely dismissed worries about what some call the nation's "protectionist" policies.
"We've got to maintain perspective on this. Since 2001, there's only been three occasions that the Foreign Investment Review Board has said no to a foreign investor. On average, we get 1,000 applications a year," he told CNBC's "Asia Squawk Box."
"I'm not going to deny there are concerns ...But the actual framework for investment is governed by what we call a national interest test, i.e. it has to be in Australia's natural interest for this investment to happen. And the vast bulk are."