Senator Fiona Nash
Senator Fiona Nash

Public servants question how 'foreign investment' is defined

THE Gillard Government's progress on developing a national foreign investment register has slowed, due to complications over how it is defined, Senate estimates heard on Tuesday.

In late sittings of estimates, public servants revealed questions over how "foreign investment" should be defined had slowed progress.

Under questioning from Nationals Senator Fiona Nash, officials said questions lie "what is foreign ownership and levels and how you record ownership of companies" were part of the complication.

A public servant said problems with publicly-traded companies especially were hard to define, as the levels of shares held by foreign interests varied.

"We do not actually have a date yet when it may be operational. The details will be known soon," he said.

Announced in October last year, a discussion paper was circulated in November, attracting 33 submissions.

It is understood the public service was compiling the results of the discussion paper process, so the government could make a decision based on the feedback soon.