Major book stores across Australia are well worth a visit today to pick up a copy of Bruce Dover’s cracking new book, Rupert’s adventures in China: how Murdoch lost a fortune and found a wife. Dover was News Corp’s man in China for the second half of the 1990s and he has revealed chapter and verse on how the Chinese Government completely shafted our richest and most famous businessman, despite all manner of grovelling.

If our richest and most powerful entrepreneur can’t access the Chinese market, why on earth should Kevin Rudd allow the Chinese Government to become the biggest shareholder in Rio Tinto, which owns more than $100 billion worth of Australian resource assets?

The UK has the world’s most liberal regime when it comes to foreign ownership, so it was no surprise the Chinese Government spent their $15.5 billion in London on Rio Tinto PLC shares, rather than the Australian version of the stock in the dual listed company.

The sad truth of the matter is that Australia already has a woeful record when it comes to foreign ownership, especially in the resources sector where local investors only own about 20% on average.

For example, here is a list of 30 different major resources projects that are majority foreign-owned.

It is already quite outrageous that Rio Tinto bases itself in London while pocketing more than half its profits from Australia – and now it seems some of the future shots could be called by the same Chinese Communist Party which locked out the Melbourne-born Murdoch. These things need to be a two-way street.

No wonder Chinalco president Xiao Yaqing hot-footed it straight to Sydney after his London press conference with Alcoa boss Alain Belda on Friday night. Will he get to have a chat in Mandarin with Kevin Rudd?

The Murdoch press has been surprisingly reserved about the foreign ownership implications of the Chinese raid, which might reflect Rupert’s ongoing attempts to win approval to access more of the Chinese pay-TV market.

Surely, the mainstream media owes it to the public to explain that both the undemocratic Singapore and Chinese Governments now own more of our nation than the Australian government. To help facilitate this debate, we’re cranking up a few more lists.

Go here for the disappointingly small list of Australian companies that generate more than $200 million a year offshore, whether by exports or foreign-owned operations.

There is also this much larger list of more than 200 foreign companies and government which generate more than $200 million a year out of the Australian market.

This goes to the core of our problems – we continue to live beyond our means by flogging off the farm such that we now have one of the most lopsided foreign-ownership records in the western world.

At some point, this has to stop.

Peter Fray

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