ABS responds to article "Land Data Puzzle" by Leslie White (The Weekly Times, 23 November 2011, page 9)

I refer to the Weekly Times article of 23 November ("Land Data Puzzle") in which it is claimed that there is confusion about whether a recent ABS survey of agricultural businesses measured the amount of land owned by foreigners.

The ABS conducted the Agricultural Land and Water Ownership Survey in 2011, by scientifically sampling businesses which undertook agricultural activity. The sample was representative of all businesses which undertook agricultural production in all agricultural industry groups. The survey was compulsory, and was undertaken by authority of the Census and Statistics Act (1905).

The survey provided information about foreign ownership of agricultural businesses in Australia (count and percentage), foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land (area of holding and percentage) and foreign ownership of water entitlements used for agricultural purposes (volume of water and percentage).

In undertaking this survey, the ABS did not use land title information as the basis for the survey. Land titles would not have provided any additional information the ABS did not already have regarding foreign owned businesses. Additionally, ABS' long experience has demonstrated that there are significant complexities using land-based designs as there is not a one-to-one relationship between land and business activities. .

The ABS is confident in the quality of the statistical estimates provided about foreign ownership of agricultural land, businesses and water entitlements in Australia.

Peter Harper
Deputy Australian Statistician