Truss stretches coalition unity over agribusiness sale to US

DEPUTY Prime Minister Warren Truss has upped the ante in what is already a contentious marriage between the Nationals and the Liberals over whether or not Australia's largest agribusiness should be sold to America.

On ABC's Insiders, Mr Truss made an impassioned case for protecting GrainCorp, which takes care of all grain movements along the eastern seaboard.

Treasurer Joe Hockey is to make the final decision on whether the sale goes ahead, with US food giant Archer Daniels Midland putting $3.4.billion on the table.

From his New South Wales electorate, shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon told APN it was "an unprecedented intervention" for a cabinet minister to comment publicly ahead of Mr Hockey's decision due in mid-December.

Mr Truss said if GrainCorp landed in foreign hands, any hope for expanding or manoeuvring Australia's grain industry would "ultimately be made in a foreign boardroom rather than in Australia".

"If we lose this business to foreign ownership, then we will lose the potential to have an international standard agribusiness trading around the world," he said in the Sunday morning interview.

Losing GrainCorp from the Australian Stock Exchange, Mr Truss said, would also weaken Australia's reputation as a market - such is the scale of this decision.

Mr Fitzgibbon backed Mr Hockey to support the sale of GrainCorp, rather than attempt to curry favour with constituents.

"I've said on many occasions that I as the minister and now shadow minister, I've not seen any persuasive arguments for blocking the takeover," he said.

Failure to allow ADM to purchase GrainCorp, Mr Fitzgibbon said, would likely scare off further - and desperately needed - investment in our primary industries.

Mr Fitzgibbon said his opponents were now stuck in a "troubled relationship" over the matter.

Mr Hockey declined to answers questions on Mr Truss's comments.



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