Exploring Sen’s ‘inescapable valuational problem’: foreign investment and the establishment of Australia’s Agricultural Land Registry

Stream: Panel 16 - Environmental Politics: Environmental Governance and Policymaking in Australia and Beyond
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


The evolution of policy on foreign direct investment into development of investment policy needs to accommodate competing traditions and practices in confronting the challenges globalization. In both Australia (Mahony 2012) and New Zealand (Kawharu 2015) the processes of choice exercised by domestic polities when engaging with inward international investment may be complex and protracted. Kawharu in exploring the resolution of the choice in New Zealand between traditions and change that may be needed for economic reasons suggests that such choice necessarily involves what Amartya Sen terms the ‘inescapable valuational problem’, and that such “rational assessment of such choices demands adequate public participation”. The recent extended debate in the foreign acquisition of agricultural land led to changes to foreign investment rules and the creation of the Agricultural Land Registry. We outline the contested spaces surrounding the establishment of the Registry and show how the process of choice regarding the direction of inward investment regimes necessarily involves change to institutional capacity. We locate this experience of change in a broader context framed by Sen’s thinking on one hand and ‘economic rationalist’ or neoclassical economic arguments on the other. Our analysis offers insights to understanding much contested attitudes to foreign direct investment.


Chris Sadleir (Presenter), University of Canberra
Chris Sadleir researches and teaches in public administration and governance at the University of Canberra.

Greg Mahony (Presenter), University of Canberra
Greg Mahony researches and teaches in economics and public policy at the University of Canberra.