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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 317


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (11:57): The Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Bill 2012 undertakes a number of financial agreements with India, Mauritius—which ironically has got a very strong Indian influence—and the Marshall Islands. Previous speakers have detailed most of those changes, including to the amount of time for an enterprise to be a permanent establishment et cetera. I want to join with the previous speaker, the member for Makin, in speaking about India and the Indian community, because they are so crucial to this country.

What we have seen that is relevant to this legislation is that India's growth for the period 2011-12 was 6.5 per cent and over 2011 itself it was 7.1 per cent. These countries have had a very close diplomatic relationship since 1945 when India sent a High Commissioner here. This has been reinforced in recent years by meetings between the last two prime ministers of this country and the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh—in November 2009 and again in October 2012—where the relationship was strengthened by being elevated to a strategic partnership. There has also been the instigation of annual education ministers' meetings. This is symptomatic of a reality where India is Australia's fourth-highest export market and, from our side of things, the interest is in the export of minerals, fuels, education, copper and ores; and from the Indian side of the ledger: tourism, diamonds and medicants et cetera being very significant. India has also attracted, in recent years, very strong foreign direct investment; it was 51 per cent greater in 2011 than in 2010, and $36.5 billion was raised. India is the 19th largest exporter and the world's 10th largest importer. It is the 10th largest entity by nominal GDP.

We have a significant need to engage and to be involved, and the current government has very much emphasised that reality. We are talking about a country of 1.2 billion people which is governed through 28 states and seven union settlements. One thing that always intrigues me about India is when we compare it to our national population. We can look at the language groups in India—I and other members in Western Sydney are aware of this from attending a wide variety of language group meetings in Sydney: there are 83 million Bengali speakers—as I said, think of the Australian population—46 million Gujarati speakers; 38 million Kannada speakers in the state of Karnataka; 33 million Malayalam speakers; and 72 million Marathi speakers. Those are just the second string of language groups after Hindi, which is the language of 46 per cent of the population.

India is also a country which has wide pluralism with regard to religion, obviously predominantly Hindu. The last estimates, which are probably serious understatements from certain demographers, say Muslims comprise 13.5 per cent, Christians 2.3 per cent and Sikhs 1.9 per cent. This is an amazing phenomenon. Despite all the problems of this nation, they have held this together. I made this point at a public meeting recently. In comparison, having been in the United States during the recent presidential and congressional elections, not only should we say that India is the largest democracy in the world but we should also say they are far more capable of conducting their elections than the United States of America, given the challenges of such separate language groups, religious diversity, state divisions and the very traumatic security issues that surround the country.

The reality of the Indian diaspora in Australia is also of relevance to me and other speakers. We are talking about a very significant movement of Indian-background nationals in this country. If we look at India's migration ranking relative to other countries, they are the largest contributor in general skilled migration. That is similarly the case with the total skills stream. They are the third highest in the total family stream and the fourth largest national source of migration. What is also relevant is that they are not quite up there with languages spoken at home, because of the predominance of English. What has driven this stream in recent years, with regard to the resources boom and the failure in past years to train Australian people, has been the high reliance on skilled migration. Because of India's strength in English instruction they have been one of the major sources of this migration.

They contribute to us in the sense that they are very youthful—the median age is 31 years, which is six years younger than the Australian population. They are predominantly employed in the professional sector, as seen in the last census and migration movement statistics. Twenty-nine per cent are in the clerical and administration sectors. Just to reinforce the question of skilled migration, 76 per cent of Indians entering this country have come through the skills stream.

It has not been without difficulties. Changes were made to the rules with regard to skilled migration. There was a rather ill-thought out proposed change in recent years, whereby people were essentially promised permanent residency on the basis of Australian qualifications rather than having to compete with people from the rest of the world with university qualifications. We have seen some degree of exploitation of Australian migration rules by the smart operators, the spivs, the migration advisers and their alliance with certain questionable educational institutions in the private sector. We know that the current government had to step in, bring in some rules to make sure that it was regulated properly and not exploited. As I said, to some degree people come here for migration rather than for education. That of course can have a spill-on effect with regard to the credibility of Australian educational institutions. In general, we have been well rewarded by Indian migration to this country.

As I said, in general we have been well rewarded by Indian migration in this country. We see in Western Sydney the enhancement of many of our previously decaying suburban shopping centres. We see a resilience growing up in some of those sectors in regard to retail. When we go to the administrative sector in our country, when we go to professional organisations and the various people who provide services in this country, we know that Indian migration to this country has been very strong and very worthwhile. Let us hope it continues.

Finally, I want to refer to two organisations that are preparing for the long-term reality that confronts any diaspora that comes to this country, and that is ageing. As I said earlier, the Indian diaspora is far younger than Australians in general and the migration stream. However, they are thinking about the future. Many other migration streams in this country, many other communities long established, did not think ahead about ageing and did not prepare for the need for aged care. The first organisation is Sri Om Care, established in August 2007, which under the leadership of Jay Raman has been active in respite care, short-term and day care, seniors programs, undertaking accredited courses, active ageing, health performance and day centres in Chester Hill, Auburn and Seven Hills. I hope that they establish one in my part of Sydney, where there has been a significant Indian migration in recent years.

The other organisation is the South Asian Muslim Association, with whom I have also been heavily engaged over many years, a group that is essentially focusing on MOUs with existing care providers to make sure aged care is culturally sensitive in regard to food, religious practices et cetera. I compliment them for having a bit of morality, a bit of ethics, which does not always characterise groups in the NGO sector. They refuse to take any money from clubs because of the association with gambling. That is a pretty principled stand given the amount of money that other groups receive. There was of course one group that was legendary in the recent debate over gambling; it had been a long-term opponent of gambling but it was exposed for taking considerable amounts of money and therefore was not too keen about change. But this organisation, providing for aged care in the Indian and subcontinent communities, took a principled stand.

India is a country that is crucial internationally and far more important to this country. I commend the legislation to the House.