Indian Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention

Speech, check against delivery


11 November 2013


  • Indian Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr Vayalar Ravi
  • Former Prime Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhry
  • Our MC, Mr Dipen Rughani, National Chair of the Australia India Business Council
  • Mr Suresh Shetty, Minister of Protocol and Health, Government of Maharashtra
  • Mr K.C. Joseph, Minister of Rural Development, Planning, Culture and NORKA, Government of Kerala
  • Mr Biren Nanda, High Commissioner for India in Australia.

And all the senior representatives of the business and cultural community.

This Pravasi Bharatiya Divas event has a real sense of buoyancy and celebration.

And so it should be in an event designed to mark the contribution of the Indian diaspora around the world.

But it is also very appropriate that we also acknowledge that today is Remembrance Day in Australia; the day when we remember the ultimate sacrifice made by so many in past wars to protect the great freedoms we enjoy today.

Many Australians, and I suspect many Indians, have forgotten that their defence forces have a long history of shared service and sacrifice, from Gallipoli to Afghanistan.

In fact, India had a brigade at Gallipoli fighting alongside Australians. As well, both countries have a keen interest in ensuring security and peace within Asia.

The Indian diaspora is one of the most colourful, vibrant, geographically diverse cultural influences of any expatriate community.

The focus of celebrations today is the contribution overseas Indians have made to India's development.

But I don't think anyone would argue that overseas Indians have also made a very important contribution to the development of the countries lucky enough to host them.

And Australia is no exception.

Today I'd like to talk about three influences of the Indian diaspora.

First, its influence on globalisation.

We live in a world that is more interconnected and tied together than at any other time in human history.

In its own way, the Indian diaspora has been a powerful force for globalisation.

The diaspora serves as an engine of innovation, connecting and drawing inspiration from India and around the world.

Secondly, I'd like to talk about the Australia-India bilateral relationship.

And thirdly, I'd like to raise what our Government is doing, particularly in the context of trade and investment, to build on that relationship, and further our global connections.

Globalisation is a powerful force for building prosperity and peace – and Australia is committed to doing what it can to promote further integration with India and other countries across our region.

Globalisation, diaspora and trade

The increasing integration and movement of people, culture, goods, capital, ideas and information has a history stretching back centuries.

But it has accelerated dramatically over the last century, and continues to accelerate with every passing decade.

Migration is one of the most powerful forms of globalisation.

As the Indian diaspora has shown, the movement of people brings the different parts of the international community together.

But people – and labour – aren't the only forces that flow internationally in our global world.

Capital flows and trade moves around the world in greater volumes than ever before.

The process of production has become regional and global, as it has outgrown old, parochial, national systems of production.

And with the internet, ideas, information and innovation move seamlessly around the world.

In a globalised trading world, consumers pay less for the goods and services they value.

Compared to 2000, the prices of non-tradable items – that is, goods and services whose prices are driven mainly by domestic influences – are now 33 per cent higher than tradables, where prices are largely determined on competitive world markets.

The Australian Government is unashamedly on the side of globalisation – building closer and closer people-to-people links, reinforcing and developing new trade ties, and investment flows.

In this respect, Australia is open for business.

The Indian Community in Australia

The overseas Indian community has done a lot to help drive globalisation and understanding around the world.

It is playing an increasingly significant role in Australian life.

Already, around 400,000 Indians live in Australia.

And in 2012-13, India was our greatest source of permanent and skilled migrants.

Why have we got such close links?

Part of it is historical, of course, and cultural.

We are two thriving democracies – both sharing British colonial history.

We're both mad about cricket.

We're both places which value hard work, innovation and family.

Here in Australia, Indian Australians have made a significant contribution to the country in all walks of life.

Business, politics, sport and academia.

Indian students are the second largest group of international enrolments in this country.

After Mandarin, Punjabi is the fastest growing non-English language spoken at home in Australia.

The latest census showed it has jumped more than three-fold from 23,164 speakers in 2006 to 71,229 speakers in 2011.

Hinduism is the fastest growing religion and Diwali was celebrated with light and joy across Australia last week.

India is the birthplace of the majority of migrants who have arrived here since 2006.

The importance of our bilateral ties

But we have also worked hard, in recent years, to help build the direct links between our two countries.

The work of the Australia-India Council and Australia-India Institute to deepen understanding between our two countries has been invaluable.

Tourism is increasing exponentially – we welcomed 164,000 Indian visitors in the past year alone.

And Air India has introduced direct flights to Australia this year which will increase both trade and economic opportunities and people-to-people links.

Our governments have a significant Strategic Partnership, affirmed at a number of recent meetings – the Foreign Minister's dialogue in Perth the week before last, and between our Prime Ministers in Brunei in October.

Australia and India work together in security, in counter-terrorism, in energy security, research, in business, in education, as strategic partners.

We are working together on regional challenges – as we showed at the meeting, also in Perth, of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, where Australia assumed the Chair from India.

Our rapidly increasing cooperation has enormous implications for regional prosperity and stability.

A vital part of this is the power of the people-to-people links in our rapidly expanding bilateral relationship.

That's what this conference is all about.

This diverse and dynamic exchange of cultural, academic, sporting and other people-to-people links helps broaden the base of the relationship.

It is working to deepen our mutual understanding.

And to make sure that both our countries have a contemporary view of each other's policies, culture and potential.

I think the case of Melbourne woman Pallavi Sharda really captures this.

The 25-year-old Indian-Australian is playing the female lead in one of the biggest Bollywood productions of the year, a Hindi film called Besharam.

Pallavi is part of the world's biggest film industry.

And part of the growing popularity of Bollywood in Australia – a young Indian-Australian being chosen in a lead role.

For her, that is a fantastic opportunity.

It is one of the reasons I was proud to accept an invitation to be patron of the "India Central" project in Melbourne, which is building the first of several self-funded Indian/Australian community centres involving restaurants, theatres (showing Bollywood movies) and other community services.

But like other prominent people working across our two countries, she will also serve as a great ambassador for our cultural ties.

There are many Australian Indians making outstanding contributions in their fields, from academia, to sport, to bureaucracy, arts, business.

I think of the Sikh farming community in Woolgoolgah.

Of Senator Lisa Singh from Tasmania.

And the Secretary of my own Department and former High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese.

There are many, many more.

Trade and investment

But of course my specific responsibilities, as a member of the Abbott Government, lie in building trade and investment links between our two countries.

This is a key driver of globalisation.

Australia already has strong trade and investment ties with India.

India is our fifth largest export market.

And we welcomed $10 billion in Indian investment in Australia in 2012 alone.

Trade and investment are central to the Abbott Government's perspective on how we can provide for Australian success in coming decades.

And that of our regional partners.

We believe it is vital to rebuild investor certainty in Australia.

To foster private sector business growth – and with it job security within our national economy.

We have four principles that underpin how we are going to go about driving globalisation through trade and investment reform.

We believe in living within our means, in reversing the nanny state of choking red and green tape. We believe in restoring a culture of personal responsibility, and most importantly backing our strengths.

As part of this trade and investment push we're pursuing free trade agreements with each of our major partners – China, Korea and Japan, as well as with Indonesia, and with India through the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

And through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – a regional agreement involving all ten ASEAN countries and ASEAN's six FTA partners – China, India, ROK, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

The longer we take to lock in new trade liberalisation for our economies, the further behind we lag, and the greater the penalties for our producers.

A lot of the work can't be done by government, although we will play our role.

A lot of it is about Australian businesses doing more to build a better understanding of Indian business culture – and the opportunities and risks of operating in Asia.

And vice versa.

To this end, backing our strengths is crucial to successful and sustainable growth in trade. And trade leads to relationships and understanding, which in turn fosters trust. Healthy relationships are built on trust.

It's why our New Colombo Plan is a centrepiece of Australian foreign and economic policy.

It will boost our connections with Asia by deepening our personal, business and academic links with the region.

The initiative will provide an opportunity for Australian undergraduate students to undertake study and internships within the region.

The idea is that this will not only increase knowledge and understanding of Asia in Australia, but that by participating in the program our best and brightest young talent will also help inform and update perceptions of Australia in the Indo-Pacific. It will foster trust.

Australia has benefitted now for many years from high volumes of students from the region coming to study at our universities.

We want to make this a genuine two-way exchange.

The New Colombo Plan will commence with a pilot phase involving Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong in 2014, ahead of its broader roll out in 2015.

I hope very much that India will be one of the first to join the program in 2015.

The Australian/Indian collaboration of course goes much further.

We supply resources critical to fuel India's growing manufacturing industry, including coking coal for steel.

We are working closely on civil nuclear cooperation.

And are committed to finalising negotiations to enable the sale of Australian uranium to India.

And together, we are also developing joint agricultural expertise through the Australia India Strategic Research Fund.

And the work of the Australian Council for International Agricultural Research with its Indian counterparts.

Australia is keenly aware of the trade and investment opportunities opening up in agriculture in Australia's under-developed north, as we enter the century of water and food security.

As Trade Minister I see that Australia's continued prosperity is strengthened if we tie our economies closer and closer together.


In the age of globalisation, the relationship between Australia and India is a model of increasing economic integration.

Both our countries stand to benefit enormously from this.

Our strengths are complementary, and many of our goals are shared.

We are knowledge economies, with a history of excellence in education and in research.

We are leaders in science and partners in trade.

Business engagement lies at the forefront of our relationship.

Australia has a primary production capacity and natural resources that match perfectly the growing needs of the Indian population.

The Indian diaspora is a vital link in helping build a sense of shared responsibility and interest in our region; in helping to build trust.

That helps our two nations understand how we can work better together.

The Indian Australia community has already made a striking contribution.

I look forward to working with you as we take the next steps on our path.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
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