27 August 2020

SUBJECT: The Morrison Government’s failure to develop Australia’s economic relationship with India.



SUBJECT: The Morrison Government’s failure to develop Australia’s economic relationship with India.

MOSIQI ACHARYA, HOST: Joining us now is the Shadow Minister for Trade and Member of Brand, Madeleine King. Welcome to SBS Hindi.

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

ACHARYA: You pointed out that the Morrison government has failed to deliver on a plan to boost Australia's economic ties with India. We know that they came out and endorsed Peter Varghese’s report in 2018, which mentioned that there was huge potential to grow Australia's trade relations with India. What are your thoughts on these recent numbers?

KING: Well, they're nothing short of very disappointing Mosiqi. Australia's exports to India have fallen to a 17-year low and that's astounding by any measure. The report issued by Peter Varghese, a very respected former diplomat of Australia, was over two years ago and since that time the Morrison Liberal government has done virtually nothing to try and implement the really sensible recommendations that Mr Varghese came up with.

What I think the government has failed to understand is how important India is, particularly to Australia but also to the global economy of the world. It's an economy that is transforming and modernising, and most importantly it's growing at an enormous rate. So in the next five years, fully one-fifth of the world's working age population will be living in India. India will be the powerhouse of the global economy and Australia needs to really wake up to this, and the government of the day needs to start to take the relationship with India much more seriously and move beyond the kind of what I’d call platitudes of curries, cricket and Commonwealth.

We need to invest seriously in our relationship and make a determined national effort across government, across business, across our education sector to focus on India and ensure that all Australians have a deeper understanding of not only the transformation of the economy but India itself.

So I think there's a lot that can be done. We share so much in common. We support democracy. We support the international rules-based order. And of course we share the Indian Ocean. As a Western Australian, when I’m in WA every day I see the Indian Ocean. So I see the same ocean as many Indians see every day and I think it's important to remember that shared strategic place India and Australia have in the world. And we need to build on that to build on our trading and economic relationship.

ACHARYA: You mentioned the Indian Ocean is very important to Australia, not just the partnership in the Indian Ocean and the recent virtual summit between the both prime ministers of Australia and India, they did sign agreements to work together in the Indian Ocean. If even considering the other sectors, how important is India for Australia?

KING: India is extremely important to Australia. As I said we share many beliefs in common and the way our governments run as democratic systems. The Indian Ocean is a strategic body of water through which much of the world’s trade flows and especially Australia’s trade out of this nation to other nations. And working together between our respective defence forces is going to be increasingly important. I know the Indian Ocean Rim Association and we've had the IONs - the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium - held in Perth before. And that's when come together to discuss important strategic matters about the Indian Ocean, and that's something we can think about and build upon to build that trade relationship.

ACHARYA: China’s share of Australian exports have in fact grown and considering everything that has been going on between Australia and China, I was particularly interested in asking you in the post-COVID world, we know that the numbers between Australia and India have gone down, which sectors should Australia focus on while trying to increase trade with India?

KING: Yeah, absolutely. That our trade has fallen is quite astounding, and a little bit depressing quite frankly as an Australia - it should not be happening. But the sectors we can focus on, and this is what Peter Varghese pointed out in his epic report, it starts with education and international education. Of course, with COVID travel restrictions that's challenged right now, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying. We must continue to build that education relationship so Australia can provide a quality education to young Indian people that want to go and study in another country. And we need to work at being seen and understood as providing a quality education in a safe and welcoming country. That goes beyond undergraduate education, but also to postgraduate and postdoctoral research. India's scientists and Australian scientists and academics have been collaborating for many, many years, but we need to lift our game on that collaboration as well, and that all stems from that international education and a sharing of understanding of how you learn and what you learn. And then how you move on to the science of research that follows it. So I think Australia and India need to do those smart things together - the education and the science and research. So I would say education is the flagship sector for our relationship, and there are others that can come from it – agribusiness, tourism, obviously a bit difficult now, but also financial services and health. But principally, we will build a successful trade and personal people-to-people relationships on international education.

ACHARYA: Lovely, thank you so much today for sharing these points with us, Ms King, and it was a pleasure having you on SBS Hindi.

KING: Thank you very much Mosiqi and I really do appreciate it, and I just want to say hello to all the amazing Indian diaspora here in Australia.