Of the half-a-million international students in Australia at any given time, about 100,000 are Indians. But a series of racial attacks against them have raised questions on the safety of Indian students Down Under. John Brumby, Premier of the Australian state of Victoria — who is Delhi on a five-day visit — says the racially-based attacks have damaged the country's reputation. In an interview to HT, Brumby explains the measures the Australian government is taking to regain the confidence of Indian students.
Melbourne has witnessed a spate of racial attacks on Indian students. Don't you think such incidents can adversely affect the over $15 billion education industry in Australia?
Any act of racism is unacceptable to our government. I agree very much there has been racially-based crimes. Melbourne is one of the safest cities in the world. But having said that we have a small number of crimes, which have been committed involving students, but I stress it's a small number. In recent years Australia has seen a large growth of international students. Indian students are the largest single group staying and studying in Australia. Any act of violence, any act of racism obviously damages our reputation.
What specific measures is the Victorian government taking to stop to such incidents?
First, we will deploy more police with strong powers and we have given the courts tougher sentencing power for any crime that is based on racism or hatred. Secondly, we have taken measures to affirm our belief in multiculturalism and diversity. The third thing we have done is to provide a number of new measures to support international students. The most important would be a new 24x7 student's information service for international students. I will be announcing new measures, which includes new scholarships, specifically for Indian students wishing to study in Victoria.
Victoria hosted a very successful 2006 Commonwealth Games. What kind of impact it had on the state's economy, post-games?
The games generated $ 1.5 billion additional growth in economy and attracted more than a 100,000 international and interstate visitors. It generated almost 14,000 new jobs.
Delhi is hosting the Commonwealth Games next year. CWG Federation members, including chief Mike Fennel, have expressed concerns about projects running late. Do you think by this time, Delhi should have readied all Games-related infrastructure?
I would be visiting the Games village on Saturday. I won't like to comment before that.
Is the Australian government apprehensive about security-related issues in India?
I would not like to comment on security issues. Leaders often change their programmes and I am disappointed that I could not go to Mumbai. Even in Melbourne, prior to the games there were security issues but they were addressed and a proper security plan was put in place. We are confident, the Indian government would take steps to address all security issues.