Tag: The World/Australia

Overcoming barriers among Asian-Australians in politics ( Webinar VIdeo)

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The webinar in progress.

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 8 April 2021: A webinar was held today on the under-representation of Asian-Australians in politics and how it can be overcome. Organized by the Asia Institute, Melbourne University, Asian-Australian politicians Gladys Liu MP, Federal Member for Chisholm, Kaushaliya Vaghela MP, State MP for Western Metro Region, and Daniel Long Nguyễn, Former Mayor of the City of Yarra.

Kaushaliya Vaghela MP at the webnair.

The Asia Institute’s Dr. Surjeet Dhanji presented a summary of her recent research on some of the individual, community, and systemic barriers faced by Indian Australians seeking to enter politics. The welcome address was by Professor Andrew Rosser, Deputy Director and Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne, and the moderator was Melissa Conley Tyler, Research Fellow, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne.

Many interesting facts and observations came up in the webinar. Dr. Surjeet Dhanji talked about the use of Asian-Australians as “election fodder” (offering them un-winnable seats) and the tough “hurdle” of pre-selection of candidates in Australian political parties.

Kaushaliya Vaghela MP revealed how the Little India trader’s issue in Dandenong pushed her into community activity and later politics. “I wanted to serve the community. So, I became an MP.”

Gladys Liu MP revealed her step-by-step entry into politics and then a Member of Parliament.


- Inputs from the Melbourne Asia Review.

Gaura Travel Flight after flight: 50 unstoppable charter flights to India

Photo- Supplied

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 30 March 2021: Home is the best and that is where Gaura Travel makes you reach. On 19 March the mission of repatriating people back to India became stronger, Gaura Travel crossed another benchmark of operating 50 unstoppable charter flights. In collaboration with Singapore Airlines, the 50th charter flight took off on 19 March 2021 from Melbourne Airport carrying 200 people to New Delhi.

At the onset of the pandemic, Australia shut its borders to the world to fight the deadly COVID-19 virus. No one saw 2020 coming. Panic clenched people as they suddenly found themselves stranded in Australia. Gaura Travels arranged the first flight to India on 22 July 2020 from Sydney. The Gaura Travel team provided incessant support to all those on that flight leading to a seamless journey.

Photos- Supplied

On 5th February 2021 after 8 months of sheer hard work and courage, Gaura Travel accomplished the milestone of reuniting 10,000 families. Statistically, 18,000 passengers flew out of Melbourne: 15,000 by chartered flights and 3,000 under Vande Bharat Mission with Air India flying 17 sorties. From the 15,000, Gaura Travel accounted for 10,000.

There was joy in the air, but the directors of Gaura Travel, Ashwini Sonthalia, and Abhishek Sonthalia, knew that more had to be done. They resonated with the longing of those stuck in India, and now are back with a bang! On 27 February 2021, Gaura Travel announced the great news of special charter flights from India to Australia!

The skies have not yet opened and Gaura Travel is continuing to unite loved ones across the seas. New flights to India are in the offing with all the love from Gaura Travel.

Video- Supplied

Victoria’s first Indian community centre in Rowville inaugurated by Alan Tudge & Michael Sukar

An outside view of the community centre.Photo-SAT

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 26 March 2021: It was a proud moment for Indians in Victoria with the inauguration of the first ‘Australia India Community Centre’ in Rowville. The years of failed attempts and attempts finally bore fruit with Aston Alan Tudge MP Minister for Education and Youth & Federal Member for Aston and Michael Sukar MP, Federal Member for Deakin and Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing opened the place with great fanfare in the presence of hundreds of guests. A Bollywood dance item performed to celebrate the event enthralled the audience present.


The Centre was partially funded by the Australian Government with $2.5 million funding in addition to funding by the seven Trustees of the Australian Indian Community Charitable Trust. Mr. Vasan Srinivasan, who heads the Centre told SAT, ” The State Government has promised another $ 95,000 which has yet to come.

MR. Vasan Srinivasan addresses the audience. Photos-SAT

He disclosed the two-story Center has a built-up area of 1040 sq Meters and lots of parking. An application has also been made for permission to hold events at the Centre.”

” The backside of the Centre will soon have sports facilities and the first floor now has the ‘Dr. Dinesh Parekh Museum India’, shifted from Foster Street, Dandenong. The Museum is a highlight of the Centre with Dr. Dinesh Parekh’s collections of paintings, photographs, stamps, coins, and books. Dr. Parekh died last month and today his wife, son, and daughter-in-law were present to grace the occasion.

Among those who addressed the gathering were Minister Alan Tudge, Michael Sukar MP, Mr. Raj Kumar, India’s Consul General in Melbourne, Dr. Parekh’s son, Mathew Guy, and Vasan Srinivasan. Mementos were also given away.

In his address, Alan Tudge said that once final council approval is complete the two-story building will be used as Victoria’s first Indian Community Centre, and include multiple assembly halls, a commercial kitchen, meeting and storage rooms, a car park, an administration, and reception area, offices for three Indian community peak bodies as well as a secure area for Museum India which showcases India’s rich history and heritage.

Mr. Alan Tudge addresses those preesent. Photos-SAT

“This was an election commitment of the Morrison Government and I am so pleased to see it up and running,” Mr. Tudge said.

He also read out the message of PM Scott Morrison. ” This Centre, I know, will give much – not only to this community, but to the wider community, and to everyone who passes through its doors. I foresee many gatherings, full of color, family, friendship, and of course food!
My congratulations and very best wishes for the long life of the Australia India Community Centre,” he said.

Chair of the Australia India Community Charitable Trust Vasan Srinivasan said he was truly excited for the community centre to officially opened.

“I wish to thank the Morrison Government and our Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Michael McCormack for the funding and approval of this project, along with Hon. Alan Tudge and Hon. Michael Sukkar for their support to see this project formalized and delivered,” Mr. Srinivasan said.

“I am also excited to see the Community Centre become the new home of the Museum India, which will be named in memory of Dr. Dinesh Parekh – the collector and curator of the museum’s collection.”

The community centre is situated at 16-18 Kingsley Close, Rowville, Victoria 3178.

(The story will be updated soon with more text and photos)

Sara Kirlew is Australia’s new Consul-General in Chennai


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 19 March 2021: Ms. Sarah Kirlew is Australia’s next Consul-General in Chennai. This was announced by Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women, and the Acting Defence Minister, says a media release.

Ms. Kirlew is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She has previously served overseas in Beijing, New Delhi, and Cairo. In Canberra she has worked in a range of Indo-Pacific focused foreign and economic policy roles within the department, including on Australia’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific and geo-economic issues.

Ms. Kirlew holds a Master of Public Policy and Management from the University of London; and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney.

Ms.Kirlew will replace outgoing Consul-General Susan Grace who has been holding the post in Chennai since 2018.

The Consulate-General in Chennai is located on India’s Indian Ocean coastline and plays a key role in pursuing Australia’s strategic, trade and investment interests in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and the Union Territories of Puducherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Our consular officers in Chennai have been central to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s support for Australians seeking to return during COVID-19, with five flights facilitated from Chennai alone since 23 October 2020.

Can an Australia–India FTA succeed where RCEP failed?

Photo: SAT

By Shiro Armstrong* and Evgeniia Shannon**, ANU

Having secured free trade agreements (FTAs) with almost all key trading partners, Australia is honing in on a long elusive but lucrative market — India. Tensions with China, the need to find new sources of economic growth and government policy to diversify trading partners are pushing Australia into India’s arms. The embrace, however, might not be a warm one.

Despite pressure to conclude a deal, Australia should not settle for a trade agreement that falls short of meaningful commitments by India that improve trade terms for Australian exporters and provide reform momentum in India.

Bilateral trade between Australia and India grew steadily during the last decade but continues to be dominated by coal and is conducted on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms. Trade in sectors where Australia has a comparative advantage, like agriculture, remains uncommercial due to India’s highly protected markets. The lack of a meaningful framework for the bilateral trade and investment relationship is increasingly glaring as the two countries advance in nearly all other areas of cooperation.

India is not part of any regional economic architecture in the Asia Pacific. It walked away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the eleventh hour. And APEC members are hesitant to let India into APEC given its track record of playing spoiler in international economic forums. India is even more unlikely to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which requires commitments well beyond RCEP.

Australia–India FTA negotiations have been fraught with false starts and frustration. In 2011, Australia and India launched negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). But since 2015, both parties shifted their focus to the bigger regional deal, RCEP. RCEP negotiations have emerged as the biggest highlight — and disappointment — in the Australia–India economic relationship. Where to from RCEP’s failure is the pressing question for Australia’s new Trade Minister Dan Tehan who hopes to begin talks this month.

India has little appetite for greater trade liberalisation. A Byzantine system of federal governance, polarised domestic politics and a strong protectionist mindset make India a difficult negotiating partner. This is exacerbated by widespread suspicion of international trade and institutional scepticism towards both multilateral and bilateral trade deals, particularly with developed countries. Unfortunately for Australia, India’s domestic agricultural lobby is vehemently opposed to opening up its agricultural market. The Indian government’s relationship with domestic farmers unions has recently boiled over, with large scale demonstrations demanding the government repeal three deregulation-style agricultural laws.

In the preferential trade arena, India is cautious about making liberalisation commitments, deeming them a cause of harmful trade deficits. India’s current FTAs are few and low-ambition. With their ‘zero-sum game’ mindset, Indian negotiators are almost never interested in offering concessions, but are aggressive in pursuing India’s offensive interests. Negotiations with the European Union, Canada, New Zealand and the United States have so far failed to reach any meaningful conclusion.

Australia continues to hold hope for a comprehensive Australia–India FTA that grants Australian agricultural exporters favourable access conditions and nudges India towards broader liberalisation. But it is highly unlikely that India will agree to RCEP-like conditions in a bilateral context, with the lower market access gains (one market instead of 15) being even more difficult to justify domestically.

Australia should nevertheless aim for a high level of market access beyond simply binding India to services liberalisation and current tariff rates. The FTA should align with WTO requirements to cover ‘substantially all trade’ between FTA parties in both goods and services. Australia should also be prepared to accommodate India’s offensive interest regarding worker visas, perhaps to a significant extent.

One condition that Australia should hold firmly to is in pushing broader liberalisation and eventual serious reform in India, potentially by creating a pathway for India to accede to RCEP in the future. For negotiations to even commence, the initial FTA setup would need to be within India’s comfort zone and have tangible results upfront for India’s offensive interests, with flexibility for gradual liberalisation in areas of India’s defensive interests. The agreement should have an economic cooperation agenda mirroring that of RCEP, which can slowly nudge India towards wider regional integration.

It is in Australia’s interest to avoid a scenario where, once the ‘low-hanging fruit’ is picked, India will lose the incentive to proceed with more onerous commitments. Any FTA should be a living agreement with clear provisions on future expansion, and monitoring and dispute settlement mechanisms.

Australia does have another choice: to accept a limited, low ambition, ‘early harvest’ deal that resembles a semi-development agreement, such as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. With a huge trading partner, such as India, this will be a new approach for Australia and will require some convincing among negotiators and policymakers alike. The gains from such a strategy are unclear and beg the ‘is it worth it’ question.

Securing preferential access to the growing Indian market would grant Australia the first-mover advantage, and open up new possibilities for diversifying supply chains. But Australia must remain realistic; a significant recalibration of India’s trade posture is dependent on its domestic politics and unlikely in the short term. If the bilateral FTA is done right, Australia may finally succeed in bringing India into regional economic architecture.

* Shiro Armstrong is Director of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

**Evgeniia Shannon is a graduate student at the Australian National University and formerly a staff member at the WTO Secretariat in Geneva.

Source- eastasiaforum.org, 8 March 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)