2 June 2014
Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:45): I would like to join my colleagues in congratulating Narendra Modi and the BJP on their decisive win last month in the recent Indian elections. Mr Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister last week after a successful campaign that has inspired millions around the world. After taking office last week, Mr Modi expressed his commitment to leading a ‘strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development’. I commend Mr Modi on his words and his vision for the world’s largest democracy and one of our most important international partners. The people of India should be congratulated on the successful conduct of this very significant election. An election of this magnitude has never been conducted anywhere in the world. Around 66 per cent of the 815 million registered voters cast a vote, making it the largest democratic exercise in history.
Prime Minister Abbott spoke to Mr Modi last month to congratulate him on his electoral success and to invite him to Australia to attend the G20 summit later this year. Continuing the strong bilateral programs that exist between our two countries will be a key priority for both prime ministers in the months and years ahead. The Australian government looks forward to working with Mr Modi’s government to strengthen our Strategic Partnership with India. Building a genuine Strategic Partnership with India is a long-term project and one to which this government is firmly committed. We recognise the enormous potential for economic, political and strategic engagement between our two nations. We also recognise the strong people-to-people links that already exist and the prospect to further grow in the future.
Under this government, parliamentary engagement with India is increasing every year. We look forward to engaging with India’s new parliament. The Australia-India Council will support the visit of a delegation of young Indian members of parliament later this year. Meanwhile, the Australian parliament is also planning for a parliamentary delegation to visit India later this year. Thanks to delegations like these and a commitment to regional cooperation, we have established a bilateral architecture of annual ministerial meetings on foreign affairs, trade, education, and energy cooperation issues. Early engagement with Mr Modi’s new government will ensure even closer cooperation and economic diplomacy between our two nations.
India is already our fifth-largest export destination, and this relationship is mutually valuable. Australia’s resource exports to India are helping to drive India’s development. Two-way trade has grown in value from $3.3 billion in 2000 to over $15 billion in 2013. We see potential for growth in investment in both directions, particularly given that both the Australian government and Mr Modi’s government are committed to cutting red tape around investment. Our two governments share the goal of increasing regional prosperity and stability, and we welcome Mr Modi’s commitment to business and economic reforms.
Education links between our countries are particularly strong and build upon Indian recognition of Australia’s expertise in this area. India is the second-highest source country for foreign students in Australia. Australian institutions are also expanding the delivery of educational services in India to assist India to meet its vocational training and skills development needs. Australia hopes to begin sending students to India from 2015 under the government’s New Colombo Plan. Australia also receives high numbers of Indian skilled migrants. India is Australia’s largest source country of skilled migrants, and, increasingly, Indian tourist arrivals have strengthened our economy at home and brought our nations even closer together.
I would like to thank Shubha Kumar and Dr Aksheya Kumar from the India Club in my electorate of Bennelong for providing me with information about the recent elections in preparation for this speech. I understand that many sections of the Indian-Australian community in Bennelong are very hopeful of a bright future following Mr Modi’s win.
Mr Modi’s personal story has already inspired many. From a tea-seller’s son to the 15th Prime Minister of India, he has risen from a humble background to international recognition. Shortly after taking office, Mr Modi committed to take India’s development journey to new heights. He asked for the ‘support, blessings and active participation’ of the Indian people and the international community. Today, this government offers its support for the new Prime Minister. I trust he will fulfil the aspirations of millions of people worldwide.
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