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Working hard to ensure ties with India strengthened: Gillard

PTI Melbourne | Updated on June 03, 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressing the media during a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. File Photo: V.V.Krishnan   -  The Hindu

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she is working very hard to ensure bilateral ties with India are strengthened, as her Government was making efforts to help Indian migrants settle in the country.

“I can certainly tell the Indian community that we are investing in settlement services and monitor work with community members as they settle into Australia,” Gillard told reporters here yesterday.

“I can also say to the Indian community that as Prime Minister I work very hard to make sure that our relationship with India is strengthened,” she said, admitting that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India was a blockage in their bilateral relationship.

“I have cleared that out of the way. So I’m incredibly optimistic about the relationship between our two countries,” Gillard said, adding, “And also about the prospects for the Indian community members who come to settle in Australia.”

Gillard made the comments at a Labor party supporters’ meeting held here which was organised by Indian and other South Asian communities.

Gillard said her Government was investing heavily on settlement services for new migrants and have also invested heavily on low social houses to help people with accommodations.

“So there are various supports there. But I’m not saying that problem is resolved. Actually this Government has a very proud track record of investing heavily to support people in times of need,” she said.

She also spoke about a new student welfare system that she was working on with education ministers in the country.

“I work with education ministers around the country to create a new student welfare system which I believe is making a difference,” the Prime Minister said.

“We certainly have addressed the student safety issues.

There were some dreadful problems and some heartbreaking incidents, including one here locally (Werribee),” she said.

Answering a question on declining number of international students from India, Gillard said that the country was seeing an increase in overseas student numbers.

“We are seeing huge numbers of international students and growth is continuing... from India, China, we are continuing to see growth. We are seeing growth in Indian migrants,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister’s comments came as a report titled “Australia’s Migration Trend 2011-12” was released today by the immigration minister Brendan O’Connor.

The report put India as the biggest source of permanent migrants to Australia, saying that the number of permanent migrants from India stood at 29,018 during 2011-12 which was an increase of 12.7 per cent on the previous year.

China stood at second position with the number of permanent migrants falling from 29,546 to 25,509 last year.

Meanwhile, Australian Government is expected to announce new steps to ensure the 457 visa scheme which allowed local businesses to hire foreign staff was not breached by the employers.

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has indicated changes to the foreign worker visa scheme that would penalise breaches of the rules, an ABC report said.

New measures are to be announced this week to ensure businesses were employing local workers before bringing in overseas staff.

O’Connor said not all bosses are looking to employ local workers first.

“The penalties are in place, but they’ve rarely been imposed because there has been an inability to compare what is happening as opposed to what’s written on the application form,” he said.

O’Connor also said that there were other ways to provide labour to sectors of Australia’s economy.

“The holidaymaker visa and student visa are also important ways to provide labour to certain regions and to certain sectors,” he said.

“The 457 visa scheme, the temporary skilled scheme, is an essential part of those initiatives, but it must be one that maintains integrity. It has to be a scheme that genuinely responds to shortages in our economy and genuinely delivers on real jobs that are needed,” O’Connor said.

Federal Labor front-bencher Tanya Plibersek has said that it was a real problem that some employers are looking offshore.

“If there are Australians available to do this work, then taking shortcuts and getting a compliant workforce from overseas that can be deported, sacked quickly if they become troublesome, is not something that any Australian Government should support,” she was quoted by the AAP report as saying.

Earlier, O’Connor has said that there have been 10,000 cases of 457 visas being rorted, which was just an estimate.

Published on June 03, 2013

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