KPMG Indian Diaspora Dinner
Good evening – it’s a pleasure to speak with you tonight.
Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which this event takes place, and their Elders both past and present.
Can I also acknowledge KPMG’s National Chairman, Alison Kitchen, Indiaspora founder, M.R. Rangaswami, and Sunil Gavaskar who, of course, needs no introduction.
Thanks to KPMG for pulling together such a great event celebrating the role of Indian Australian communities as our economic ties and cultural understanding of India expands.
There’s no denying the power of sport to galvanise our diaspora communities, and those of Indian heritage globally.
What better sign of that than the breath-taking atmosphere of T20 matches across Australia, thanks in no small part to the large numbers of Indian Australian fans.
And as I like to say, Melbourne is one of the best Indian cities in the world.
The bilateral relationship at a highwater mark
A real highlight across Australia’s international relationships in recent years has been the way that Australia and India have drawn closer together.
This year, as India celebrates its 75th anniversary of independence, our relationship is at a highwater mark.
We have seen an unprecedented convergence of our strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region – as Quad partners and beyond.
Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with India cements India as a critical partner for Australia.
This is symbolically important, but it is also translating into practical cooperation in areas of rising importance: in critical minerals, science and technology, education, climate change action and low emissions technologies, as well as in defence and security.
Connections between Indian and Australian leaders are stronger than ever.
Our Prime Ministers speak regularly. Australia is one of only three countries that has Annual Leaders’ meetings with India. Our Foreign and External Affairs Ministers have met an incredible six times this year and counting. And ministers across economic portfolios are following suit.
In fact, we’ve seen ten Indian ministerial visits to Australia just this year.
And I will be continuing the intense tempo of engagement next week where I will lead an Australian delegation at the Bengaluru Tech Summit in Bengaluru, now in its 25th year, on 16 November.
I will also attend the No Money for Terror Conference in New Delhi on 18 November.
Besides India’s economic resilience, Australia sees the long-term trajectory and structural drivers of the Indian economy as a clear impetus to invest in broadening and deepening our ties.
A young demographic, a burgeoning consumer base, an appetite for infrastructure development, a leader in tech capability, and an ongoing economic reform agenda: all of these elements stand out.
During my visit to India, I will be advancing our bilateral cyber and critical technology cooperation.
As many of you will know, Bengaluru - India’s Silicon Valley - will soon become home to Australia’s fifth diplomatic mission in India, and our new Consulate-General will improve Australia’s reach into India’s digital economy and innovation ecosystem, from cyberspace to outer space.
Managing that ecosystem is a challenge for governments everywhere.
That’s why Australia and India are working together to establish a Joint Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy in Bengaluru.
The Centre of Excellence aims to influence the debate about the responsible development and use of critical and emerging technologies shaped by our shared democratic values and respect for human rights.
After its establishment in 2023, it will create partnerships with likeminded countries in our region and elsewhere in support of an open, inclusive, resilient and prosperous region.
Across the board, the Government is determined to take our partnership with India further; accelerating trade and investment ties is a priority for the relationship.
Concluding the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) - signed earlier this year - was a significant achievement. The Government is now seeking to complete all parliamentary and legal processes as quickly as possible to enable entry-into-force.
The next step is to build on ECTA by concluding an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, including areas not covered earlier, like digital trade.
Centre for Australia-India Relations
In the Budget handed down last month, the Government was pleased to confirm investments in a range of India-related initiatives.
Foremost amongst those is the $24.1 million over four years to establish a new Centre for Australia-India Relations to lift our collective understanding and awareness of India.
To deepen our education, cultural and policy links, the Centre will deliver Maitri (“mateship” in Hindi) programs worth $20 million.
The Centre will act as a national centre of gravity for the relationship, working closely with a wide range of existing stakeholders and better positioning us to take up opportunities as they arise.
Something that I believe warrants more attention is the value of Indian diaspora communities to Australia, providing ballast to the relationship through your natural connections and enduring commitment to Australia-India ties.
Over 975,000 people claimed Indian ancestry in the latest census in 2021. Indian Australians are now our country’s fastest growing large diaspora group and people born in India are the second-largest overseas-born group in our country.
That’s why a key role of the Centre for Australia-India Relations will be to harness the energy and knowledge of Indian Australian communities to boost our bilateral ties.
In all respects of the relationship, you – Indian Australian corporate leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs – have a vital role to play.
You are well placed to update Australians’ understanding of contemporary India, to assist our businesses build a sophisticated understanding of India’s regional economies, drawing on your networks to do so.
The fact that Indian Australians tend to be well represented across services and STEM sectors with strong export potential is recognised in a first-of-its-kind report produced earlier this year by DFAT, called Australia’s Indian Diaspora: A National Asset.
The report highlights – perhaps unsurprisingly - how Indian Australian groups are uniquely placed to contribute across sectors of significance to the relationship with India.
The new Centre, which we hope will be operational in the first half of next year, will provide a platform to support your contributions and it represents an exciting expansion of the architecture that sits around our relationship.
Indian diaspora communities are widely acknowledged for being rich sources of enterprise and energy.
Indeed, the entrepreneur and cricketer we will hear from today are testament to that dynamism.
Let me finish today with a simple message that draws together all the points I have made this evening: the government is deeply committed to its relationship with India and we will pursue new ways – be they economic, cultural, technological, personal or community-driven – to work even more closely with India in the years ahead.
Can I conclude by again thanking today’s organisers and by inviting you to continue to support our efforts to build a bigger, more ambitious relationship with India.
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555