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Australia to abolish 457 existing Visa programmes, Changes won’t affect Indians much: Harinder Sidhu

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Harinder Sidhu said that the number of India-born Australians has tripled in the last one decade providing relief by ousting fears over the new visa regime

New Delhi, May 9, 2017: After Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced last month that he will be abolishing the existing 457 Visa programme, currently used by temporary foreign workers to gain employment, the country’s High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu said on Tuesday that she did not expect the move to affect Indians much.

Speaking at a media interaction organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps here, Sidhu said the move to abolish the 457 Visa programme was aimed to ensure that people who come to Australia should be properly qualified.

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The 457 Visa programme is used mainly to hire foreign workers in the restaurant, IT and medical industries and the majority of such visa holders came from India, Britain and China. Turnbull’s statement, coming days after he visited New Delhi, caused a lot of consternation in India.

According to government statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia under 457 Visa programme last year, with the highest proportion coming from India (24.6 per cent), followed by Britain (19.5 per cent) and China (5.8 per cent).

Sidhu said that most of the Indian 457 Visa holders work in the IT sector and, given the “great shortage” of IT workers in her country, “we expect Indians to continue to qualify” for Australian visas.

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“This (457 Visa) is just a temporary visa that allowed people to come and work for a week to four years,” she said.

She said that the number of student visas issued to Indians has also continued to rise over the last three years.

From 46,000 student visas issued in 2014, the number rose to 53,000 in 2015 and to over 60,000 in 2017, the High Commissioner said.

As for incidents of racism in Australia, Sidhu, who is a person of Indian origin, said that Australia was “one of the most successful multicultural societies” with people from 120 countries.

“There is a policy of zero tolerance at all levels of government (on racism),” she said.

In this connection, she also pointed out that 48 per cent of Australia’s total population of 24 million are first and second generation migrants.

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As for India-Australia ties, the High Commissioner said that both countries shared “a fairly strong bilateral relationship”.

She said that during Prime Minister Turnbull’s visit to India last month, he and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to “add fresh momentum” to the bilateral ties.

Stating that both countries shared common strategic and security interests, Sidhu said that military ties were growing in numbers, “notably bilateral naval exercises”.

She also said that both countries shared a “strong economic relationship” while mentioning that Modi and Turnbull have agreed to “move forward” on the proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Later this year, the largest ever Australian trade delegation will visit India for the Australia Trade Week.

According to the High Commissioner, the personal relationship between Modi and Turbull is very important for growth of businesses in both countries. (IANS)

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Australia Serious About Tackling Climate Change: Prime Minister Morrison

Pacific nations have debts of about $4 billion. Creditors include the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, while $1 billion is owed to China.

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Australia, Climate
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is presented with a gift as he arrives in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has wrapped up a three-day trip to the South Pacific to reassure vulnerable island nations that Canberra is serious about tackling climate change.

Morrison told Pacific Island leaders that Australia would meet its international obligations to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate change agreement.

Many low-lying communities fear that rising sea levels will force them from their homes. In Samoa, coastal villages are already making plans to relocate to higher ground in the nation’s volcanic interior.

Morrison’s three-day trip to Vanuatu and Fiji has been described by foreign policy experts as mostly a success.

great barrier reef, Climate
A large piece of coral can be seen in the lagoon on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Bundaberg town in Queensland, Australia. VOA

Coal a sticking point

But climate change remains a source of friction between Australia and its smaller neighbors. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama criticized Canberra for not doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the economy’s reliance on coal. Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of carbon pollution.

Australia is also eager to counter China’s growing strategic influence in the South Pacific, although Morrison insists all countries should work together.

“We are here because we are for the independent sovereignty and prosperity of Vanuatu because they are our Pacific neighbors and family. That is why we are here,” he said. “Our objectives and our motives here, I think, are very transparent to our family and friends here in the Pacific, particularly here in Vanuatu. This question is put to me all the time. I mean, we do not have to choose. We just have to work cooperatively together.”

Australia, Meat free,Hurricane, climate change, economic
Tire tracks left by a truck can be seen in a drought-stricken paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia has also mended a previously fraught relationship with Fiji. Prime Minister Bainimarama is a former commander of the Fijian military who deposed an elected government in 2006. Democracy was restored to Fiji, an archipelago of about 900,000 people, in 2014.

Also Read: Australia’s Maribyrnong Detention Center Gets Closed

Countering China

Pacific nations have debts of about $4 billion. Creditors include the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, while $1 billion is owed to China.

Experts say that some South Pacific countries have preferred to take out loans from China rather than accept grants from Australia because the process was simpler and less bureaucratic. (VOA)