Interactions with Australia’s High Commissioner to India

Sydney/11 October, 2017


Australian High Commissioner to India (New Delhi), Ms Harinder Sidhu, is in Australia presently.  She is here for the mid term consultations with the Government and various stakeholders. As part of these consultations, she met a select group of Indian Australian community representatives  These reps included people from various segments and faiths. 

An hour-long session in the DIBP offices in Parramatta gave an opportunity for all of us to understand and raise relevant issues. 

From Federation of Indian Associations of NSW (FIAN), Abhijeet Martand and I participated. Mr SK Verma participated  on behalf of the Consulate General of India in Sydney. 

We emphasized the role of Indian Australian community as the bridge between India and Australia and their usefulness in enhancing the relations between Australia and India. I pointed out how we (community) took up the matters during students’ troubles in 2009-10 and helped counter “Australia is racist” campaign by Indian media.  I reiterated that then Australian Government did not utilize the community meaningfully in countering the campaign by Indian media. 

Some wanted to be listed with the Govt agencies for people to contact them when needing help, but we expressed our strong view that no such listing etc should be done without involvement of, and vetting by, the Government agencies because some “leaders” are known to exploit our own people. 

The issue involving the visa for priests was raised. It was mentioned that the standard of English requirement is onerous and excessive.  I pointed out that the matter was also raised in the Q & A session with DIBP Assistant Minister, Alex Hawke, in a recent meeting organized by FIAN, and that it will be better if we work together and raise the matter with the Minister directory. The High Commissioner agreed that the matter is in the policy domain and will better be dealt with the Government. We have a plan to organize a meeting involving key stakeholders and then meet the DIBP Assistant Minister. 

Dr Yadu Singh 

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Ramadan Mubarak to the Muslim community

Sydney, Australia

7th June, 2016

I wish a blessed Ramadan to my friends of Islamic Faith and their families.

May almighty God accept your fasting.
May almighty God accept your good deeds.
May almighty God shower his blessings on you and your family this month.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Kareem!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Indian Australian community in western Sydney and its importance in electoral politics

Sydney/18th March, 2016

Next federal election for Australian Commonwealth Parliament will be held later this year. If the Turnbull Government goes for the double dissolution of the Parliament, then this election may happen as early as July. If not, then they will happen in September-October. Opinion polls are indicating a tough contest between Bill Shorten-led Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Malcolm Turnbull-led Coalition of Liberal Party & National Party. Significant lift in the numbers for the Coalition in the opinion polls after Malcolm Turnbull became the Prime Minister has largely drifted away from the Coalition. There are multiple reasons for it and these reasons are well known. Honeymoon period for the new Prime Minister is well and truly over. Lack of policy clarifications and policy direction are also relevant. Western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney have many seats which are classed as marginal, where a small change of voting can deliver these seats to either party. If ALP wins many of these seats, Bill Shorten will become the Prime Minister. The Coalition will need to hold on to many of these seats if they want to form the next Government. They definitely have a tight contest.

People in the Western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, like similar areas in other cities, are doing tough, with higher unemployment, cost of living pressure and poverty. These factors often lead to higher level of dissatisfaction and willingness to change the voting pattern. Their votes are up for the grab.

Newer migrants and people who can’t afford to buy expensive houses in Northern and Eastern Sydney, find Western Sydney as a place where they can find houses within their reach. In regards to Indian Australians in NSW, it is well known that this community has a significant presence in Western Sydney. Suburbs like Parramatta and Blacktown have a large number of Indian Australian families. “Singh” was the most common surname in Blacktown a few years ago. Strathfield and some area in South West Sydney in/around Liverpool also have a significant Indian Australian presence.

No party can ignore this community anymore. This fact is now well known and is evident from the efforts by both major parties to work with our community over the last 5 years. ALP had formed a group from our community in 2010, calling it Subcontinent Friends of Labor (SCFOL) and Liberals networked with this community, forming Liberal friends of India (LFI) around 2011-12. Both parties, when in government, have worked to develop better relations with India. While Prime Minister, John Howard (the Coalition) was the one who decided to sell Uranium to India in 2007, it was Prime Minister Julia Gillard (ALP) who managed to reverse ALP’s opposition to Uranium sale to India in 2012, despite India’s refusal to sign Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Both parties have made active efforts to network with Indian Australians too. It is an undeniable fact that none of the major parties can ignore Indian Australians in Western Sydney  if they want to win these seats.

With my interactions with Indian Australians, it is clear to me that reaching out by political parties plays a significant role during elections, even though the issues in NSW are not different for us when compared with those for the general community. Our voting behaviour should generally be similar to the general community, but networking by political parties and outreach by their apparatus and operatives can play an important role.  Having said that, I think it would be prudent to make a comment or two here about the efforts by political parties to develop better relations with our community.

ALP started the process of active networking with our community by forming SCFOL Unfortunately, the group was led, and continues to be led, poorly. They controlled and continue to control, some of the community associations, which, unsurprisingly, damaged these associations. Nobody listens to these community associations today and these associations are irrelevant for our community. SCFOL was not inclusive and left out many prominent ALP members from our community, as a manifestation of Right Vs Left factional politics. Its first president did not appear to have a good understanding of Indian community. He came from a Union background and ran a smear campaign against many people just because he did not like them, had disagreement with them or those people did not agree with his style and brand of politics. Division, not inclusion, was his “Mantra” to serve his factional interests. It is beyond me why a group of Indian ALP members will run a vicious campaign against one of the Indian sub-continental persons (Susai Benjamin) from the same party. Obviously, it was an outcome of Right Vs Left ALP factional politics. Treachery and disloyalty are generally a part and parcel of political parties. I was not surprised therefore to know that the founder president was removed recently, and quite acrimoniously, leading to hostility and animosity between key members of the group. The new president of SCFOL, in my view, does not have the necessary ability or capacity to lead effectively. He is a light weight figure, when compared to former SCFOL president, as far as ALP connections are concerned. No surprise to see that the new president and few other equally ineffective leaders of SCFOL did not get any importance during Bill Shorten’s recent visit to Revesby Gurdwara, while the ex-president had the ears and eyes of the federal leader. Whether you like him or not, he (ex-president) was, in my view, more networked and effective as the SCFOL leader. SCFOL needs to be reviewed and revamped.

Liberals had shown their interests in developing good networking with Indian Australians a few years ago, but, later, appeared to have lost interest in such networking. During the O’Farrell Government time, only one person was taken as the Indian community, solely because he was a personal friend of the Premier. Everybody else was ignored. Sadly, this particular person never had any networking with Indian community. Currently, Liberal ministers seems to think that a marketing woman from Indian community, who has charmed her way into the Liberal network, is the key person for the networking with Indian community.  Liberals are either naïve or they don’t care, if they believe this to be the case. Little do they understand that her key focus is her business interests, just like she did with ALP ministers. Federal and state Liberal leaders used to be seen in Indian community events, but this seems to have become less frequent. One pleasant thing however is that some from amongst our community with high-sounding but false positions after their names, and without matching credentials, are not in the inner network of Liberals anymore. It’s a big relief. These people are only for themselves and with their ugly antics, causing shame to themselves and our community. They were using photographs with high profile Liberal politicians to promote their business interests in fleecing money from gullible people. What is needed is the revamping and strengthening of LFI. Like SCFOL, it must be supported by key government ministers and Party officials, if it were ever to get traction in the community. Its key members from our community should be those who have good networking and are decent people, not those who are into exploitation and fleecing of the vulnerable people of our community. Those who sold work experience certificates, arranged fake marriages or arrange or sell 457 visa in return for cash should be kept away from LFI. In contrast to SCFOL, I haven’t heard much about LFI for some considerable time. I am not sure if it is still active. Obviously, LFI should become more active, and visible, if Liberals are keen for the votes and support from our community. It is in their interest to do so if they want to change the current 60:40 voting pattern against Liberal party, and in favour of ALP, as far as our votes are concerned. Improving the networking with our community is a no-brainer.

If I have an advice for ALP and the Coalition, and they listen to it, I will advise them to revamp these groups and go beyond SCFOL and LFI to network with our community. SCFOL and LFI represent a minuscule part of the community. After all, both of them need to have a large and productive network in the community to influence voting behaviour in their favour.

We, as a community, need to do a lot more to be a significant player in politics and political processes of Australia. We must work together in getting some, albeit only good ones, from our community in the local Councils and Parliaments. They must not be those who are into unethical, and illegal, activities like underpaying employees, taking or arranging 457 visa in return for cash or selling work experience for visa purposes. Such people are obviously so keen to be photographed with politicians, simply because it helps their business models and scares the victims from putting complaints. Political leaders must stay away from them and push them away into garbage bins, where they justifiably belong. It’s undeniable that we need to join political parties. Our numbers in Western Sydney are our strength and similarly our numbers in political parties will be our strength as well. One thing more. We must ensure that only good people from amongst us are supported for these roles in politics. Nobody with sub-standard qualities and ethics is encouraged. We don’t need Indian style politics in Australia. We will need to be careful, proactive and determined to not allow undesirable people with poor value system to succeed in their pursuit of selfish interests.

Finally, our support and votes for any party or candidate must be based on policies, principles and quality of the leadership. We must not allow anyone to fool us. Our votes should never be for someone who is not deserving of our votes.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/18 March, 2016
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Remembrance vigil for Prabha Arun Kumar, Parramatta Park, 7th March, 2016

Sydney, 7th March, 2016

People assembled at Prabha’s Walk (Lane Way in Parramatta Park connecting Amos Street and Pitt Street) at 7 PM on 7th March, 2016.

I conducted the proceedings, as the co-ordinator of the Vigil.

The remembrance Vigil was to remember and reflect on the brutal murder of Ms Prabha Arun Kumar at 9.30 PM on Saturday, 7th March, 2015, while she was walking from Parramatta Station to her home in Amos Street, Westmead, after finishing the double shift of work that day. Murderer (s) have not been caught yet.

I spoke about the summary of the developments so far since 7th March, 2015. I outlined that from media reports and from Police comments, we know that the motives of Prabha’s brutal murder were not robbery and sexual assault. It was a well-planned and pre-meditated murder. I also said that we are not concerned about who they are, where they live and what their motives were. We just want them to be found, arrested and brought to justice.

About 50 people were present.

Parramatta MP, Mr Geoff Lee, Parramatta Police LAC Commander, Mr Wayne Cox, newly-arrived Consul General of India, H.E. Mr B. Vanlalvuwna and Mr Rajeev Kumar, Vice Consul, Consulate General of India were present.

People walked down in a silent procession from Amos Street side of Laneway (now called Prabha’s Walk) and assembled at the site of the Plaque with the name of Ms Prabha Arun Kumar, which was installed last year.

After welcoming the people, I asked Geoff Lee MP, Commander Wayne Cox and Consul General H.E. Mr B. Vanlalvuwna to say a few words.

Mr Lee talked about the lighting and CCTV installation in the Lane Way after Prabha’s death. He wished that culprits are caught soon.

Mr Cox said that Police are working very hard to crack this heinous crime. There is a specific Unit which is working tirelessly to catch the culprits.

Mr Vanlanvuwna said that he has joined the Consulate only 2 weeks ago, but the file of Prabha’s brutal slaying was the first one he went through to apprise himself of the matter.

A few other members from the community expressed their feelings and sadness. They included Rekha Rajvansi and Sashi Lal. Arti Banga of http://www.DesiAustralia.com and Indira Devi of Blacktown Voice provided commendable support.

Mr Pravin Gupta read out his emotional poem dedicated to Prabha and her daughter, Meghna.

Ms Jaala Edmunds, a woman who lives in the area, laid flowers on the park bench dedicated in Prabha’s memory. She said “I was touched when this happened and very shocked her last moments were spent here. I never met her but I always think about her.”

This was followed by a minute’s silence to reflect on what happened to Prabha and grief of Prabha’s family, especially her daughter, Meghna.

Flowers and Candles were placed at the bench, which has the Plaque on the name of Prabha.

National Media, local media and a few from Indian ethnic media were present.

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I have received this message from Prabha’s brother, Dr Shanker Shetty.

“Hello Dr Singh. I am touched by the effort taken by you and the your team in organising the vigil. I watched the video online and was moved by the no of people  who remembered Prabha even a year after she left Parramatta. 

The tributes online and in the newspapers are reflective of the  way the community has been affected by the incident and the  way they  have responded to this tragic incident.

I do not have the individual contact details of all who are involved /attended this event. On behalf of Prabha’s family, could you please convey our heartfelt thanks to one and all.
I reserve the final word of gratitude to you, You have dedicated your valuable time to some one who you have not met or known. Thank you.”

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http://www.parramattasun.com.au/story/3775192/prabha-remembered-at-community-vigil/

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/parramatta/vigil-to-mark-one-year-anniversary-of-indian-woman-prabha-arun-kumars-murder-in-parramatta-park/news-story/9bf03d3b2e78c830a54304601356ba4b

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Dr Yadu Singh/Co-ordinator, Prabha’s Remembrance Vigil, held on 7th March, 2016

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Australia appoints Ms Harinder Sidhu as its high commissioner to India

Sydney, NSW

11th Feb, 2016

Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced the appointment of Ms Harinder Sidhu as Australia’s new High Commissioner to India on 11th February, 2016.

Mr Peter Varghese, who too has Indian heritage, held this position in 2009 to 2012, before taking up the position of Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. There is a mini, and pleasant, trend in the Western world to appoint their nationals of Indian heritage in positions in, or related to, India. Ambassador Rich Rahul Verma is currently the United States of America’s Ambassador to India.

Ms Sidhu is of Indian heritage. In an interview, she disclosed that her family from both sides are of Indian background. Her father was born in Punjab, India. She was born in Singapore and migrated with her parents when she was a child. She has degrees in Commerce and Law from Sydney University.

Ms Sidhu was the head of Multilateral Policy division of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) until recently, and had previously held senior positions in Climate Change Department, Office of National Assessment (ONA) and Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. He has held diplomatic positions in Moscow and Damascus previously.

This appointment is significant in multiple ways.

  • With her Climate Change expertise, she will be of immense help in fostering deeper relations including trade between Australia & India in the field of renewable energy sector. India’s Minister for Energy and Renewable Energy was In Australia until 11th Feb looking at Australian Renewable Energy sector and exploring the possibilities for mutual co-operation,
  • With her background in Climate Change, her posting in New Delhi takes an additional significance because India is key to achieving Carbon reduction commitments, set in Paris Climate Change Conference last year
India-Australia bilateral trade is worth more than $20 million AUD and there are approx. 450,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, with numbers to grow further due to the fact that Indians are number one component of Australia’s migration intake. Trade between Australia and India is likely to grow due to India’s energy needs and India’s “Make in India” policy. Only a few days ago, 6 Metro Coaches were shipped from India to Australia, with remaining coaches out of the total 450 coming in due course.
India is the 10th largest trading partner of Australia, with whom Australia has increasingly strong economic and defence relationships. India is an important nation in Indo-Pacific region and is the fastest growing economy in the world.
It would not be out of place to mention that Ms Harinder Kaur’s appojntment is 3rd high profile appointment of women under the leadership of Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop.  Jan Adams was appointed as Australia’s Ambassador to China and Frances Adamson was appointed as the Forign Affairs advisor to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently.
India and Australia are working on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). It is hoped that the process will be accelerated and FTA will be signed into a Treaty by the end of 2016.
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Dr Yadu Singh

Happy Diwali

Sydney, 23rd October, 2014

Happy Diwali 

May this Diwali bring you and your family all the joy, success, health and wealth!

May there be Peace in the whole world!

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On This Diwali Lets pray to Almighty God for :

ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meaning:
1: Om, Lead us from Unreality (of Transitory Existence) to the Reality (of Self),
2: Lead us from the Darkness (of Ignorance) to the Light (of Spiritual Knowledge),
3: Lead us from the Fear of Death to the Knowledge of Immortality.
4: Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

 Brihadaranyaka, Upanishad 1.3.28

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Happy Diwali! Happy new year!!

From Dr Yadu Singh & family

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