Victoria State keen on `serious business ties'

CHENNAI DEC. 25. Victoria State in Australia is keen on developing "serious business ties" with India, according to Hong Lim, Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier of Victoria.

"My present visit to India is meant to send strong a message from the Premier to this effect," Mr. Hong said, addressing a meeting organised by the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce here on Tuesday.

The MP of Cambodian origin, whose party won a landslide victory in the elections held recently and who was accompanied by T. J. Rao, Honorary Consul for India in Melbourne, said Asia, led by China, was experiencing `explosive' growth which held out greater scope for cross-country cooperation. The progress China was making was `mind-boggling', while Vietnam was opening up its economy. India's policy regime initiated in the past decade afforded an opportunity for greater cooperation between India and Australia, and especially Victoria, given the complementary strengths of the two partners.

Mr. Hong said China was trying to take maximum advantage of the scheduling of the Olympics 2008 in that country and spending $27 billion to clean up Beijing. Australia's strengths in many areas, including environmental technology, were being mobilised by China. Though China was a `late comer' on the Australian education scene, there were 20,000 Chinese students in Australia at present (compared to about 10,000 Indian students). The cost of living in Australia being much lower than in the U.S. or Europe, many countries were investing aggressively in Australia.

He said "more Indian film-making is done in Australia than Australian film-making" thanks to the advanced facilities available there. He said Victoria was `dead serious' about its ICT (information and communication technology) policy, which was supported by a network of premier universities and research institutions.

Mr. Hong said the present drought faced by the States in Australia was the worst in a century and many cases of cancellation of purchase orders and payment difficulties on the part of Australian buyers could be a result of the drought.

Dr. T. J. Rao, who has been Honorary Consul for India for 19 years, appealed to the chamber to support his proposal to the Indian Government to appoint an honorary trade consul in the Indian High Commission in Canberra, and to augment the six-member staff of his consulate, which was at present not being supported financially by India and which carried on its services such as issue of visas (around 13,000 annually) and certificates entirely through fees and the time devoted free by him.

A medical practitioner and recipient of the highest civilian award in Australia, Dr. Rao suggested to India's engineering exporters to come together and set up warehouses and product display centres in places like Melbourne.

He regretted that his repeated suggestion that only businessmen and not bureaucrats should be relied on to promote bilateral economic ties was ignored by India and its promotional agencies abroad. There were at present 60,000 people of Indian origin and 5,000 Indian students in Victoria, Dr. Rao said.

C. Sarat Chandran, Director-Business Development of the chamber, said there was an `excellent opportunity' for cooperation between call centre businesses in India and Australia to reduce costs. States in Australia offered scope for partnership in other areas too such as tourism, education, communication, health, environment technology and food processing, he added.