Thursday, 14 September 2017
With the cricket season creeping upon us here in Australia, tens of millions of cricket fans around the world will have their eyes once again on the cricket teams and sporting prowess found in the Indian subcontinent. With that region's emerging new economic and security power, and Australia's strategy of pivoting its trade and defence interests towards the Indo-Pacific, our cricket friends or foes in the subcontinent region are now our important strategic partners—particularly India.
India, a country with whom Australia has enjoyed diplomatic relations for over 70 years and a country with whom we fought side by side at Gallipoli, is, quite properly, at the forefront of our thinking on international and regional strategic partners. Australia and India complement each other economically. Australia produces goods and services that India wants—energy, education related travel, food and precious metals—and we are engaged in a comprehensive regional economic partnership. We have the Australia-India CEO Forum and Australia Business Week in India. The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund has supported some 300 joint projects since 2007. We of course have a nuclear cooperation agreement and we share an ocean that is called 'Indian'. Governments can and should sign agreements and memoranda of understanding and should host dialogues, forums and leadership summits. But it is the people-to-people links that make these relationships deep, sincere and lasting.
In my own electorate of Batman we have a strong subcontinental community, with the majority of them being followers of the Hindu faith. They are engineers, lawyers, business owners and university professors. They are active in our community. They of course contribute enormously to our society. In recent weeks they have reached out to my office by phone, in letters and on social media because their religious sentiments were deeply hurt by Meat and Livestock Australia's latest lamb ad campaign. In a video advertisement, Lord Ganesh, the Hindu god of learning and wisdom, is found eating meat and toasting lamb. Lord Ganesh is a vegetarian. To the people of Hindu faith, vegetarianism is more than a dietary preference. It is a manifestation of the core Hindu belief of nonviolence, meat consumption prohibition and not killing living beings for food. This ad has been carelessly and callously insulting to the religious beliefs of some 440,000 people in Australia and, of course, many millions overseas. It was crass, it lacked common sense and it was not asserting political free speech; it was simply a very poorly executed ad and it deserves to be condemned.