Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Statements by Members
India: Workplace Relations
Over the past few weeks I have been inundated with representations from local residents, as well as the Australian Sikh Association, regarding the protests being undertaken by farmers in India and the plight of workers in its agricultural sector. Such is the magnitude of this issue that widespread strikes by farmers are now occurring across India, and there are reports of blockades in Delhi. The genesis for these events lies in changes to agricultural laws that the affected parties say have been undertaken without proper consultation, and which farmers fear will undermine their livelihoods.
It is not my usual practice to comment in this place about the laws of other jurisdictions, but I make an exception on this occasion to highlight the deep concerns of the constituents I represent, particularly in relation to the long-term social and economic welfare of India's farmers, not to mention the anxiety for the wellbeing of family members involved in these protests.
Having a background in competition law and regulation, I support market reforms that help societies fulfil their economic potential, but it is imperative that such transitions bring workers, businesses and communities along in a manner that enables people to adapt and prosper. That appears to me to be the issue at stake here. I'm grateful to the Indian High Commissioner for listening to my advocacy about this matter. I note a further round of talks is scheduled today in India, and it is my strongest desire that a peaceful resolution that ultimately benefits consumers and the welfare of India's farming sector workforce is reached through dialogue, rather than violence.