Canberra (Australia), June 2 (ANI): While Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has publicly reassured India that Australia is not racist and will take adequate steps to ensure the safety of Indian students in Australia, the country's Trade Minister has described the attacks as bad news for the Australian education sector.
Trade Minister, Simon Crean, said the violence was threatening the lucrative foreign student sector.
"It's not just the quality of the product, it's the safe environment in which we bring people. We have a responsibility to ensure their safety. There's no point sending your loved ones here to study if they feel under threat," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Crean, as saying.
With 430,000 foreign students in Australia, of whom more than 90,000 are Indian, education services were Australia's third-largest export, Crean said.
Seventy Indian students in Melbourne have been attacked in the past year. A particularly vicious and racially motivated attack a week ago that left a young man in a coma has riled the Indian Government and media.
Australia is being labelled a racist nation by Indian media, and there is a strain on the relationship between the two countries.
Crean said it did not matter that the violence was contained to Victoria.
"People looking at Australia ... for education purposes are not going to have that same geographic sense of, you know, 'Is it better to go to Victoria, is it better to go to some other state?"' he said.
Crean said India's trade minister first raised the matter with him during a visit to Melbourne in May last year.
In July, after India's High Commissioner Sujatha Singh had again complained, Crean and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, wrote jointly to the premiers, who are responsible for law and order.
On Friday, Smith discussed the matter with India's External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, and Rudd discussed the violence with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Saturday.
Rudd said the violence "threatened to impair" the relationship between the two nations and he reassured Singh the Commonwealth and state governments were working to bring the thugs to book and protect Indian students. (ANI)