Remarks to Australia India Institute reception 

Simon Birmingham: I actually feel I have a sense that I’m in a room surrounded by individuals who’ve spent the last two days – largely in the rooms of this building, for many of you – in endless workshop sessions, dialogues, discussions, conferences, dinners, and the like. And that you might all be ready for a bit of a drink and a mix and a mingle, which sounded like it was well underway at the end of the room. And I won’t detain you too much from continuing that important networking that you are engaged in; particularly because – just a little test – hands up if you’ve already heard me speak once in the last couple of days?

Keep your hand up if you’ve already heard me speak more than once. How about more than three times?

Yes that’s right, goodness me. Thank you very much, [indistinct]. Make that man a Vice-Chancellor, he has exquisite judgement. It’s been a wonderful couple of days, and I’m sorry that from my perspective it’s been so fleeting, so rushed. But hopefully it’s beneficial to have been able to touch on so many different areas of Australia’s Knowledge Partnership as we’ve been celebrating – yesterday in particular – of our skills dialogue, of our research engagement, of the range of different ways in which education, training and research between Australia and India is enriched and embedded. 

And that occurs, in the last part, because of the very constructive sambandh that we have; the constructive dialogue, the engagement. And what I’ve come to realise out of these couple of days is that by doing this in the manner in which we have, in a very collaborative arrangement across Government, institutions, universities, training providers, with spotlights shone across the different facets of our relationship, we’re really able to get a strong message through to India and indeed back home about the value of investing in this relationship. 

And I’m confident now that discussions that I’ve had with Minister Javadekar and Minister Rudy that we will be able to address in a constructive way some of the issues that you have faced, and some of the barriers that some seem to further progressing the relationship in terms of getting to a point where those who wish to establish a more concrete presence here in India can find appropriate pathways to do so. 

That those who’ve encountered minor hurdles in terms of the recognition of qualifications can hopefully have those hurdles addressed. And we will absolutely, emphatically follow up on the issues that have been raised, and make sure that the commitments to look at them, hopefully address them, that we’ve received from my Indian counterparts and from Prime Minister Modi are acted upon, so that we get real benefit out of the time that we’ve spent here. 

Those of you who might’ve just been in the other room, in the skills dialogue, would have heard when I was asked at the end what I hope to see from here. It was in some ways a call to arms. I’ve just given a commitment that we as a Government will do our bit to follow up on our end of the bargain – to pursue those areas of government to government discussions and particular policy hurdles or barriers – to try to clear them and to create a greater scope in space for you all then to live up to your end of the bargain, which of course is to take the new contacts that you’ve forged in the last couple of days and take the new ideas that you may’ve had, seize the opportunities that you can see are there, and to take what is already incredibly rich and strong relationship and move it onto the next level in terms of ensuring that we have continued strength of two-way mobility and flow of students. And that we do set discussions of how Australia can practically contribute to delivery of qualifications, training, education skills in India, manifest itself in a real way through very strong partnerships and new partnerships between Australia and Indian higher education and training providers. And that we continue to build on the very, very rich and practical areas of research that Jane and I particularly had the pleasure of celebrating one such incredible example earlier today.

So take that call to arms, build upon it. I have no doubt that the Australia India Institute – through a real focus on sambandh, on dialogue – will be able to be a continued vehicle through which many of you will effectively be able to act upon the mission and the ideas that have been generated over these couple of days. Thank you to those who have travelled a long way from different parts of Australia and from different parts of India to join us in these discussions, I’ve really valued having you all here knowing that so much else has been happening in current with the activities that I’ve been engaged in. It gives me confidence that a mission like this delivers lasting benefits for both our countries in the future. So thanks again, well done, and continue the dialogue over a few drinks.