India’s ‘de-mon’ drive inspires Aus black money task force

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Harinder Sidhu

India has inspired Australia to act on black money, may demonetise: Australian envoy

Following India’s demonetisation drive, talk has been rife in Australia about demonetising the country’s highest denomination note. Harinder Sidhu, Australia’s High Commissioner to India, in a recent interview, said he had been “watching with great fascination” the ramifications of the how the decision to demonetise will unfold. “If it works, it will be a profound change for the Indian system. It’s certainly the most radical policy I’ve ever seen put into effect. I’m very impressed with how the government has been grappling with it. I appreciate the effort along with all the complexities involved,” said Mr Sidhu.

India’s drive seems to have inspired a move on tackling black money in Australia, with the government announcing a “black money task force in Australia” and hinting about demonetising the country’s highest denomination note.

“We are watching India closely to see if we can learn something from this process,” said Mr Sidhu, who adds that the trade relationship between Australia and India has grown dramatically in the last few years.

“In 2004, bilateral trade stood at 500-600 million dollars two-way. Now, the two nations are at 20 billion dollars. Minister Arun Jaitley visited in March with a business delegation. Next year, we hope to bring a very large Australian business delegation to India,” he said.

“We have common interests; we both share the Indian Ocean space, we’re both maritime nations, we’re both democracies and we both want stability and rule of law in our region,” he explained, citing the example of the number of defence exchanges in 2016, which equals the number of defence exchanges the two countries have had in the last three years combined.

In terms of the Trump Presidency, Mr Sidhu believes it is too early to say what he will or won’t do. “I wouldn’t speculate—we’d rather work with the Trump administration. We have a very old alliance; our Prime Minister has reached out to Mr Trump. We will engage with the Trump administration,” he said.

On the racist attacks against Indians in Australia, the latest being the killing of bus driver Manmeet Alisher, Mr Sidhu, being a migrant himself, says Australia is one of the safest countries in the world, and a very tolerant, multicultural society. “Indians are the largest migrants to Australia—20 per cent of migrants last year came from India. Indian-born Australians have tripled in the last 10 years. It’s a very welcoming place for Indians,” he says, adding that India is now the largest source of migrants for Australia.

“We also have a strong refugee programme. We bring in about 17,000 refugees each year. Last year, we announced we’d bring in another 12,000 Syrian refugees,” he said, and added that the government has made a tough, but necessary, decision not to allow people arriving illegally on shore. “So, we’ve built centres in Nauru,” he added.

 

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