05/04/2005 - 22:00

Hello Australia, this is India calling

05/04/2005 - 22:00


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Next time you receive one of those early evening calls from someone with the faintest sub-continental accent trying to sell you shares in Vegemite or raise money for surf lifesaving, put your feet up, answer the questions and think of Australia.

Next time you receive one of those early evening calls from someone with the faintest sub-continental accent trying to sell you shares in Vegemite or raise money for surf lifesaving, put your feet up, answer the questions and think of Australia.

Rather than presenting a negative or cold response to your caller, welcome them into your home and life.

And, more importantly, try to offer them some solid information about what you spend your money on and just how great your life is right now.

Why, might you ask, should you do that.

Privacy is paramount these days, isn’t it? Why should you even provide the merest crack in the door to your life, let alone fling it wide open.

Do it for Australia, I say, and here’s why.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, India was the real sprinter in trade terms last year, with our exports to this major market growing by 62 per cent – taking India to 13th in the list of trading partners.

Merchandise exports were worth $5.42 billion in calendar 2004.

While gold accounted for a huge percentage of that rise – the precious metal is something of ananomaly, with wild swings depending on whether it is sourced from London exchanges or direct from Australian brokers, as it was last year – trade with India rose 17 per cent for the year.

This is worth noting, especially as all eyes have turned to China in recent times as the key to our trading future.

India is often seen as a competitor, taking not just our low-level jobs like the Chinese, but stealing high-level services as well, due to India’s education and language links with Anglo-centric powerhouse economies such as the UK and the US.

In the short term they might be stealing our jobs but in the longer term a developed India full of rich Indians will be less competitive with our service sector and, by definition, a growth market for both services and goods in the future.

In my view, the faster this can happen the better off we’ll all be, especially due to Western Australia’s proximity to this vast nation.

So what has this got to do with those pesky callers from Bangalore, Delhi or Mumbai?

Firstly, you are talking to the cream of India’s middle classes. These are university graduates whose job in a call centre is the envy of their mates.

Such work might be frowned upon here but, in India, it’s a step to greater things and I reckon we should be giving them a leg up.

By listening to their spiel, or buying their line, we are promoting their career development and, by default, developing India too. It’s a lot more efficient than sponsoring a child there. Creating rich Indians will drag the nation’s poor out of poverty, hopefully.

But wait, there’s more. Being polite will endear these up and comers to Australia.

That’s good for our business, diplomatic links over there and, hopefully, our tourism industry here. Think Brand Australia.

Now that I’ve got you in the mood, there is one more reason to open up to these people on the telling bone.

Giving them a slice of your life – whether its Howard Park wines, Dome coffee, wool jumpers, lobster dinners, Holden cars and jarrah dining suites (plus anything else that you may dream up) – will hopefully whet their appetite for all things Australian.

Call it diverting their aspirations, or some twisted hybrid of push polling – where the surveyor gets deliberately skewed information back. Whatever the name, it’s all for a good cause.

I can’t think of anything wrong with one billion Indians wanting to drink our wine, drive our cars or come here on holidays – except for the infrastructure problems that presents.

Out of step on state infrastructure

On the subject of infrastructure, the mess that surrounds the James Point proposal in Kwinana is verging on a disgrace.

The current State Government has waxed lyrical about private-public partnerships as a way of achieving infrastructure outcomes and here is a private player willing to fund a vital service for our community.

I realise that Len Buckeridge – whose company BGC backs the James Point plan, along with listed engineering company Worley-Parsons – is not exactly loved by the Labor Party but there does appear to be unnecessary obstruction that is at odds with the State Government’s own agenda to create competition in other important infrastructure areas – namely power.

Wouldn’t some additional competition for Fremantle be appropriate?

Instead, the Government appears to be favouring a regional monopoly and delaying development at the same time.

Not only that, but the Government also appears to be preferring options that will increase state debt (assuming that is how Fremantle Ports’ expansion would be funded), which is again at odds with the fiscal message it has been sending out for the past four years.

One would have to question how a form of old Labor ideology is doggedly holding out when Geoff Gallop has managed to appear so in step with business in other key fields?


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