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AUSTRALIA has delivered a blunt message to India that it is selling education, not visas, even as the Rudd government deploys its most senior ministers to patch up relations damaged over a series of Indian student assaults.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, whose visit to India this week overlaps that of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, outlined to the Confederation of Indian Industry yesterday federal government measures to crack down on shonky education and training providers in Australia.

But he said the crackdown could be successful only if similar action were taken in India to close down shonky education and immigration agents running scams to secure permanent Australian residency through student visas.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.”

Ms Gillard is understood to have delivered a similar message during meetings with Indian Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and, late on Tuesday night, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where greater engagement between the two countries on defence, energy and climate change were also discussed.

Mr Crean denied Australia’s international education industry needed to be remarketed in India, despite the fact it is widely seen — and in some areas promoted — as a pathway to permanent residency.

But he conceded better co-operation between Australian government agencies was also needed to help stem student visa abuses.

What the student issue has done is shed a light on the importance of interaction between Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and those that market our services in the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in the protection of our brand,” he said yesterday.

In just eight days, India will have hosted three of Australia’s most senior politicians, Mr Crean, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

By the end of the year, a total of eight Australian ministers will have graced Indian soil.

The ministerial offensive is aimed at patching bilateral relations, damaged by a recent series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, as well as building trade relations with the emerging Asian superpower.

Mr Crean, who is in India for a two-day meeting of G20 trade ministers ahead of the next Doha round of WTO talks in Pittsburgh later this month, said Australia’s trade relationship with India had historically been “underdone”.

The ministerial visits — which will culminate in a tour by Kevin Rudd later this year — were designed to correct that.

“We understand the fundamental importance of India to our future, just as we do China and the rest of Asia. This is going to be the fastest-growing region in the world for the next couple of decades, it is the place to be,” he said. “Australia fortunately positioned itself for that a couple of decades ago but we have to renew the effort.

“Obviously, if there is a hiccup in the relationship, as there has been here over student safety, of course we have to address it. Visits here are an important part of that.”

Canberra hopes that a successful culmination of the Doha talks — aimed at reducing international trade barriers — will help accelerate free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and India, still at the feasibility stage.

It was also concentrating on building trade ties in infrastructure and energy security areas, with particular focus on investments in gas and coal.

Mr Crean denied that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India — a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — would hurt the progress of the talks, despite Mr Singh again raising the issue during his meeting with Ms Gillard.

Source  :  The Australian

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Over 2000 homes across the metropolitan area are without power today as Western Power crews continue to repair powerlines damaged by the recent storms.

In Leederville 131 homes are without power, in Shoalwater 133 homes have been affected, 193 homes in Tuart Hill are without power and 149 Rockingham homes are blacked out.

A spokeswoman said most of the 2173 homes would have power restored this afternoon.  

150 homes where power outages have been affected by damage to a single electricity line, were expected to remain without power tonight.

More than 50 homes in the Perth Hills suburb of Parkerville have now been without electricity for almost two days.

The forecast shows showers will ease this afternoon with possible early showers Sunday morning followed by fine weather conditions.

Rising tides have battered two Perth landmarks – the Cottesloe Pylon and blue Crawley boat house on the Swan River – as wild weather hit the city.

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POLICE have charged a 17-year-old boy – a former volunteer firefighter – after a spate of more than 20 deliberately lit fires in the Perth Hills this week.

The teenager has been charged with four counts of arson after he was arrested by detectives from the arson squad this afternoon. bush fire

Police say they expect more charges to be laid over the outstanding fires in the Shire of Mundaring on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The arrest comes after a six-month operation between FESA, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the police arson squad targeting arsonists in the Perth foothills

Detective Sergeant David Gorton said police had focused their attention on the teenager since mid-March.

“We will allege that this young man lit two fires (Wednesday) – one in Hovea and one in Parkerville – in the space of about 15 minutes,” Det-Sgt Gorton said.

“The previous charges relate to February this year in Glen Forrest and then March in Parkerville again.”

It is understood the teenager was a volunteer firefighter when he allegedly lit the Glen Forrest and first Parkerville fires, but he resigned from the position two weeks ago.

“No property was damaged in relation to these fires however, some of the fires were lit in close proximity to houses so there was always a danger that given a wind direction change or other circumstances that property could have been damaged,” he said.

“Certainly there was the potential for property and lives to be lost in relation to what he was doing.”
The teenager has also been charged with five counts of making malicious phone calls to 000 earlier this year.

The maximum penalty for bushfire arson convictions is a $250,000 fine and/or 14 years in jail.

www.news.com.au

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