We will try to maximise security for students: Rudd

June 24th, 2009 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Kevin Rudd By Murali Krishnan
Canberra, June 24 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Wednesday said that he would do “everything possible to maximise security” and step up measures for international students following a wave of savage attacks on Indian students that have caused an outrage.

“Any assault against any person is one assault too many. I take it (attacks) seriously and have discussed with (Indian) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this. We will work our way through this with friends in the Indian community,” Rudd said in an interaction with a visiting delegation of Indian journalists in his spacious office in parliament.

“We will do everything to maximise security.”

Over the last few weeks there have been at least 16 such incidents - a disturbing side to Indian students’ life down-under - sparking allegations of widespread racism in Australian society, and a failure by law enforcement authorities to act.

However, Rudd emphasised that Australia was a safe place and that “comparative criminal data” showed that homicide rates here were lower than other western countries.

“Let’s be realistic. Obviously there has been a large reaction in India. Let’s call facts for what they are. We are sensitive to the well-being of all international students. We have a responsibility to provide security. If we look at the comparative criminal data, Australia is one of the safest countries in the world,” said Rudd.

On June 1, Rudd told federal parliament that he had spoken with Manmohan Singh and assured him that Indian students - whose tuition is a healthy source of income for Australian universities - are welcome.

Following the attacks, he has said that a taskforce had been set up which would include senior officials from the department of foreign affairs and trade, the department of education and workplace relations, the department of immigration and citizenship and the attorney-generals’ department to deal with the problem.

There are over 500,000 international students in Australia pursuing university education and vocational studies of which 94,000 students are Indians - the second highest after the Chinese.

“I am disturbed that we had this response from the Indians. Have you looked at the comparable data of Indian students in the UK, USA, France or Italy?” queried Rudd who took over as prime minister in December 2007.

In his reckoning, Indians and international students were in relative terms safer in Australia than in most other countries.

He was quick to point that his own citizens were upset over attacks on “their own people” in other countries.

“We have one million people travelling anytime. We are a nation of voyagers. In the last decade we have had 20 Australians murdered, assaulted or sexually assaulted in India alone. We do not blame the Indian people or government. We are a deeply multi-racial country,” he said.

“These are things that regrettably happen. As prime minister my responsibility is to make sure of the well-being of the international students. We come from everywhere. We have a broad ethnicity.”

Rudd also added that the Indian community was a vital contributor to Australia’s food, culture and music.

“We have a deep affection for your country and both of us enjoy Bollywood and cricket.”

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