Red Herrings… indeed: Summarising last 8 months of Indian-OZ tussle

”The whole racism issue has really coloured this debate in an unhealthy way, because when our media either seizes on that, or the Australian media in turn respond critically, we are essentially dealing with not black or brown or white, but red herrings,”
SHASHI THAROOR, MOS External Affairs, Government of India.
Quoted in THE AGE.
If Minister Tharoor believes that the whole racism issue is nothing but red herrings, then first lets understand what “Red Herrings” are…
The expression red herring is an idiom referring to a device which intends to divert the audience from the truth or an item of significance. For example, in mystery fiction, an innocent party may be purposefully cast as highly suspect through emphasis or descriptive techniques; attention is drawn away from the true guilty party.
The idiomatic sense of “red herring” has, until very recently, been thought to originate from a supposed technique of training young scent hounds.[2] There are variations of the story, but according to one version, the pungent red herring would be dragged along a trail until a puppy learned to follow the scent[4]. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odour of a fox or a badger, the trainer would drag a red herring (whose strong scent confuses the animal) perpendicular to the animal’s trail to confuse the dog.[5] The dog would eventually learn to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent. An alternate etymology points to escaping convicts who would use the pungent fish to throw off hounds in pursuit.[6]
In reality, the technique was probably never used to train hounds or help desperate criminals. The idiom probably originates from an article published 14 February, 1807 by journalist William Cobbett in the polemical Weekly Political Register.[7] In a critique of the English press, which had mistakenly reported Napoleon’s defeat, Cobbett recounted that he had once used a red herring to deflect hounds in pursuit of a hare, adding “It was a mere transitory effect of the political red-herring; for, on the Saturday, the scent became as cold as a stone.”[7] As British etymologist Michael Quinion says, “This story, and [Cobbett’s] extended repetition of it in 1833, was enough to get the figurative sense of red herring into the minds of his readers, unfortunately also with the false idea that it came from some real practice of huntsmen.”[7]
Now with reference to the Indian-OZ tussle-point, and using the above explanations from WIKIPAEDIA, we realise that there are not one RED HERRING but several…. Let me list them.
The person who first called the Australians as Racist and who was quoted and projected by the Indian and Australian Media turned out to be neither an Indian, nor a Student and neither the formation had any validity as the voice of the Indian community. As exposed later, his comments were clearly without basis and even he tried to distance himself from them. However, the damage was done big time and everyone believed the media hype following the claim without waiting for facts to emerge. All instances of attacks by anyone including when the offender was a migrant of similar colour, fake claim of attacks for insurance or simple mugging and even deaths of Indians by Indians were seen as acts of Racism. Australia was branded as Racist and there were even suggestions that India should move for a sanction by the Commonwealth. The first and the original Red Herring…
The Victorian Police Chief gave statistics on crime on Indians soon thereafter. Later it turned out that the crime stats are not kept on nationality but on the basis of appearance and what he described as Indians, actually included several nationalities. Further, since the crime data for other “appearances” was kept under clearly described categories such as Caucasians or Asians, Media assumed that attacks or crimes has only been against Indian nationals. This is second Red Herring…
The Indian Government displayed significant patience and maturity. However, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Krishna, speaking at a function organised by an American body, made a statement that indicated, “Indians were being singled out in Australia”. This led to a number of serious commentators in Indian media to also believe that the killings of Indians in Australia over the last many years has been largely targeted and targeted by Australians. As data stood before us, this turned out to be totally unfounded. Of the last 15-16 deaths of Indians in Australia in last two years, only 1-2 is still under investigation. Of all the other deaths, it is now found that clearly in about 10 cases, it is people of Indian Origin themselves who have killed the other Indian. The remaining few cases of last two years has been deaths due to suicide or accident or by drowning. However, when the senior minister made the comment, many took it at face value.  Indian students and Parents continue to believe that INDIANS ARE INDEED BEING SINGLED OUT. This was third Red Herring…
Without waiting for investigations to complete in the Ranjodh killing, MOS Preneet Kaur, received the body as it arrived in India and then laid a wreath from the Government giving it a “martyr” status. She also made a comment at the occasion indicating that a second advisory had been issued asking students not to go to Australia. The reality was very different but only surfaced after the Media had blown up the issue. Indians killed Ranjodh and he was possibly someone who had entered Australia illegally using a contract wedding and his legal widow stays on even right now in Australia and did not participate in the funeral. The “second travel advisory” was also incorrect awareness of the MOS and the Ministry immediately posted a correction on its website indicating that there is no second advisory and Indian students have not been asked to avoid travelling to Australia. The fourth Red Herring…
Australian Government remained fractured between the actions in the state of Victoria and the comments being made in Canberra.  There appeared a push primarily to show to all that the acts were not racist and there was little that appeared to be done to act immediately to curtail the street violence in the city of Melbourne. Steps were taken but very late and very slow. The Press quotes provided by the functionaries in Victoria remained badly worded and focussed more on defensiveness and justifications. Clearly the focus of the Australian Government was now distracted and revolved around the sting of the word “racism”. Damage continued as crime continued. Indians continued to believe Australia to be in denial. Red Herring No. 5.
Focus shifts to QUALITY of INDIAN STUDENTS. Hence scapegoats were found: Private Colleges and their agents. Rapid audits were announced and visas were immediately tightened. This led to closure after closure of colleges. These colleges should not have been in existence in the first place itself but that happened because of low compliance level of the State Government. However, now the tightening and the closures led to different problems for students who were in Australia legally and on valid visas. The Aussie Education brand was affected in the process.  The reality is that the ones to be affected at the end were the Universities and the quality providers and their quality agents who for no fault of theirs were being termed as “bad quality”. Journalists who were not education journalists were quoting in parts totally out of context and even the fall in visa numbers due to the severe visa tightening was projected as a drop in interest of Indian students due to “racism in Australia”. This in turn had a spiralling effect and the market finally lost interest in Australia even in reality. This is the Red Herring No. 6.
Australia’s USP to International students has been the pathway to work/settlement. There is nothing fishy about this at all and world over all education destinations do offer this pathway using one terminology or another. However, a direct result of noise was the new-belief of so-called experts that this umbilical cord needs severing. Many students who can actually be able to contribute so well in Australia will soon find it difficult to stay on. The intention of ensuring that only those who can get a job stay on or even simply continuing with the reforms that had taken place in the system over the last two years could, easily have enforced that those who are willing to apply their education to workplace in the same line of occupation are granted residency. There was no need to replace the system totally and only fine-tuning would have served the purpose. Australia needs Immigration and potential OZ educated migrants are indeed best fit. More will now be affected and OZ is the loser at the end. Red Herring No. 7.
In the election year, Australian Opposition is trying to use this issue to attack the Labour Government. Labour Government blames the Liberals stating that it is the result of the policies of the Howard regime. The reality is that the problem was not with legislation then or now but only in compliance of the legislation, then and now. ESOS even in current format is a solid document but hardly enforced. There is no guarantee that it will be enforced after the changes Compliance did not get so much of attention and only the blame-game continued. Who wins, will be known later this year but who is definite to lose is already known. Indian students and OZ-Indian free trade. Australian quality education providers and Australia. POLITICS is the Red Herring No. 8.
Last eight months has proven that audience has indeed been diverted from the truth due to the RED HERRINGS…


  1. This analysis is for the benefit of those who wish to understand how to remove fly out of fly-bottle! I hope the policy makers understand.A great service has been done by the blogger by his pursuit of truth and justice


  2. Very well written Ravi !

    Yes I agree that there were several factors which have led to these ugly controversies and the racism debate (or Red Herring theories). Both in Australia and India, the Media, Politicians and many others have a role to play in this where attention was drawn away from the guilty parties. The attacks were stray incidents and small street brawls which have been given great importance. Some of our senior leaders have made comments with our knowing the facts and adding to this were the statements of the Victorian police chief too. While some so called student leaders in Australia have used these incidents for their own goals.

    Any how the bottom line is that the Australian government policies had ( and still have) too many loop holes. There was no correct measures in place to control such incidents. Students who studied courses like cooking or hairdressing have been encouraged in the past, the result was many doggy providers were encouraged. The good Universities also have a role to play in this, they allowed articulations to many doggy providers for some small financial gains. By the time the authorities opened their eyes and got in measures like cracking down on doggy institutes and doggy agent’s including MARA agents, the damage was already done. If the racism controversies or the so called Rd Herring theories were not available then may be some one would never have opened their eyes. Anyhow better late than never thanks to the Red Herring Theories

    I agree to most of your points but again I only blame the past Australian Immigration policy for all this, student visas were issued without proper checks and protocols. The result was that the quality of students that Australia absorbed from the past few years was really bad and hopeless. Its time they have a look into this and adopt a policy where good genuine Indian students wanting to study in universities and good institutes are encouraged and change their policies plus they must also monitor that ESOS act and other rules be strongly imposed on all providers.

    Nishidhar Reddy


    1. Whatever, be it. Australia needs IMMIGRANTS for sure. Not many will disagree that the city of Melbourne is run by International students at night. May it be gas stations, taxi services, local shops such as 7-11 are all run by International students. This is one of the big reasons why noone is really clamping down to enforce the 20 hours limit for part time jobs for cab drivers when all know that even two shifts of taxi-work is 24 hours and hence more than the permittable limit. Everyone is guilty including the former government who allowed it and the current government who ignore compliance for convenience. There is a vacuum created by exit of Pauline Hanson which some will try to fill too. At the same time some will aim at the migrant votes.


      1. Yes I agree that Australia needs migrants but again they also need the right sort of people to come to Australia and not rouge students. Their past policies have not attracted good students and in fact encouraged doggy and unethical institutes and migration agents


        1. Now these migration agents want to become education agents. The Migration agent body is proposing to Aus Gov that they be engaged in regulating education agents. They forget that due to the way the regulation of even the onshore migration agents was shaping up, the DIAC took over the role last year itself. What a joke that they want to now regulate offshore education agents.


  3. Hi Ravi,Excellent posting of both IDP and Austech.IDP will now concentrate on the USA market.I anticipate more Institute will close with the passage of the Re-registration Bill.Grant Thornton consultants are carrying out a financial health checks on behalf of the VRQA on 127 Private Vet providers . This number is beside the 41 under Rapid audit.The RTOs will be given a score for 1-10.1-3 Red 4-7 Orange 8-10 Green Red are the High risk provider A number of RTOs of the 127 are likely to apply for Voluntary Administration.I anticipate Victoria heading for a recesssion as Internaitonal Education is the second largest export earner ($ 5 billion).Internaitonal Student Education cannot be de-linked from GSMRegardsGlenn


    1. Hello Glenn,

      I agree with your comments that more colleges will close. I guess your comments are in reference to my other blog on disinvestments and closure.

      Sad but this is the reality.


  4. The issues

    -Auditors also work as consultants
    -there is no regulatory authority or code of conduct for Auditors
    -set up a regulatory body for auditors and consultants
    -There is no regulatory authority for agents in Australia
    -Set up Education Agent Regulatory authority (EARA) with a code of conduct
    -Education Agents are paid upto 40 percent commission
    -Anecdotal evidence indicate that both Education agents and Registered migration agents have organised “bogus 900 hours certificates”
    -Based on anecdotal evidence majority of Students doing Trade courses (cookery, Hair Dressing, Horticulture & Motor mechanic) will not pass a Trade course
    -According to the individual industry package a Cert III in a Trade course over 1 year is equivalent to a Cert III in a trade course over a 3 to 4 years apprenticeship
    -Would a person give a car for repairs to an International student who has completed his motor mechanic course in 1 year or to a local student who has completed a 4 year apprenticeship ?

    Suggestion :

    1) Auditors should not be permitted to work as consultants to register VT schools or sit in at audits as consultants
    2) Education agents should be banned in Australia as per Baird or restrict the commission to maximum 20 percent
    3) Student must complete a Cert III and Cert IV in sequence as both are Trade courses, inorder to apply for TRA
    4) abolish permanent residents for students who have completed a Trade course
    5) Introduce 18 months temporary visa after completion of a Cert III & Cert IV
    6) Restricted work rights of 38 hrs during this period
    7) wages during this period should be 3rd year apprenticeship
    8) Student who works 30 hrs for 12 months out of 18 months should be permitted to apply for a temporary 457 or ENS with a reduced wages than the wages Gazetted for a 457 visa.



    1. Glenn?

      Who is going to offer full time employment to people on temporary visas? Even a suitably qualified person will find it difficult to get a job offer without permanent visas. This is leading to further scams because now applicants are paying “higher fees” to employers/agents etc. to get “full time employment”.

      I think Job Ready will work fine if unpaid work experience is also allowed. Afterall, arent we looking for qualified and skilled tradesperson? or are we looking for “paid” workers? The person can gain required skills during unpaid work also which can be verified by JRT.

      Most trades are off the SOL, so drop in applications are guaranteed.

      There is this organisation called iPEAL ( for Education Agents in Australia.

      Commissions are agreed betweent Agent and Edu Provider. I don’t this can be regulated. However, most TAFEs offer max commission of 20%. Reduced commissions do not guarantee quality service and education. In fact, agents might try to look at other avenues for more income sources.

      EARA is a good idea but only with clear understandings of requirements related to education industry and agents.
      Who will be responsible for “rogue agents”?


      1. Jag and Glenn,

        MIA’s move to regulate Education Agents is like grappling for anything that can come their way. They failed to regulate the Migration Agents properly and so education agents is a far cry. A number of institutions have problems even when their education agents double up as migration agents.

        Simply clearing the EATC and being listed on QEAC database is actually only ensuring that the agent is well aware. Not regulating at all.

        The reach of Aussie regulations are limited to within Australia and not in overseas lands. I can share here that AAERI has now changed its norms. EATC is a must but also a new third party integrity check has been introduced amongst other things. AAERI also has a lot of cleansing to undertake.

        As shared with MIA by AAERI directly to Maureen at the meeting in Delhi, an MOU bettween MIA and AAERI should be first step. MIA regulates in Australia while AAERI does that in India.


        1. Baird has recommended banning agents from Australia.

          Government should set up Education Agents Regulatory Authority to regulate agents with a code of conduct.

          From 1st July 2009 the MIA does not regulate Migration Agents.

          I doubt the Federal Government will agree to the proposal of the MIA to regulate education Agents.

          Glenn Pereira


      2. Jag,

        I agree with you

        TRA is trying to equate a Cert III (trade course) delivered institutional pathway over 1 year to International students with a Cert III (trade course) issued at the end of a 3 years apprenticeship.

        You are absolutely right, who will employ International student with minimum practical training in their 1 year Cert III course at market rates.

        Also at the end of Cert III most of the students complete a Diploma which is not a trade course. Hence in the 1 year when they are studying the Diploma they will loose all the practical skills.

        I was informed that TRA has upgraded their website today after I raised the issue i.e. when can an International student apply for a provisional assessment. I was informed that students can now apply at the end of 92 weeks i.e. at the time they are in a position to apply for a sub-class 485.

        None of these students will be able to find employment at the end of 2 academic years (92 weeks) as they have not been in practical session for the last 1 year when they were completing the Diploma.

        Do we see another scam in the next 12 months similarly to the 900 hrs scam ????

        Glenn Pereira


        1. It is quite evident that Govt. knew from day one what its going to end up with… a HUGE MESS! But Govt. also knew that financial gains will be enormous and they always had the option of turning the TAP OFF! just like that..

          I have seen that happening in the past too (with both Liberals and Labors).

          As for regulating education agents, we’ll have to see what MIA plans are. QEAC is a joke! The NAB manager, Akshay Batra, who was involved in a $22.7 million loan scam for students applying for GSM and claiming 5 points for $100,000 investment, was a QEAC and registered on PIER website. He could still be on the database. Was he a person of integrity?

          Just a year back (before all this started), I was taking advice from a friend about my business expansions. After I told him how industry works, he said “there is no entry barrier for your industry. Its very risky. Just about anybody can be part of it and they can ruin everything.” He gave me examples of some people who had nothing to do with education, and who were operating colleges. Few of them were taxi operators, real estate agents or grocerers.

          There has to be some entry requirements for education agents. You cannot open up just by having an office space, a big banner and a fancy name! Jalandhar and Chandigarh are full of fancy names and colourful banners. If they are not registered or recognised by edu providers, they work with other agencies “which are registered and recognised”. How can you regulate something like that?

          Then there are “hidden agencies” under the disguise of IELTS trainers, travel agencies etc.

          Talking about tougher policies, DIAC hasn’t done anything to stop “unregistered migration practice” in Australia despite so many complains. A list is being compiled again and will be sent by MA (Migration Alliance). I think Glenn is aware of that. Lot of us don’t complain, because we know that its useless to even waste our time and energy.

          I think DIAC should employ RMAs, who are looking to exit the profession (because of industry slump) and create a Task Force to deal with “unregistered agencies”. DIAC already has too much on its plate, it seems.


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