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Racist attacks have tarnished Victoria's image: Oz leader

Last updated on: February 09, 2010 09:56 IST

An Australian opposition leader has criticised the Victoria government for allegedly failing to tackle the racist attacks on Indians saying "this has brought bad name to the state globally".

"Victoria has a serious and increasing problem with racist attacks on Indian students, but the state government is in denial and blaming the victims. Many of the assaults were the result of 'racist violence', but Premier John Brumby had failed to confront the issue," leader of opposition Ted Baillieu said at a gathering of Australian and Indian business leaders on Monday night.

He also condemned the advice of state top cop Simon Overland to Indians to "dress poor" in a bid to avoid attacks.

Baillieu alleged that the problem of racial violence was allowed to escalate with government providing excuses that brought international condemnation.

"This government's continued attempt to blame the victim by suggesting he or she had brought it upon themselves through their conduct or the provocative carrying of iPods, computers and other such nonsense," he said, adding now there were extraordinary suggestions.

They were more akin to suggestions the Australian government might issue to our own travellers travelling in dangerous areas, he added.

Baillieu, in his speech at the Australia India Business Council, said Victoria did not have a racist society but "a minority of individuals whose racist behaviour is creating fear and terror for many who live in our community".

After meeting many victims, he said, he did not accept the government's argument that there was no particular targeting of Indians beyond statistical expectations.

"There were some who say these were not racial attacks; to those let me say this, those assaults they were racially abused," he said.

Reacting to his comments, state Premier spokesperson said Baillieu should know better than to use divisive and inflammatory comments that he knows are not true.

"Baillieu's deceptive treatment of this issue makes things worse not better," Fiona Macrae was qouted as saying.

Minister for Youth Affairs, Sports, Recreation, Youth Affairs James Merlino, who is also assisting the Victoria premier on multicultural affairs, criticised Baillieu and termed it "disgraceful" and "just plain wrong".

"Baillieu comprehensively failed to stand up for Victoria and defend Victoria's image. In fact, he rubbished Victoria's image and said we're basically a racist society. We absolutely disagree with that and I think all Victorians would," he was quoted as saying in an ABC report.

"Baillieu is just plain wrong. Victorians are not racists. We are proud of our multiculturalism."

Meanwhile, President of Victoria's Indian Federation Vasan Srinivasan said he did not see it as racist attacks on Indians alone.

"Four years ago, there were 11,000 Indian students in Australia, now there are 95,000 in Victoria."

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