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Indian spies infiltrated Australia while our prime ministers covered it up and signed damaging immigration and trade deals

Australia expelled Indian spies who were operating with impunity inside the rapidly growing immigrant community, but successive governments failed to inform the public and instead signed damaging trade and immigration deals.

Australia’s intelligence agencies became aware in 2020 that Indian operatives were trying to access sensitive defence technology, breach airport security protocols, and target politicians and a state police force, an investigation by Four Corners has revealed.

And even when intelligence chief Mike Burgess publicly announced the following year that a “nest of spies” from an unnamed country had been confronted and removed, then-prime minister Scott Morrison kept quiet about the country responsible.

At least four spies were expelled, some who had been working as diplomats at India’s high commission, which made headlines earlier this year when the country’s former high commissioner, Navdeep Suri Singh, was ordered to pay $97,000 to a former staffer he made work in “slave-like” conditions at his Canberra home.

Politicians told Four Corners that the number of secret expulsions put India “on par” with countries notorious for their intelligence operations, such as China and Russia, while Greens senator David Shoebridge said India should have been condemned at the time.

But despite the interruption of the Indian spy network, critics of the Modi government said agents were still operating in Australia, threatening dissidents here and their families in India, and setting up community organisations which aim to infiltrate politics at the local, state and federal levels.

Mr Morrison, who often pandered to the Indian immigrant population – Australia’s fastest growing foreign group – by cooking curries and posing for photos with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, went on to sign a Free Trade Agreement in 2022 that has been criticised for guaranteeing entry to unneeded Indian “skilled workers”.

When the current Labor government was elected later that year, new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continued where Mr Morrison left off, painting dots on his forehead and signing an unprecedented immigration deal described by critics as “open borders for Indians”.

The May 2023 deal allowed for five-year student visas for Indians, eight-year temporary work visas for Indian graduates, unlimited work rights for spouses, and three-month visitor visas for family or business purposes, with no caps on numbers.

Another scheme allowed 3,000 Indian graduates to work and stay in Australia for up to two years and then apply for permanent skilled visas.

Economist Leith van Onselen wrote in Macrobusiness last week that Mr Morrison’s FTA “baked in the importation of yoga teachers”, after it was revealed that Labor’s Jobs and Skills Australia consultation list prioritises those workers ahead of skilled migrants supposedly needed to build homes.

According to the document, yoga instructors, martial artists and dog handlers can be fast-tracked into Australia while plumbers, bricklayers and cabinetmakers are not on the core skills list.

The Morrison FTA put 1,800 yoga teachers in a special category along with chefs, allowing them to stay for more than four years.

“The yoga instructor visa farce was basically a gift to India, alongside the recently signed migration pacts that gives greater rights to Indians wishing to work and migrate to Australia than other nations,” Mr van Onselen wrote.

“Through its various dumb migration deals, Australia has effectively Swiss cheesed its immigration policy, reduced its ability to control migration numbers and quality, and reduced Australia’s sovereignty in controlling its borders.

“We are not a serious country.”

Australia’s Indian population grew from 378,480 in 2013 to 845,800 in 2023 – from 1.6% of the population to 3.2%. Almost 250,000 of those have arrived since 2018, including 92,940 in the last financial year alone.

They are the largest immigrant group in Victoria at 272,250, making up 4.2% of the state’s population, the vast majority in Melbourne.

Earlier this year Hindus in Melton on the city’s outskirts demanded open-air funeral pyres at a new cemetery so Indian immigrants can cremate their dead like they do in their home country.

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