By Neeraj Nanda
Melbourne: It’s a hypothetical question. It’s also something which the fastest growing migrant community in Australia is asking itself. Victoria and New South Wales have the biggest concentration of Indians in Australia. None of them have ever sent an elected member to their respective Parliaments. Forget the Federal Parliament. Let’s see what’s happening in Victoria. Melbourne being the political hub has many Desi (Indian) aspirants dreaming of entering the Victorian Parliament from both the Coalition (Liberals and Nationals) and the Australian Labour Party (ALP). Some of mixed ethnicity (Indian plus other) and Indians have been candidates of the Liberal Party, ALP and the Greens in past elections. Many can be seen hovering around the Victorian Parliament building or in its corridors with MPs or in functions. But years have passed and success eludes these political aspirants and the cause seems to be lost. But is it really lost or success is round the corner?
The Victorian elections are scheduled towards the end of 2014. Pre selection of candidates by political parties is taking place and sooner or later the cat will be out of the bag. But before that some past experience has to be seen. Mr. Vasan Srinivasan was a Liberal Party candidate from the Forest Hill seat in the 2002 state elections. It was a sitting Liberal seat with the Labour Party pitting high profile Kristie Marshall (sportsperson) against Mr. Vasan Srinivasan. High hopes were dashed when the Labour candidate defeated Mr. Vasan Srinivasan. In a two party preferred result the winning Labour candidate Kristies Marshall got 19, 063 votes (55.8 %) and Mr. Vasan Srinivasan got 15,113 votes (44.2 %).
Since Mr. Vasan Srinivasan’s defeat in 2002, two more state elections have taken place in 2006 and 2010. But a few of those who ventured into the electoral fray on Liberal Party tickets got only non – winnable seats. Seats which are ‘safe seats’ of the ALP and there is no chance of unseating the opponent. An arrangement whereby the seat should not remain uncontested. The ALP had no Indian candidate though Mr. Jude Perera (Sri Lankan origin) was the only South Asian (Subcontinent) from the ALP to be elected from Cranbourne for the last three elections.
Talking to SAT, Mr. Goldy Brar, former Liberal candidate in the 2010 Victorian state elections from Bundoora (safe Labour seat) says, “The Indian community needs to be united to be noticed and taken care of by political parties.”
“Not everyone is in politics to get elected. Will work with any Indian from any party who becomes the 1st Indian to enter the Victorian Parliament,” Goldy says.
It is also felt many political aspirants are not well connected to mainstream Australia. They are active in the Indian community but not vocal on issues that affect all Australians. Hence the reluctance to select them for seats that can give a positive result.
But Arun Sharma, Chairman Celebrate India feels, “They are getting tough seats. Our candidates need to work hard. You can’t beat the race just by entering it. So far only a few are serious enough. “
“They need to be part of mainstream Australia and should be there for long rather than just being there”, he told SAT.
Source: SAT, December 2013 issue.
Tag: Victoria Parliament
By Neeraj Nanda