Marginal seats empower Indian community

candidates_004.qxdBy Vijay Badhwar

Win or lose doesn’t matter; participation in a game is the name of the game and none’s bigger than politics. Based on the philosophy, there are many participants from the Indian subcontinent in the forthcoming elections, albeit none predicted to create even a dent in the results.
Indian subcontinent’s only pride, sitting senator from Tasmania, Lisa Singh, has become a victim of factional Labor politics being relegated to sixth position, thus being out of the reckoning from retaining the position from a predicted four or five Senate seats Labor may win.
Lisa Singh was conferred with the highest honour given to people of Indian origin living overseas, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, recognising her exceptional and meritorious service in fostering Australia-India relations. She was committed to developing and strengthening ties between the sub-continent and Australia. Lisa Singh participated in the Lowy Institute’s Australia-India Roundtable in 2012 and 2014 and led ALP engagement on the ”˜Australia in the Asian Century White Paper’.
Alex Kaur Bhathal is a Green’s candidate from the currently safe Labor seat of Batman in Victoria. The sitting ALP member David Feeney requires a hefty 10.6 per cent swing to unseat him but he is embroiled in so many controversies, of not living in the constituency, neither disclosing his $2.3 million property which he could not tell if it was negatively geared, that the target has come within reach of the Greens.
Ms Bhathal has got the right credentials being a well-known social worker, popularly known as Tampa Green after the children overboard scandal of the refugee ship, Tampa. She is also helped by the rising popularity of the party leader Richard Di Natale from the neighbouring electorate.
She was a Labor follower in her university days, but became disillusioned with ”˜careerist politics’. Tampa affair ”“ the plight of young children on board being dragged into politics ”“ and subsequent discussions with then Green’s leader, Bob Brown, motivated her to join the Greens.
Alex Bhathal’s success depends on Liberal Party directing their preferences to her or the Labor Party. In 2013, her primary vote was 26.4 per cent, up from 23.5 per cent in 2010. While in 2010, with Liberal preferences directed her way, she received 42.1 per cent votes, in 2013, the Liberals changed their stance to direct preferences to ALP, making her lose the election. ABC poll analyst Antony Green opined that she would have won the election if Liberal preferences had come her way.
Bill Gupta is also contesting the Batman seat as a 21st Century Australia nominee.
Restaurateur Avtar Singh Billu, standing as an independent in Greenway, a Labor seat held by sitting member Michelle Rowland, can make a difference by directing his preferences (which, he says, he will nominate after having meetings with other parties). The seat requires a swing of only 3.0 per cent but its boundaries have been redrawn to lose parts of Pendle Hill and Toongabie and gain parts of Blacktown. This should not significantly affect the voting preferences except for a significant Indian community presence in the area who can shift the scales. Billu’s slogan is ”˜Community First’ and easier visas for parents and close family members.
Parramatta is a Labor held seat with a margin of 0.6 per cent. Its boundaries have also been altered in the north and the south, the expected benefit of redistribution going to ALP. The seat is held by Julie Owens who is very visible at Indian community functions. Mahesh Raj is contesting election in the seat as an independent candidate promising to provide effective representation to communities settled in Western suburbs.
Chifley in the Western suburbs of Sydney ”“ Blacktown, Doonside, Rooty Hill and parts of Mt Druitt in the main, is another seat where the Indian community has a strong representation. It is a safe Labor seat, further helped by boundary redistribution. The seat, always held by Labor since its inception, has prominent unionist Ed Husic as the sitting member. Mohit Kumar is the Liberal candidate for the seat representing his party’s manifesto for jobs, growth and investment.

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