Peter Khalil has accused the coalition government of paternalism and arrogance with respect to Australia’s partners, not just in the Pacific but also in South Asia.
“International students are an important element of our relationship with South Asian communities. However, there is potential for growth in so many other areas.”, he said.
Peter Khalil, the sitting Member of Parliament for the electorate of Wills, was speaking at a multicultural fundraiser dinner organised for his federal election campaign by the Friends of Nepal at the Estonian House in Brunswick West on Saturday April 23.
In a reference to his own background as a child of migrant parents, he said past Labor governments had delivered life changing policies like affordable public housing, universal healthcare and access to a quality education that had helped his family succeed and are now helping other migrants.
Andrew Giles, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, who was also present, warned the communities against “forces that were sowing the seeds of hate and division”.
“One Nation is running candidates in every single electorate, spreading a message of hate, fear and division. All these dark voices require us to answer them.”, he said, adding, “We need to deal with this as a structural issue because we can only realise our potential as a nation if we make sure that all of our institutions give everyone an equal say in our nation – in the economy, in society and in politics.”
Mr Giles accused the Liberal Government of not being interested in understanding “where country Australia is today, let alone where the country should be in 10, 15, 20 years.”
Rajesh Acharya, President of the Australian Nepalese & Multicultural Community and Enver Erdogan, MLC, also spoke at the event.
Praveen Kumar, a close associate of Peter Khalil, conducted a fundraising auction.
Artists Monika Gudapadi (Kuchipudi dance) and Rashi Singh Thakuti (Nepalese folk dance) also performed at the event.
Peter Khalil spoke exclusively to NRI Affairs:
“South Asian Community forms a big part of my electorate, my constituency. Nepalese are a very big community – we call it ‘Little Nepal’ in my electorate, but Indian and Pakistani and Bangladeshi as well. They all have a lot of different issues, obviously.
“Some of the big ones are – visa, and time frames for visa processing. Obviously for family reunion, education and work. We, if we win the government really have to speed up all these processes for those communities because they are relying on us to do a good job at a federal government level.
However, there are also issues around access to education, access to services, access to support for starting small businesses, for example, which is some of the policy work I have been involved with – really helping those communities who work so hard and sacrifice so much for a better life for themselves and their children, to get the opportunities, whether it be social, educational, small business or entreprenaeurial. These are really things that I am passionate about because I know as a migrant myself that the hard work that the migrants put in to have a successful life, and I really want to be able to represent them and also create the conditions for their success.”
On lack of South Asian Community Representation at senior levels in corporations, public service or in the parliament
“That is absolutely correct. This is something I am very very passionate about. There is very little representation of diversity in our senior leadership positions, whether it be at the parliament, whether it be in the boardroom, whether it be in the courtrooms – the judges, whether it be in the academia; in all of those areas there is not enough diversity. We pride ourselves that we are a very successful multicultural country, but where is the diversity in the leadership in the senior positions in our country? It is not there.
“So we need to create policies that will help facilitate people so that they can have the opportunities for those leadership positions. We cannot truly say that we are a successful multicultural nation until we have the true diversity at the top levels – in the boardrooms, in the courtrooms, in the corridors of power and in the parliament. I am unique, one of the few non Anglo MPs in the federal parliament.
“I want to open up the door and have more join me. Because it is not just about representing the ethnic communities as an ethnic person. I can represent all communities. It is about giving the opportunity to people if they want that role in the leadership position in politics or academia or the judiciary. So, we have a lot of work to do to open up those spaces for people of South Asian background.”
On the challenges being faced by small businesses in the electorate post-COVID
“I am very cognisant of the difficult period all small businesses have gone through, particularly the migrants who have started small businesses. We have a policy recommendation around ‘Arrive and Thrive Program’ which provides federal government support to small businesses, for migrants who are starting a small business, who need business development planning support – this is really a one-stop-shop for small business just to give them the framework, the helping hand or the training, to get what they need to make a success of their business and we are very conscious of that. That’s a policy priority for us for our multicultural communities.”