ACT’s first Indian-born MLA has slammed Australian Labour Party’s decision to install Senator Kristina Keneally as the party’s candidate in the safe Labour seat in South West Sydney.
Deepak-Raj Gupta, the first Indian-born member of the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly, has criticised his party’s decision to contest former New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally into the safe multicultural seat of Fowler in Sydney’s south-west while disregarding a local candidate. Mr Gupta became the first Indian-born person to be elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2019.
Senator Keneally, who lives in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, has been vying for a seat in the House of Representatives and ALP confirmed her as the candidate to run for the electorate of Fowler at the next federal election.
Outgoing local member Chris Hayes had backed Tu Le, a local lawyer of Vietnamese heritage, to succeed him in the electorate, which includes the suburbs of Cabramatta and Fairfield.
Mr Gupta told NRI Affairs, “This approach of horses-for-courses may be beneficial to the party at this time because every party wants to form the Government, but it may not go well in the long run because it deprives people from diverse community to enter the political scene. What is being done is to to deprive them of public office and just being a brides-maid.”
“Our parliament should reflect our community. Multicultural community is growing in Australia and in the coming times they will form 30-40% of electorate, so they will have the balance of power that can determine the outcome of the elections. So it is better to include them and not snub them.”, he added.
“People have accepted us here as doctors, as business professionals and in public service, so why not as law makers? I think there is a need to eliminate the sentiment that we are good for some jobs but not good enough for public office.”
Mr Gupta said that he has a very high regard for Ms Keneally, who was “a deserving candidate and a smart politician”. He, however, added that the decision to field her at the expense of the local community member will harm the party in the long run. It would make the next generation of political leaders wonder if they were only seen as fit for volunteering and support roles, and not seen as future candidates.
Mr Gupta was not the lone Indian-born voicing his concerns at his party decision. Melbourne’s Manoj Kumar, who is the chair of Victoria’s ‘Sub-continent Friends of Labour’ expressed his disapproval of his party’s decision to nominate Senator Keneally as the candidate for Fowler. Mr Kumar was furious at the former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s public endorsement of Senator Keneally and his comment that local candidates, “while well-meaning, might never reach her level of ability.”
Manoj Kumar, a former Labor state and federal election candidate called for the party to introduce a diversity quota, which would seek 20 per cent representation of culturally and linguistically diverse members in state and federal parliaments.
“People of colour do volunteering and campaigning for the party, and also look after the community. They are also social workers, professionals, doctors, engineers, professors, scientists, lawyers and IT specialists. Why can’t we represent our local community?”, Manoj Kumar told NRI Affairs.
“Labour Party has a great heart for multicultural communities. We cannot afford to lose our multicultural credentials all over Australia just to parachute one individual to the winnable diverse Labour seat of Fowler. Our party is above any individuals.”, Mr Kumar added.
Federal Labour MP Anne Aly blasted Senator Keneally’s move and called on Labor to do more than “just pay lip service” to multiculturalism.
“Diversity and equality and multiculturalism can’t just be a trope that Labor pulls out and parades while wearing a sari and eating some kung pao chicken to make ourselves look good,” she told the ABC.