March 26 is the day when NSW will decide who forms the new Govt and who is the new Premier. Opinion polls have been consistent in predicting a landslide win for Liberal/National coalition with Barry O’Farrell as the new Premier. ALP is indeed in a very difficult situation. Its primary vote has fallen too low for it to win the election. Unless miracles happen, it is extremely unlikely that ALP will be in Govt after 26th March. For this state of affairs, ALP can blame itself only and no one else. Its leaders have used the phrase “we have lost our way”. Frequent change of Premiers, uncontrolled power of faction leaders, mismanagement of economy and spins in addition to others have created an adverse perception about ALP in the hearts and minds of NSW people. That ALP is going to lose is not for the debate but how many seats it will have in the new Parliament is something which people keep talking about. It is predicted that it will have between 13-20 MPs out of the total 93 after 26th March election.
This is not very good for the democracy because our system works better if there is an effective opposition along with a good Govt. For the interests of NSW, we need ruling and opposition parties to perform smartly and effectively. ALP will need to do a serious soul-searching and review to help it get its house in order. It will need to re-connect itself with the people and rank and file members of the party. Its policies and decisions must have genuine input from its rank and file members who do the real work. Making decisions at the party HQ or parachuting candidates without real inputs from its members create a demoralizing effect on the members.
In regards to Indian Australians in NSW, it is now well known that this community has a significant presence in Western Sydney. Strathfield and some area in South West Sydney also have a significant Indian Australian population. No party can ignore this community anymore. This fact is now well known and is evident from the efforts by both major parties to work with our community recently. We know that ALP had formed a group from our community mid last year and Liberals have also networked with this community nicely. The perception that ALP is closer to Indians is not accepted to be true at all these days. Both are accepted to be close to us although Liberals have to work a little more to deal with the erroneous perception about them being not as close to migrant communities which is where ALP has been smarter. When we debate things rationally and see things with a proper perspective, it should appear that Libs have been fairer to India [policy to sell Uranium], with which we have unbreakable bonds. Putting every thing together, it is an undeniable fact that none of the major parties can ignore Indian Australians in Western Sydney seats if they want to be in the power.
With my personal interactions with Indian Australians, I am certain that our community will vote in the similar fashion as the general NSW community. Awards, grants, invitations and recognitions to some among us will not have any real impact. The issues in NSW are same for us just like they are for the general community. Our voting behaviour will be similar to the general community despite attempts by some ALP members from Indian community to project it otherwise. We simply can’t be fooled or taken for granted. We are smart people!
Having said that, I think it would be prudent to make a comment or two here about the efforts by political parties to develop better relations with our community. ALP did start the process of more active networking with us by forming a group of some ALP members of Indian community but it did not act smartly. Unfortunately, it was led very poorly. Trying to control some of our community associations was plainly stupid because it was disliked and helped no one. This group was not inclusive and left out many prominent ALP members from our community who have been in ALP for decades. It’s president does not appear to have a good understanding of Indian community. He comes from a Union background and has been running a smear campaign against some people just because he did not like them, had disagreement with them or those people did not agree with his style and brand of politics. Division, not inclusion was his “Mantra” to serve factional interests. Running a campaign against Mr Susai Benjamin and branding Indian Australians in Toongabbie ALP branches as branch-stackers are not examples of brilliant politics. It is beyond me to understand why a group of Indian ALP members will run a campaign against one of the Indian sub-continental persons from the same party unless it was done as a part of the ALP factional politics. Ultimately, it all has turned into nothing but factional fights with avoidable adverse outcome for an Indian Australian. This is inexcusable.
If NSW ALP is listening, I will advise them to dissolve this group without any delay or reform it seriously. This reform must include having a person from Indian Sub-continental background as the president of the group. Such person should know the dynamics of Indian community. This body should be an inclusive body of all Indian ALP members without factional considerations. In the current form, it has not helped ALP at all. If any thing, it has actually harmed ALP by making many Indian ALP members and many non-members unhappy and angry with it. This will have an impact on March 26th and Toongabbie ALP candidate will have a maximum adverse impact.
ALP Govt has supported many things from our community but their timings have been such that they have appeared poll-linked or driven. Many have called them indirect bribes to put them mildly. They have not appeared sincere. Even Premier’s award for Indian Sub-continent community services were done in hurry and were mismanaged. They have not been perceived to be done fairly. How can Govt or CRC have a very active member of ALP sitting in the judging panel? He should not have been there at any cost. He is actively involved in fractious politics in the community with obvious perception of conflict of interest. I am sure they could have done better but they put politics before anything else. Almost all people I have spoken with have expressed disgust about the way these awards were managed. They want these awards to continue but they want them to be done fairly and transparently, keeping conflict of interest principle in mind.
Liberals have shown their interests in developing good relations with Indian Australians which they should work on more when in Govt after March 26. I have seen federal and state Lib leaders in Indian community events. They have been working very hard to develop a much better networking with this community. Their decision to sell Australian Uranium to India has been mentioned repeatedly and it has gone down very well with our community. Liberal party is now perceived as a party which has a better understanding of India, Indian interests and Indian geo-political positions. I have no doubt that their efforts will bring significant benefits to them and to our community, if we deal with them smartly. We, as a community, need to deal with both major political parties and must not allow ourselves to be used by any single party which is what has been happening thus far.
Liberals/Nationals are likely to come to power after 26th March is beyond doubt. No wonder that some from our community who have been ALP supporters until recently are now flocking to Liberals in all sorts of manners. Many of such people have no understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Self-interest alone is driving them. Writing high-sounding but false positions after their names do not bother them. Causing shame to themselves or our community is not their concern as long as they get what they are looking for. We all need to be careful about them just as much Liberals need to be careful about such people. They will neither help our community nor Liberal party.
Indian Australian community is getting recognition by both parties for their numbers in Western Sydney which is good. We, as a community, need to do more to be a significant player in politics and political processes of Australia. We must work together, irrespective of which party we believe in, in getting some from our community in the Councils and Parliaments-state and federal. To achieve this, we need to join political parties. Our numbers in Western Sydney are our strength and similarly our numbers in political parties will be our strength there too.
While doing this, we must however ensure that only good people are supported for these roles. Nobody with sub-standard qualities is encouraged. We don’t need Indian style politics in Australia and definitely, we do not need to mortgage ourselves with any one political party, based on the propaganda by that party. Our support and votes for any party or candidate must be based on policies, principles and quality of the leadership, not just on awards, bribes or grants which are announced weeks or days before the election. We must not allow anyone to fool us. We are, after all, smart people and our votes are not for sale!
Failing in all this will be our social irresponsibility which we can ill-afford. It’s about time that we make our presence felt by all and every one!
Yadu Singh/Sydney/10th March, 2011