Labor Senator Lisa Singh deserves federal Labor’s intervention

Sydney, 30th Aug, 2015

Lisa Singh

Senator Lisa Singh from ALP is a popular and hard working politician. She is high profile too. She is particularly popular in, and liked by, Indian Australian community because of her Indian heritage, beside her abilities and leadership.

She received one of the prominent awards from Government of India “Pravasi Bhartiya Samman” for her exceptional service and contribution as a person of Indian heritage not long ago. This award is only for people of Indian heritage living outside India. Her father is a Fiji-Indian and mother is from English Australian background. She has been covered by almost all Indian ethnic media in Australia. She did reach out to various groups in Indian Australian community. She is an endearing, not polarising, person. She is an asset to ALP.

She is a member of Emily’s List and had co-founded Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation.

She is a very productive member of the Senate and is a great orator. She is currently a shadow Parliamentary Secretary.

I have listened and interacted with her in various events and gatherings.

She has had extensive political and governmental responsibilities in Tasmania, and this included a position as a Minister, before being elected as a  Senator in 2010. She was the first person with Indian heritage who was elected to the Senate then.

People including I expected her to be re-elected for the second term in The Senate, but, with recent developments, this seems unlikely.

Due to very peculiar voting for preselection, little-known John Short, secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union will replace Lisa Singh and occupy the winnable 3rd spot in the list. Lisa Singh will be at the 4th place which is an unwinnable place.

SMH article explains it nicely. (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shortens-hopes-of-more-female-mps-ignored-as-union-numbers-used-to-dump-sitting-senator-20150828-gja0ay.html) I quote the relevant SMH article paragraphs.

——————————————————————————————

“Of the 542 votes cast by members, senators Urquhart and Polley received 221 and 123 respectively, with the unaligned Senator Singh close behind on 110. Mr Short was some way back with 74 votes, with the remaining 14 going to others.

However, that tally made up only half of the final result because under state ALP rules the 100 union votes are then combined with another 100 conference delegates – both of which are factionally organised – and their combined total of 200 is weighted to make them equivalent to the 542 rank-and-file votes.

Based on a loading formula in which each union-conference vote is worth 2.72 rank-and-file votes, the two halves resulted in Mr Short jumping ahead by a wafer-thin four votes, on 158 to Senator Singh on 154.

That meant he won the third and final winnable position, relegating her to the unelectable fourth spot.”

———————————————————————————————-

I and many others are disappointed and unhappy with this result because;

  • it is not right for ALP to continue and allow excessive and disproportionate  influence of Unions when Unions have only about 18% of Australian workforce as their members
  • it is not right for ALP to relegate the views and choices of rank and file this blatantly in preference to Unions’ interests
  • ALP should promote and support a performing and sitting Senator in preference to an untested Union member
  • ALP should execute its professed policy of promoting women in its leadership, and Lisa Singh matter is a perfect example where this policy should be demonstrated and executed
With this all, I believe that,
  • Federal Labor and leader Bill Shorten should intervene and endorse Senator Singh at the 3rd place in its Senators’ list.
  • Bill Shorten and Federal Labor should do the right thing and demonstrate their commitments to encourage participation of women in its leadership and Parliaments.
  • ALP should dismantle the entrenched stranglehold of Unions in its processes and pre-selections. Unions are known to do a lot of good jobs, and I know it first hand, but there is no justification for their excessive and disproportionate influence and powers in ALP or any political party.  ALP will do a lot of favours to itself if it acted in this direction and gave much more importance to the voices of its rank and file.
I also exhort Subcontinent Friends of Labor to lobby with Bill Shorten and Federal Labor in support of Senator Lisa Singh. This is the time to show leadership.
Dr Yadu Singh

My speech at the UWS event for Indian community on 24th Nov, 2014

Dr Yadu SinghThis is the speech I delivered, as a guest speaker, at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) event for Indian community at Parravilla, Parramatta on Monday, 24th November, 2014. —————————————————————————————————–

 

Thank you for the kind words.

Prof Peter Shergold, Chancellor of University of Western Sydney, dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen, 

Namaste and good evening, 

I am grateful and feel privileged to have this opportunity to speak to you tonight. 

 

SO WHERE ARE WE – AS A COMMUNITY- TODAY, AND WHERE DO WE NEED TO BE TOMORROW? 

There are about 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia and more than 100,000 of them live in New South Wales.  Most of the migrants from India have arrived in the last 10 years and India has been the top source of migrants to Australia over the last few years.  Most people have come to this country as skilled migrants. Obviously, skilled migrants contribute to the Australian economy significantly.  Our people not only take part in the service industry and public services, many of them are also into businesses, particularly small businesses, thus creating jobs.  Indian migrants give significant importance for education of their children.  It is not uncommon that they work hard, sometimes long hours and even two jobs, to make enough money so that they are able to send their children to private schools. Indian migrants are generally law-abiding people and their focus is significantly on the families and family values.  Even after they become Australian Citizens, they continue to remain in touch with their extended families back home in India.  This is something which has a great advantage to India. The inward remittance of 70 billion US dollars to India by overseas Indians in the years 2013-14 shows how valuable this is for India. To put this in perspective, the bilateral trade between Australia and India is only $15 billion Australian dollars and the bilateral trade between India and China is $60 billion US dollars, 2/3rd of which in each case is in favour of the other party. With the new Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking office in May 2014, it is likely that investment policies will be streamlined.  This is expected to accelerate investment in India not only from businesses from all over the world but also from Indians who are living overseas.  Overseas Indians have great attachment with India. This would be strengthened, particularly for second and subsequent generations, and may even increase investment from them, if India were to see merits in granting dual citizenship to overseas Indians, just like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and most developed and democratic nations grant this to their citizens.

Focusing on New South Wales, most Indian Australians are in Sydney, especially Western Sydney. There are constituencies where Indians constitute more than 15% of voters, thus able to influence outcomes of elections. To give an example, my surname “Singh” is the most common surname in Blacktown. Indian Australians have significant presence in trades like medicine, law, banking, accounting, IT, food and catering, migration services and small to medium consumer businesses.  They are creating jobs for quite a number of people as you would expect from the small business sector in any part of the economy.  Many of us have good names in the professional arena. Some of us have started to make a mark in charity related work. Admirably, there are some who have become involved in helping the homeless with food and clothing.  This is all laudable, but I know we can do more.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have our elderly parents moving to Australia.  But with a passage of time, many of them feel lonely because there are not many people with whom they can socialize with when their family is away due to the usual commitments like work or education.  Many of them have an element of isolation and depression.  We do have many groups catering to them, but this definitely needs some more thinking, more work and co-ordination. We also need to think about culturally appropriate nursing homes and other care facilities, where our elderly people can be placed or cared for, when it becomes necessary. In the twilight years of their life it would be important that our elders are provided with solutions around language barriers and dietary requirements which they have been accustomed to.

Like any other migrant group, which comes to these shores with good education, our people do get jobs without much difficulty. There are definitely some who struggle to find jobs which are commensurate with their training and experience. Lack of local experience is often quoted when they are declined employment.  This is one area where incentives to employers as a government policy could be worth lobbying for. Even though there are Government services which try and aid employment, there is a need for some thought from the community to guide our newer migrants helping them to settle into life and employment. Mentoring of newer migrants, when necessary, will be very helpful.

There are hundreds of political parties in India which have their support base mostly in a particular geographical part of India. This is reflected here too. While there are a few pan-Indian based community associations, a lot more associations in our community are based on language or region of India.  It is not necessarily a bad thing because the basic purpose of community organisations is comradery and friendship among people who relate to that particular set of criteria. Indians love to have community associations, replicating the experience in India. There is often a fierce competition among associations which, at times, is irrational and illogical.  They end up duplicating or even triplicating the same activity to satisfy their ego and “Me too” syndrome. There is a need for some consolidation and understanding among community associations particularly on matters of common community goals.  These goals could be mentoring of new migrants for employment and settlement, health education on important health matters and lobbying the political leadership in favour of community interests. It would be productive for community associations to become more accepting of their counterparts and working with one another towards common goals. A dialogue must start and some key Indian media must take the initiative for this job. It is imperative that we put our egos behind and recognise the good qualities of our people.  Mirroring what happens in India, many community leaders continue to hold their positions for 10, 20 or even 25 years which stifles the growth of new ideas and perpetuate ego-based unnecessary competition. We need young Indians to be active and we should encourage them to take leadership roles within the associations. Taking a cue from Australian politics, we need to start preparing the next set of leaders in our community. What is the point of holding a position with nothing to show as a result apart from some pictures on Facebook? Triviality such as taking pictures with leaders cannot be the sole focus of our community leaders.

It is vital to have leaders who understand their responsibilities towards the community and are effective communicators. A lot more could be done if the direction we as a community take is relevant and productive. Being an optimist, I envision a community where we would engage in meaningful dialogue among ourselves so that we are able to share problems and develop solutions. Only then will we be able to serve for the benefit of our community. For example, an Indian cultural center that is actually accessible. Or addressing the concerning fact that fewer women of  Indian heritage use mammogram screening compared to the screening rates in the general Australian population.

In regards to our political participation, I know Subcontinent Friends of Labor is an active group of Labor party members and supporters. Similarly, Liberal Friends of India has been quite energetic in creating a network of Liberal party supporters. But more can be done. I believe that more and more of us should join the political process at various levels if we are ever going to gain greater political representation in Parliament.

Except for Senator Lisa Singh, a representative of Tasmania in the Federal Senate there is no other person from an Indian heritage who is a member of a State or Federal Parliament. There are, however, several councilors and a few Deputy Mayors too, but, to the best of my knowledge, there is no person from the Indian-Australian community who is a Mayor in this country.  When we compare this with other ethnic backgrounds particularly Lebanese and Chinese, the contrast is quite stark.  It is a common point of discussion among us in moments of reflection.  It is clear that division in our community, based on ego and some other factors has created a situation preventing us from having a significant political presence, which is commensurate with our numbers.

So what is the solution? Do we vote for every Indian who contests in an election? I have no doubt that a mature community will base its decision on the ability and capacity of candidates instead of their race or religion. We want the best MPs to represent us in Parliament and factors like race and religion should not be given undue importance. We should encourage Indians to join political parties and participate in the processes including pre-selections.  I don’t believe it is a good idea to form a political party based on ethnicity, or an association based on caste.

Australia-based Government of India officials’ interactions with the community are, at times, less than satisfactory either because of their services, which may not meet our expectations or because they have meddled in community politics. This is counterproductive and needs to change. GOI officials need to understand, and accept, that they are public servants and are here to be of assistance to NRIs/PIOs, in addition to fulfilling their responsibilities, given to them by GOI. It is of mutual interest and benefit to have a constructive and supportive relationship between GOI agencies and the diaspora.

Our media is active, vibrant and crowded, which is not too dissimilar to community associations. They do, and can play, a very vital role by using their reach and clout for bridging divisions in the community, supporting good leadership and good work, and advocating for key community goals. They must stay away from partisan agenda, which, sadly, is the case with a few of them.

So, ladies and gentlemen, Indian Australians are indeed a great community which is highly qualified and politically aware.  Despite the size of our community we have not achieved satisfactory success in political representation, largely because of our own deficiencies.  This will, and can change if we refocus our energies and vision. We can do this refocusing if we start recognizing the good qualities and work of our people giving them that extra bit of support. We need to start networking and coordinating with the plethora of community groups for our common goals. We need to control our envy, “Tall Poppy Syndrome” or “Crab” mentality, if we ever want to take our community to its deserved heights. I believe that it is doable as we are smart and pragmatic people.  Nothing is impossible and there is nothing which we cannot achieve if we put our hearts together as a community. We must be united for and by our common goals for the community.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Namaste!

———————————————————————————————————————————— Dr Yadu Singh, Sydney, 25th Nov, 2014 http://www.twitter.com/dryadusingh http://www.facebook.com/dryadusingh