With an increasing number of Indian origin people now contesting elections in Australia, the political scene in the country is showing signs of diversity. The 700,000 strong diaspora is also emerging as a vital vote bank being courted by the key political parties!
Former Australian ambassador to Israel and a Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma, a second-generation Indian, won in an election to the federal parliament of Australia from a seat in suburban Sydney. With an increasing number of Indian origin people now contesting elections in Australia, the political scene in the country is showing signs of diversity. The 700,000 strong diaspora is also emerging as a vital vote bank being courted by the key political parties!
Sharma, 43, defeated independent candidate Kerryn Phelps for the eastern suburb seat of Wentworthin district. Incidentally, the seat had once been held by former conservative prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Sharma, who had lost to Phelps in a by-election six months ago, claimed the seat of Wentworth with 51.16 pc vote-share.
“Very humbled by the trust placed in me by the people of Wentworth. Look forward to being a voice for them in Parliament and the party room,” Sharma said in a tweet.
Very humbled by the trust placed in me by the people of Wentworth. Look forward to being a voice for them in the parliament and the party room. Thanks to @drkerrynphelps for her service and @Timpmurray for a fair campaign. Hope both enjoy some much-deserved time with family
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) May 20, 2019
Sharma campaigned on three key points — national security, female workforce participation and making sure Australia remains at the high end of the value chain.
“It’s been a long continuous campaign for seven months for me,” he told reporters in Sydney, adding, “I was helped by the tailwind of a strong national campaign,” he said.
Sharma was Australia’s ambassador to Israel from 2013 to 2017. Though a new parliamentarian in the country, he is already being considered as a possible minister in the cabinet of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative Liberal-National Party coalition scored an upset win in the elections.
When asked about the possibility of joining the cabinet, Sharma brushed aside questions, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’ll be concentrating my time over the next weeks, months and years to being a good local representative,” he said.
“I’ll be helping to protect open spaces and parklands, fight for better local infrastructure and transport, helping preserve the wonderful quality of life we have here in Wentworth,” he said.
Sharma also paid tribute to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom he described as a ‘good friend’. Turnbull was criticised by colleagues for not helping Sharma campaign in the by-election.
Born to a father of Indian origin and an Australian mother, Dave’s family settled in Sydney in the 1970s. He is married to Rachel Lord and has three children.
Australian politics shows sign of diversity
This year, over 10 Indian-origin candidates contested the federal elections. Other Liberal candidates who contested are Vivek Singha and Sachin Joshi from New South Wales and Hemant Dave from South Australia.
Labor Party’s candidates included Aruna Chandrala and Parwinder Sarwara, while United Australia Party (UAP) was represented by Raj Samson Rajwin, Prakul Chhabra, Jatinder Singh, Sahil Chawla.
A former international student Nikhil Reddy contested elections from Pauline Hanson-led One Nation party and the Greens fielded Harkirat Singh.
“It is a matter of time before we have an increased representation of Indians in the state and federal parliament,” said Kaushliya Vaghela, the first India-born member of parliament in Victoria.
She said it was tough cracking into Australian politics for first generation migrants, like herself; and that there was a need for Australian Parliament, at both state and federal levels, to be reflective of the diversity.
Vaghela, who arrived in Australia as an international student over two decades ago became an MP last year, a first for a first generation migrant of Indian origin in Australia.
“As Indian population increases in Australia we will have more people participating in politics, leading them to Parliament,” she said.
With over 700,000 PIOs, Australian political parties are recognising this major group as potential voters, and thus trying to woo them. The Liberal party promised 2.5 million Australian dollars specifically for Indians in Victoria and Perth.
Vasan Srinivasan, a member of the Multicultural Australia Council and a former Liberal party candidate said the party also promised 100,000 Australian dollars each for Khalsa Punjabi School and Vedanta Society ahead of the elections.
The Labor party too took steps forward towards this vital vote bank. It said that if re-elected it would offer cheaper long stay parent visa scheme, 4.5 million Australian dollars for the Building Multicultural Communities programme and millions more for language school and arts and festival programmes.
Incidentally, Labor Senator from Tasmania Lisa Singh with Indian-Fijian ancestry was the first to enter Australian Parliament, when she won the elections in 2011. She was honoured by the Indian President with a Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award in 2015 during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.