Dr Yadu Singh, Sydney, Australia

Welcome to my site!

Let me introduce myself. I am a cardiologist and live in Sydney, Australia.  I am also a Physician or Internal Medicine specialist with MD.

I obtained my basic medical degrees and training [MBBS and MD]  from the prestigious institutions in India. My specialist training as a cardiologist was in Australia which led to FRACP [Fellow of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians].  I work in Sydney, NSW.

In addition to being a doctor, I have a keen interest in any matter which has anything to do with Australia, India and Indian-Australians. I consider myself well-informed about what is happening in Australia, India and the World.

I love my community. I am in the community work and leadership because I enjoy doing it and wish the best for the community. It is definitely not due to any personal benefit.

This Blog is not about medicine. This is all about my political views on variety of issues. I am not a member of any political party. I am a keen observer of politics, however. I am a social/political commentator too.

Australia is my home since 1991. I live in Australia physically, mentally and socially. Australia is my “Karm Bhumi or Place of work”, but India will always remain my “Matra Bhumi or Birth place”, with a significant emotional bonding.

I love Australia and India both. I support Australian cricket team in every match except when they play with the Indian team. When that happens, I become neutral and rejoice with either winning team! [Just kidding!].

I identify myself as an Australian when choosing between Australian and any other identity as I share my value system with Australian value system and Australia is my home. When dealing with regions, religions or languages from India, I am an “Indian” first and anything else second. I love India dearly as it is the place of my birth, but I love Australia even more because it is a great country and it has given me so much. I have no doubt that Australia is a great place to live and work, and Australians are fantastic people. Australia has my total loyalty!

Unlike some, I do not believe that Australia is a racist nation, although I recognise that there are some people who hold racist views, just like any other country of the world. Such people are a tiny minority. Vast majority of Australian people, like any other country, are fair-minded people and are not racist. Systems, rules, Laws, regulations and Governments in Australia are not based on racism or racist agenda.

I wish to see Indian-Australians to be well-integrated among themselves and within Australian general community, both socially and politically. I want to see Indian Australians [only good ones!] in the state and federal parliaments. Most importantly, I want to see much better relations between Australia and India.

I support people of Indian heritage irrespective of which religion or political views they belong to, but  I don’t support those among us who are exploiting our own [students and new immigrants]. I also do not support those who are in the community leadership for personal benefits and do not have any idea or understanding of “conflict of interest”. I believe that this needs to change. It is my belief that it will happen if some from Indian ethnic media stop supporting such leaders.

I am a strong believer and a supporter of the multiculturalism and Multicultural Australia. To put it simply, multiculturalism to me is about freedom to practise and enjoy my own culture, enjoy other cultures, let others enjoy their own cultures and to integrate with the general Australian culture, ethos  and values, which must always remain supreme. I believe in integration, not segregation. I like good and decent people from all sections of the Australian society, irrespective of their race, religion, beliefs, culture or political persuasion.

I have been active  in the community over the years. Details can be found here.  http://tinyurl.com/7opu4tv

I encourage you to go through my Blog and make comments, if necessary. I want to network with you and encourage you to join me via Twitter, Facebook or  this Blog.

I recognise that you may not agree with every thing I say, have said, do, or have done. Irrespective of that, I encourage you to join me in debating on these matters, provided you have something positive to contribute.

I value your views, as long as you identify yourself while making your comments. I respect even those who do not agree with me, provided they are advancing a honestly held view point.

I am keen to network with people from wide spectrum of fields, using face to face interactions and social media.

I can  be reached via  dryadusingh@gmail.com,  www.twitter.com/dryadusingh and www.facebook.com/dryadusingh and Linkedin http://au.linkedin.com/pub/yadu-singh/52/581/864.

 

Thank you for visiting my site.

With best regards

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/Australia

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(Edited 29th Sept, 2014)

Heartless and outrageous: a national inquiry needed to fine-tune surrogacy

Sydney, 9th October, 2014

Reading the newspapers this morning, I feel concerned and perturbed with some issues around surrogacy.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-couple-abandons-surrogate-baby-in-india-20141008-113cmk.html

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/08/calls-national-inquiry-after-another-australian-couple-abandon-surrogate-baby

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/foreign-affairs/former-foreign-ministers-dont-recall-abandoned-india-surrogate-baby/story-fn59nm2j-1227084574732

Only recently, we were told that  baby Gammy was abandoned by an Australian couple in Thailand, because he has Down’s syndrome. His twin sister, who was healthy, was brought to Australia. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2014/s4089822.htm

In the currently reported case, which has been investigated by ABC, and reported extensively, an agency arranged a surrogate mother in India, who gave birth to twins in 2012. Australian family took only one child, based on the gender, but did not bring the other child to Australia.

They did this, despite efforts from Australian High Commission in India, which tried to persuade the couple to bring both children to Australia. They even delayed issuing visa to encourage the couple to change their minds. It has been reported that an Australian politician pressured Australian High Commission to help this couple. Former Australian Foreign Affairs ministers, Bob Carr and Kevin Rudd, have denied that they were involved in pressuring Australian Consular officials.

Who is this politician then? I think Australians deserve to know his/her name.

http://www.surrogacyaustralia.org/about-us/general-info-on-overseas-surrogacy link provides how surrogacy operates, and is conducted.

I have no doubt that surrogacy plays a very important role in helping childless parents.

Family Court Chief Justice, Diana Bryant, has been quoted that the abandoned child was passed on to another family and money possibly changed hands to facilitate this. She thought this amounted to “child trafficking”.

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge, John Pascoe, has asked for a national inquiry into surrogacy.

I am unable to understand how parents abandon children born out of surrogacy arrangements. These children are their own.

I am also concerned about gender or the health of the child being used as a factor in this decision. The question is who is responsible for the abandoned child. The answer to this is that it can not be the surrogate mother unless she makes an informed decision to agree to it by keeping the baby with her. Commissioning parents must be the ones who should be responsible for looking after the kid (s) born out of surrogacy arrangements.

It is not only a moral issue, but it clearly is a legal issue too.

A national inquiry is indeed needed to fine-tune and streamline surrogacy in Australia.

Dr Yadu Singh

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Parramasala: politics and beyond

Sydney, 8th October, 2014

Parramasala is a key festival, organised by the NSW Government. Held in Parramatta, the heart of Western Sydney, it is in its fifth year. Starting out as an Australian festival of South Asian arts and culture, it is now very multicultural. Performances include those from the cultures of South America, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Europe, besides the Indian subcontinent.

According to the Parramasala organisers, 44 per cent of the performances are from the Indian subcontinent backgrounds, and 36 per cent of these are from India, while the other 56 per cent are from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. There are more than 20 nationalities and cultures represented at Parramasala 2014. Importantly, 96 per cent of the Parramasala performances are free events, which is impressive and commendable.

While Parramatta precincts, especially Prince Alfred Park and Riverside Theatre, will continue to be the centre of the festival, Harris Park, the Little India of Sydney, will be included for the first time. Harris Park Bollywood Block “Curry On” party on Saturday, 18 October, will have a parade, cultural performances from a stage in the roundabout of Wigram and Marion Streets, and food carts, serving delicacies by popular restaurants of Harris Park. This should definitely be an added attraction for those attending Parramasala.

The Parramasala board is ably chaired by Dr Harry Harinath and steered by Di Henry, an internationally renowned producer and director of events, exhibitions, operations, media campaigns and marketing. It is in able and competent hands, and can’t go wrong.

Looking at the program list, one cannot but admire the variety and quality. Whether you like street parades, Bollywood performances, Indian cultural dances, comedy, Flamenco dances, Belly dances, Kurdish music, African performances or Pacific Island dances, Parramasala has it all. Really, what more can one ask for from a festival?
Shiamak Davar group will be performing, and a Qawwali event is included too. Popular drama “Kanjoos” (Miser), directed by talented Saba Zaidi Abdi is part of it too.

The South Asian Film component will showcase talent from South Asian film professionals.

It is clear that Parramasala 2014 is bigger and definitely better than before.

Organized by Destination NSW, and Partnered by Parramatta Council, Parramasala is destined to achieve its due place in the cultural calendar of NSW.

That Parramasala is an important event for the Indian sub-continent community was evidenced by some social media commentary about who was invited and who was not invited for the launch of Parramasala at Harris Park on 27 August, 2014.
Its importance was further established when two Indian community newspapers had a debate over the festival. I don’t intend to comment about any controversy, nor do I want to take sides in a slanging match.

I will, however, say this: Parramasala is essentially a Govt of NSW event, supported by the Parramatta Council. They do have the right to select the board and the program director. They are the ones who have the rightful authority to organise it the way they want to do it. Parramasala is neither a pure nor an exclusively Indian sub-continental event. It is much beyond that, and it must stay that way.

While it is always important to be inclusive and consult as many stake-holders and interested parties as possible, it is never going to be possible to consult everyone who might consider themselves stake-holders. In any case the Parramasala board is accessible to all who wish to be heard; we can write to them or call them with our suggestions and feedback.

Similarly, it is never going to be possible to invite everyone for any event. Parramasala is no exception. Parramasala cannot invite every single South Asian business in Sydney (there are reportedly thousands of South Asian businesses); nor is it practical for all the community groups and associations to be invited for key events. We need to be pragmatic and realistic.

We need to see the bigger picture.

If I have to say anything more on it, I will say that Parramasala Board should make a list of people it should consult and a list of people it should invite for key events. This list should be based on some objective parameters, not the “liking” or “disliking” of some of the people who are associated with Parramasala. Networking ability and reach in the community should probably be part of such parameters. I could not quite understand why talented film professional Ana Tiwary was not invited. After all, Ana works with ABC, and in fact her acclaimed documentary on Indian students was screened in Parramasala last year. There is definitely scope for fine-tuning the networking and invitation lists for any Govt-assisted or organised event, using objective criterion.

Parramasala was initially launched by NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, in 2010, soon after the Indian student issue had made headlines in India and Australia, and just a few months before the NSW state election in March 2011. It attracted a lot of attention, especially from the Indian sub-continental communities. The media too covered it prominently. There was, however, some uncertainty about its continuation last year, until the NSW Govt finally decided to continue funding it. In fact, the launch of Parramasala last year was quite disorganised, and even the Parramatta Mayor, John Chedid, was not in the loop, solely due to politics of people who pulled strings in the previous NSW Govt. John Chedid has been a strong supporter of Parramasala in general, and a strong protagonist in taking part of Parramasala to Harris Park. I might add here that most of the members from the Parramatta Mayor’s advisory committee (myself included) on Parramasala were not even aware of the launch last year. “Favoritism” was the only criterion for last year’s launch invitations. It was childish, and not a smart move by any means.

Parramasala, which started out as a festival of South Asian arts and culture as its focus, has now become a truly multicultural event. Even though it is not a necessarily bad move, I believe South Asia must continue to be its focus. I suggest that efforts must be made to have at least 60 per cent of the performances from South Asian background.

Parramasala has all the ingredients of a truly popular festival in a successful multicultural state like NSW, if we all work together. Taking the cue from what Prime Minister Tony Abbott said recently, we all need to be part of “Team NSW for Parramasala” led by the Premier and Chair of Board of Parramasala. “Team NSW for Parramasala” obviously will include NSW Govt led by Premier Mike Baird, Destination NSW, Community Relations Commission, Indian sub-continent communities and sub-continental media.

May I also suggest to members of the Indian sub-continent community and the media to not worry about what Parramasala is giving them personally, but ask what they are giving to Parramasala to make it the most successful event this year and beyond?

If I were running Parramasala, or had the ears of Parramasala Board, and they were listening to me, I will do everything to ask as many people of the Indian sub-continent community and the media, and supporters of multiculturalism in NSW, to join the campaign to not only promote it through their social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also to make sure they attend the event from 17-19 October, 2014.

The Parramasala logo will be in my profile picture on Facebook and Twitter, starting 10 October. I urge everyone in my network, and in my friends’ network, to do something similar to get the word out.

Parramasala is a festival for me, my family and friends, and I, like them, will be attending, and promoting, it with enthusiasm.

Published in Indian Sun news magazine http://www.theindiansun.com.au/parramasala-2014-politics-and-beyond/

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Dr Yadu Singh is a Sydney based cardiologist and the President of Indian Australian Association of NSW. He is an active member of the community. He is also active in social media and writes regularly in his Blog http://www.yadusingh.wordpress.com More details of Parramasala: http://www.parramasala.com

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Sort out the impasse created by Indian Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act to accelerate nuclear energy production

Kudankulam Atomic power plant Associated Press Pic

Kudankulam Atomic power plant Associated Press Pic

Sydney, 3rd October, 2014

India wanted and projected the goals to have 20,000 MWe from nuclear energy by 2020 and 60,000 MWe by 2030. With the impasse created due to Civil Liability For Nuclear Damage Act 2010, the target for 2020 has been scaled down to about 11080 MWe. Indigenously produced Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) can not produce electricity in sufficient amounts when compared to what can be done with imported Light Water Reactors (LWRs). No wonder that India is producing only 5780 MWe from Nuclear energy currently.

With Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2008, and waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), India was able to get rid of two decades-old embargo on nuclear trade, which was imposed on it after 1998 nuclear tests. India was expected to sign and ratify Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) and enact a Civil nuclear liability Act, which was commensurate with CSC, to facilitate importation of Nuclear plants/reactors and components. India signed CSC in 2010, just a few months before the Nuclear Liability Act was passed, but has not ratified it as yet.

Nuclear Civil Liability Act (Civil Liability For Nuclear Damage Act) was passed in Indian Parliament in 2010.  The Act has now become a major stumbling block for the suppliers of Nuclear energy plants and components, irrespective of where they are from. As a result, no supplier-domestic or international- is willing to supply such plants to India.

India has deals with many countries for the importation of Uranium, but no deal with suppliers of Plants or components to use that Uranium.

Its result is that Nuclear energy production has not had the projected growth. This is affecting Indian economic growth.

This needs to change.

All the Conventions-Vienna, Brussels and Paris, and CSC have one common stipulation, and that is about absolute exclusion of any liability of suppliers for any nuclear accident. Liability lies exclusively with the Operator of Nuclear Plants, and the Operator does not have a recourse to sue the Supplier. Indian Nuclear Liability Act  has given this recourse to the Operators to sue the Suppliers for the liability if there was any latent or patent defect in the Plant and/or substandard service. On the surface, this does not look unusual but this provision clearly violates CSC provisions.

If India ratifies CSC, which it had promised many years ago, right to recourse provision will become null and void. USA does not accept validity of any provision of any Liability law if it violates CSC provisions. If India gives this exemption to USA suppliers like Westinghouse Electric or GE Electric, then it will have to do the same to French and Russian suppliers.

Section 17 b and Section 46 of Civil Liability For Nuclear Damage Act 2010, which give right to recourse for the Operators to sue the Suppliers and also the right to victims to  use provision of Indian Tort law, are in breach of CSC provisions. Not only the operators can use right to recourse and sue Suppliers for the loss, victims can also sue suppliers under provisions of section 46.

Indian Liability to the operator is capped at $1500 Crore ($250 million), which is a relatively small amount to compensate damage from a nuclear accident. Many other countries have much bigger, or even unlimited, amount as the cap for such damage liability.

There is no doubt that new Govt in New Delhi needs to tackle this impasse quickly and reach a mutually acceptable formula. This could be via an amendment to bring Indian Liability Act in line with CSC or via some other mechanism like well-defined insurance package to the suppliers from some insurance companies.

India needs pragmatism to remove the impasse to have sufficient nuclear energy. Previous Indian Govt led by Dr Manmohan Singh had to accept amendments in the original draft of the Civil Liability For Nuclear Damage Act 2010 Bill, simply because it did not have sufficient goodwill or strength to overcome the opposition in the Parliament, but current Govt led by Mr Narendra Modi should be able to tackle this matter because it is not compromised with coalition compulsions.

India needs energy, which can be produced easily, speedily, and does not cause harmful effects to the environment. To do so, it needs nuclear reactors from USA, France and Russia. They do not want to sell these reactors/plants until Suppliers’ liability issues from Section 17 b of Civil Liability For Nuclear Damage Act 2010 is sorted out amicably.

Dr Yadu Singh

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G20 Finance ministers meeting in Cairns, 20-21 Sept, 2014 made some very important policy decisions!

24rd Sept, 2014

G20 meeting of Finance ministers and Central Banks Governors on 20-21 Sept, 2014 at Cairns was an important meeting. It made many policy commitments, which, if implemented, will help the world economy significantly.

G20 is the group of 20 important nations comprising of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

It has the 85% of the global GDP and 75% of the global trade.

This G20 meeting was chaired by Joe Hockey, Australian Treasurer. Indian Trade minister, Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman attended the meet. Reserve Bank of India Governor, Mr Raghuram Rajan also attended it. Finance minister, Arun Jaitley, could not attend it due to illness.

It has put out a communique at the end of the meet. Link is here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-2763870/TEXT-Communique-G20-Finance-Ministers-Central-Bankers-meeting.html

Salient outcome of the meeting:

  • More than 900 policy initiatives, most of them new
  • plans/policies to increase global GDP by 2% by 2018
  • Plans/policies add $US2 trillion to global economy by 2018
  • Plans to create millions of jobs
  • Plans/policies to boost infrastructure investment, with creation of database to match quality projects and investors
  • Labour market reform
  • Policies to curb tax avoidance and evasion ie  “black money”

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) action plan requires a commitment to finalising all action items in 2015. G20 meeting endorsed the finalised global Common Reporting Standard for automatic exchange of tax information on a reciprocal basis, providing an ability to tackle and deter cross-border tax evasion.  Information exchange on this will begin automatically between each other and with other countries by 2017,  subject to the completion of necessary legislative procedures.

Black money is a significant problem for many countries. India is a particular victim, but is not alone in this category.  Curbing black money and bringing it back should help the national economies and their people. It is reported (http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/03/one-g20-cracking-down-corruption) that “black money” costs poorer countries a trillion dollars annually.

These policy decisions are good, but only time will tell whether each country implements them fully. Past experience suggests that the implementation of such decisions is less than desired.

Based on information from G20 Information Centre of University of Toronto (http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/), Australia implemented only 69% of its commitments, China 50%, and Saudi Arabia only 47%, after last year’s G20 summit in St Petersburg. Obviously, it will be better if these numbers are in the range of 90-100% bracket.

IMF-OECD expertise will be available to the member nations to monitor implementation of these policy commitments.

G20 Leaders’ summit is due to be held in Brisbane on 15-16th Nov, 2014. Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi is attending this meeting. This will be the first visit to Australia by an Indian PM in the last 26 years. Late Sri Rajiv Gandhi was the last Indian PM who visited Australia.

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney, Australia

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Chinese investment in India is good, but border dispute needs to be settled soon!

Sydney, Sunday, 14th September, 2014

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is visiting India this week. He will be in India on 17th -18th September 2014. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and President Jinping have already met at a BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit recently.

(Pictures from Google and PTI)

PM Modi has had a very successful visit to Japan a couple of days ago. He shares great equations with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. Japan has decided to invest $35 billion in India over next few years. They have taken responsiblity for  Mumbai-Ahmedabad fast train too.

China wants to beat the investment from Japan, which is not difficult to understand due to geo-political competition between China and Japan at play presently. India is obviously the beneficiary, but that does not mean India should do away with its trusted friends. It is known that China is uncomfortable and concerned with India’s growing strategic proximity with USA and Japan. This mammoth investment is largely due to this factor.

Reports say that China wants to invest between $100-300 billion in India over next few years. How much is this investment exactly will be clear when it is announced officially.  It is known that China has $3.95 trillion cash reserve, of which it wishes to invest $500 billion in outbound investment. China has invested only $400 million in India so far. Chinese investment in Railways, manufacturing and infrastructure should help speed up the pace of Indian economy and growth.

image

Chinese investment in India should be welcome, and it indeed is a welcome news. It addresses to some extent the trade deficit of $35 billion against India out of a total $66.4 billion bilateral trade last year.

India however needs to impress upon Chinese leadership that their investment must be coupled with satisfactory settlement of border dispute at a faster speed and their open and active support for India’s permanent membership in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC). It does not make sense that India is not a permanent member of UNSC today.

China also needs to stop supporting anti-India nations in our neighbourhood to create additional, and necessary, goodwill in India. It makes all the sense if you analyse the spectrum of mutual benefits from an investment of this magnitude. No one can deny that there is some significant trust deficit between India and China, which gets reinforced due to actions of China or actions from its client states. India needs to keep the history in its minds. I am happy to note that the present Indian Govt, keeping history in mind, has decided to develop the frontier area with infrastructure in all forms and manners.

China and India are both great civilisations. They are also great powers in their own rights. They can co-exist, and there is enough space for them both, but they need to be mindful of their respective geo-political and security imperatives, while still operating within the established international norms and principles.

It is safe to say that a lot more will need to be done to tackle the “trust deficit”, and that money alone, although welcome, will not be sufficient to remove the existing “trust deficit” between China and India!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Congratulation, Dr Harry Harinath, New Chair, NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC)!

Sydney, Thursday, 11th September, 2014

Dr Harry HarinathDr Harry Harinath has been appointment by the NSW Government to be the new Chair of the Community Relations Commission (CRC) yesterday.

Congratulations, Dr Harry Harinath!

Dr Harinath is a prominent Australian of Indian heritage, and is a well-respected medical doctor.

He has been a respected member of Medical profession for 40 years. He was part of NSW Cricket for 30 years. He served NSW Cricket as its director for many years. He has been a commissioner of the CRC for the last 2 years. He is the current Chair of the Board for Parramasala festival – Australian Festival of South Asian arts & culture.

I, as a member of Indian Australian community, as well as a member of medical profession in NSW, welcome Dr Harinath’s appointment.

I have no doubt that he will take CRC to newer heights, with his consultative, non-confrontationist, helpful, encouraging and inclusive style of functioning.

With Harry as the Chair of CRC, multiculturalism in NSW is in safer and capable hands! 

We look forward to working with him for the interests of our community.

Finally, thanks and congrats are also due to NSW Government -Premier, Mike Baird and Minister for communities, Victor Dominello, for making an outstanding choice for the position of new CRC Chair!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Politics, political parties and Indian Australian community!

 

Sydney, 1st Sept, 2014Australian Flag

There are over 150,000 people of Indian heritage in NSW and 500,000 people Australia wide. Ours is an increasingly important community politically. In Western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, there are constituencies, where Indian Australians constitute more than 10% of total votes. Our votes can decide the outcome in many marginal seats.

It is no wonder that political parties are reaching out to Indian Australian community actively. It started with Parliamentary friends of India during previous NSW Govts led by Nathan Rees/Kristina Keneally, followed by Liberal Friends of India formed about one year ago. Similar groupings are in existence federally and Victoria in one or the other form.

While there is no doubt that we are important electorally, the thrust from political parties has been to deal with us only symbolically, not substantially. Except for the recent pre-selection of an Indian Australian in Seven Hills seat, there is no sign of any efforts from any political party to preselect anyone from our community for any of safe seats. If any of us is ever preselected, it is generally for those seats where there is no chance of us winning. ALP’s Harmohan Walia contesting a safe Liberal seat of Mitchell some years ago and inclusion of Bhupinder Chhibber in the Senate list from ALP last year, albeit at a lower and unwinnable spot, are two classical examples. There was no chance of them winning. Similar examples are there from Liberal side too. These are examples of tokenism.

Over the years, our community dynamics have been changing. Indians have been migrating to Australia in big numbers. India has been the top source of migrants over the last few years. Many of us have been joining political parties too, but still not in sufficient numbers.

Prior to 1990s, Indians were big on supporting ALP. Smart marketing and outreach by ALP created an impression that ALP was more favourable and friendly to ethnic migrants. Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, were liked by Indians and other ethnic communities. Liberal Party leader, John Howard, before he became the Prime Minister, had the baggage of his comment against Asian migration in 1980s, which created some significant concerns regarding his stand towards ethnic migrants. It lingered on even after he admitted that his statement was a mistake. Unfortunately, this impression became further re-enforced in our minds when we saw the excessively harsh commentary, actions and sanctions by Australia against India after 1998 nuclear tests. Indian army officers were expelled from Australia overnight. The tone and the contents of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s statements were particularly terse. It created a serious damage to India-Australia relations. Things changed quite favourably for Liberal party though when PM John Howard declared that Australia would sell Uranium to India in 2007, while ALP persisted with its policy of ban to sell Uranium to India, until Martin Ferguson and PM Gillard led campaign to reverse the ban succeeded at the end of 2012.

Today, there are almost equal supporters in our community for ALP and Liberal Party, although ALP supporters may have an edge. This support has been determined by variety of factors, which did include Uranium issue in the past. With changed dynamics of our community now however, economic management, policy on asylum seekers and business-friendly policies are playing a big role in our attitudes towards political parties. Quite a good number of our people are in small businesses. Younger members of our community are driven more by market economy than socialist ideas. After all, India has been an open and market-based economy since 1991, which has exposed our younger people, before they migrated, to market and open economy.

ALP and our community: There is a significant contingent of ALP supporters in our community, based largely in Western suburbs. They take part in ALP-supporting events through the year and during elections. ALP Premiers used to take some community members with them while taking trade delegations to India, thus giving an impression of inclusion. Subcontinent Friends of Labor was an initiative from NSW ALP HQ, which was provided full support by ALP top leaders to make it known and popular in the community. Grants to various temples and community groups was one of the strategy to win support. This has its advantages and disadvantages. This group is not as strong now as it was during ALP Govts in NSW and Canberra for obvious reasons. Its biggest drawback was its attempts to go against some sub-continental candidates like Susai Benjamin, as part of Right faction Vs Left faction battle. This was seen too during Bill Shorten Vs Anthony Albanese ALP leadership contest last year. This was not smart by any means, because it weakened and divided ALP members from Indian sub-continent significantly. On the positive side, ALP at least in NSW has a better strategy to communicate its stands and policies by emails to not only ALP members, but also other community members who are not ALP members. As Indians constitute a very big proportion of Indian sub-continental people in NSW and since interests of India are quite different from interests of other countries in the Indian sub-continent, it is preferable, in my view, to go for Labor Friend of India. Utopian socialist idea of Indian sub-continental unity or brotherhood is a myth, impractical and is never going to work.

Liberal Party and our Community: Prior to 2011 NSW State elections, then Leader of Opposition, Barry O’Farrell, was seen literally in every community event, but it changed dramatically once Liberal Party formed the Govt. Premier, Barry O’Farrell chose to rely only on one Indian who, in effect, had hardly any networking within the community, and did not help Liberals get many votes. Until election, he was virtually unknown. Indians were perplexed why he was being promoted on behalf of Liberal Govt in NSW. Premier O’Farrell ignored even Australia India Business Council (AIBC) when visiting India with trade delegations. Our community formed a clear and wide-spread perception that Indian community was actively distanced from NSW Govt either as a default or design. It indeed caused a substantial ill-feeling towards Liberal Party and NSW Govt. This was conveyed to local MPs, but they were either unwilling or, more likely, unable to do anything about it due to the fact that everything was driven from the former Premier’s office. Current Premier, Mike Baird, is much more inclusive, which is a welcome change and is already generating some goodwill. A lot more however needs to be done to overcome the damage. Time only will tell whether there is a real directional change under current Premier. Liberal Friends of India (LFI) is a good initiative but it has lost its charm or the enthusiasm lately. It needs to be reinvigorated. There was a time when  we saw one more body of the similar type with the name of  “Liberal friends of the subcontinent”  doing some events in Western Sydney. This created some considerable confusion. I am not sure what is IRS status now. LFI also needs participation from top ministers and must allow membership of even those community members who are Liberal-minded but are not members of Liberal party. It should not just be a mechanism to raise funds for the party. Its Chairman should be a key Minister with Executive Committee comprising of key Liberal-inclined community members, irrespective of their Liberal Party membership status. LFI needs to be reformed and relaunched.

Parramasala, an initiative of Keneally NSW Labor Govt, is indeed a good idea, and I am happy to see that current Liberal NSW Govt has decided to continue funding it. I went to its launch only a few days ago, and noticed things which could have been done better. Ministerial Consultative Committee (MCC) for Indian community has been dissolved, like other MCCs, but there is a need to have some form of Advisory Body from our community for regular consultations, discussions and interactions between our community and the Govt.

NSW Friends of India: Like USA and some European countries, there is a need for such groups in Australia. It should be a bipartisan phenomenon, with key ministers, MPs, journalists, businesses and community members, with year-round activities involving lectures, debates and discussions. A group like this may not get enthusiastic support from the Govt, but we, as the community, should push for it. After all, there are bonafide pro-India people in all political parties, businesses and media.

Our community’s participation: It is also true that many of us do not join political parties in sufficient numbers. This should change. Australia is our country too, and we ought to take part in its processes in all shapes and forms. We get a chance to do so pretty actively if we are part of political parties. Only then, we will be able to go for pre-selections and elections to reach Parliaments. After all, quota system is not a good idea generally, and it is better to compete fairly and frankly. If we are not inclined to join main political parties, we can consider forming or being a part of issues-based groups like “Voice of the West” focusing on Western suburbs to advance our political interests and ideas.

While at it, it will not be out of place to point out that we need to interact, collaborate and network with  members irrespective of their party or political affiliations and inclinations, when it comes to our common interests for the community. Just because someone is a member of ALP or Liberal party does not mean he or she is an enemy for those who are in opposing camps. There is no need or justification to badmouth or run an undermining campaign only because of someone’s political affiliation or inclination.

An edited version of my write-up was published by The Indian Sun newspaper recently. (http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/australian-political-parties-indian-community/)

 

Dr Yadu Singh

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