Balvinder Ruby, real estate investor and community leader, shares his thoughts on the election results.
Can you share your thoughts about this election and the results with us?
The policies have been the casualty in the campaign leading up to the elections this time and it has been rather personality centric focussing on ridiculing and caricaturing the other party and their candidates, instead of deliberating on their own policies and putting forth their roadmaps for public scrutiny, about taking the country forward. The expected results were however as clear as writing on a wall and the Coalition was sure to get a comfortable win.
The lead to winning is quite comfortable and the government will not be held hostage anymore by independents or Greens as has happened in the preceding government.
You were campaign manager for Bhupinder Chhibber. Can you tell us about your experience?
There have been instances of Indian Australians nominated for House of Representatives from the major parties, but it has been historic that an Indian Australian getting a ticket for the Senate from one of the two major parties — Labor. This will go a long way and has become a landmark event in history as an acknowledgement of the presence and contribution of the Indian Australian community in Australia.
There has of late been a proliferation of various Indian Australian associations in Australia, particularly Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The multicultural fairs organised by these associations to celebrate various events have been able to draw large crowds and the political leaders of both the parties have taken notice thereof and their leaders vie with each other to show off their presence in these fairs. It was for the first time that the Prime Minister of Australia Ms Julia Gillard graced the occasion showing her presence as chief guest organised by UIA in the year 2012.
To me it seems these parties are on the lookout for some suitable candidates of undoubted and unimpeachable integrity from amongst our community as their candidate and so tap into the vote bank. Many of the community leaders seem to have rising aspirations of stealing the limelight and trying their best to catch their eye by consistently cultivating and harbouring their relationships and connections in the political sphere.
But true to our culture and heritage this community is severely suffering from infighting amongst themselves with no real issues. However, it seems to me the Indian Australians have voted for Bhupinder Chhibber even cutting across the party lines. I personally know plenty of hard core Liberal supporters have voted for Bhupinder Chhibber for the Senate seat.
The voting procedure being tedious for senate a large number of senate votes, more 40%, even going up to 90% in some cases, has been reported to be invalid. During our campaign all of us took lot of pains to educate voters through various forums and social media on the procedure to ensure he gets number against his name and they use the ballot paper below the line.
It will still take two weeks for the senate election to be declared as the counting is a tedious process. Labor as such losing on the primary vote, large number of senate votes getting invalidated and the general wave being against Labor. Let us keep our fingers crossed and wait for the results. Winning or not Indian Australian vote bank will come out to be a force to be reckoned with and will be given an ear in the times to come.
Do you think the new government will mean a changed situation? If so, how? Could you give the reasons you think the Coalition’s rule will be different?
The new government needs to restore the confidence of the business community, particularly the small businesses — the business activity has been nearly dead for a long time now.
Do you think the Coalition is pro-immigrant? Do you think small business stands to gain from this victory? How about Indian education businesses for overseas student?
There is no question of any government being not pro-immigrant, all parties of any hue and colour and any government of any party has to be pro-immigrant. The problem with Labor was that it had left it up to the people smuggler syndicates to decide as to who is coming here whereas the Liberal will have their say as to who comes here. There is no doubt this country needs a larger workforce.
Skilled migration has been and is the best ever option so far and should be expanded and intensified for migration. Study visa is the other route, but the government needs to implement it very carefully and act strongly to stop its misuse. There is no doubt it has learnt a lot and come a long way since the 2010 clampdown on scams.
What do you think the concerns of the Indian community were?
Generally speaking the concerns of Indian community were not any different form the concerns of the mainstream as regards to the lack of jobs and underemployment, losing out on and disappearing of manufacturing base, shutting down of business, introduction of carbon tax and incessant rise of boat arrivals.
However, tightening of 457 visas, reduction in student visas may have been concerns in particular segments of the society but I do not think his has had a bearing on the polling tendency and results.
What do you think the South Asian community should look for from this government?
A large number of young couples, who got their residence through the study visa path, need to call upon their parents to come and tend to their new-born babies so than they can go for work, leaving the care to them as day care is beyond their means. They are looking to the government for permanent visas for their parents, who in many cases are in fact dependent on them in their old days and have spent their lifetime savings on sending them here for education.
The last government has eased the parent visa and started granting long stay visa for their parents which is a much welcome step. Some of them have even organised to get permanent visas for their parents for paying off where they can come without the entitlement to Medicare benefits. But all cannot afford to that. It would be better off to further ease out on this account. This will facilitate to invigorate the economy by keeping the workable population in work. The government should stop the boats altogether, that drains on the valuable resources of the country in terms of money, time and human resources and divert the same resources in facilitating parent visas. It will also help to reduce the load on family day-care facilities as well.
The second major concern of the South Asian community is housing. The government should come with viable and suitable affordable housing policy. As such the first home buyers have been driven out of the market by the exorbitant prices. The government need to nip the building mafia who jack up the prices of new houses beyond reach and gobble up all the first home benefits meant for the buyer. The government should rather discontinue the first home grants for new houses and reintroduce grants for second hand houses only.
Not to say of buying off, even renting is going beyond means of many as the rents have gone up drastically. The government needs to step-in and bring about a semblance of affordability.
Do you think there should have been more Indian candidates in the election?
A large number of students who got residency in the last three years will add up to the vote bank by next elections and will necessitate fielding more candidates form Indian community. Indian community is successively getting political savvy and aspiring to take more proactive and constructive role in the political process and national building. Liberal has been noted to nominate a few Indian candidates in constituencies where the party’s condition has been precarious with almost no chance of getting them elected. Anyway even this gives credence to the fact that these parties have started realizing the necessity, presence and potential of Indian community and their political aspirations.