Labor for ties with communities from Indian subcontinent: Shorten

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Leader of Opposition Bill Shorten recently made the start of his Western Sydney tour with a visit to the Swami BAPS Swaminarayan Temple at Rosehill. The visit highlighted the multicultural face of the Australian Labor Party. Many members of the subcontinental community attended the event.

Shorten was accompanied by Michelle Rowland, Julie Owens, Sam Dastyari, Harish Velji and Aisha Amjad.

At the temple Shorten met the committee members and the youth of who took the MPs for a tour of the temple and explained the deities, the activities and the kitchen.

Later he met with journalists from the Indian media and discussed the issues that affect the community. This was at the Celebrations restaurant.

We are interested to gain an understanding of issues affecting Australians who have got a background from the subcontinent, said Shorten.

Speaking to the people present on the occasion, Shorten said: “The proposition that I’m most interested to discuss through you to members of the communities in Australia is that this budget is a very unfair budget. It’s a big thing for people to come from one country, to pack up and move their families to another country but I think part of the contract Australia has with its citizens is that we have good quality health care, good education, a good safety net where people can get ahead but no one gets left behind. Of course it’s clear in Australia that we don’t have some of the same social divides as other parts of the world. That’s one of the attractions of Australia that if you work hard in Australia, you can to a large extent dictate your future.

“The budget is cracking down on education funding, which is important. Every Australian knows that parents of children who are of subcontinental descent are most keen to see their kids do well and that education is the number one priority. Labor’s going to oppose changes which make it harder for kids to get to university,” he said.

“We’re going to also stand up for our health care system. Australians already pay a Medicare levy, so they are already paying for their health care. We don’t want people to be discouraged from going to the doctor by GP tax.

“We’re also terribly conscious that when it comes to pensions that you’ve got pensioners who are being scared by the fact that the Abbott Government wants to effectively cut the real value of pensions.

“But when it comes to multiculturalism too, this Abbott Government is taking Australia down the wrong path. It’s not just the budget, but for people trying to get their parents to come here [the proposed changes to visa regulations] will make things hard for families with parents back in their home countries.

“The government has also cut back on grants to multicultural organisations. As you know very well, the volunteer groups and the semi-volunteer groups within the various communities of people who come from the subcontinent make life just that little bit easier to work out in Australia.”

Shorten said Labor is committed to deepening the party’s ties with India and with all the countries of the subcontinent.

“I’m looking forward to regular dialogue with all the [community] organisations here. But you can rest assured that the Labor party is strong, and I’m grateful for the support I received from Labor members of Sub Continent background.”

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Published in Indian diaspora magazine, Australia

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