‘Indian community needs full-time care’

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Vic Labor’s appointment of Jasvinder Sidhu as part-time adviser to oversee the needs of one of the largest migrant groups in Australia comes under fire

Victoria’s Labor government is facing criticism for allegedly employing a multicultural advisor in a part-time role, instead of a full-time position.

Jasvinder Sidhu was appointed as an adviser to Daniel Andrews when he was Leader of the Opposition last March.

Speculation has now arisen that the role is only part-time. The Indian Sun contacted the Premier’s office to find out whether Mr Sidhu was currently engaged in a part-time or full-time role, but they did not respond prior to publishing.

“Premier Daniel Andrews has had a part-time adviser both in Opposition and even in Government,” said Nitin Gupta, the first Indian-origin person appointed as a ministerial adviser to former Premier Ted Baillieu, after state elections in November 2010. “Even the Opposition appointment was made quite late in the election cycle, hardly a year before the state elections.”

Gupta said while having a part-time adviser in opposition was understandable due to budget restrictions; there was financial scope to appoint a full-time adviser when a political party was elected into government.

He said the adviser role was important to ensure the government addressed the South Asian community’s “unique” needs and challenges.

“The Indian community is one of the biggest migrant groups in Victoria,” said Mr Gupta. They are spread across suburbs in all directions, many are first generation migrants and they are, “diverse both in terms of occupation and income, and also linguistic and religious backgrounds”, he said.

Mr Gupta pointed out that the local Indian community was yet to have a parliamentarian in state parliament to represent its interests. “So [the] ministerial adviser becomes the default contact point for community for anything and everything to do with the state government,” he said.

Mr Gupta, who quit as adviser in May 2014 to pursue business interests, said the responsibilities of the role were too great to be fulfilled in a part-time capacity.

He said that when he was in the position in a full-time capacity he often had to attend multiple events in different suburbs on the same day, saying: “This is a community that is very active – it loves to celebrate and hold events and these events attract huge crowds. I used to start work at 7:00am in the morning, and on many nights I was home around 10:00pm.”

Mr Gupta said, “Personally I feel that I would not have been able to do justice to this role working in part-time hours. I would have missed out on lot of things had I been working only part-time hours. It was quite a challenging role and I felt any number of hours were not enough to reach out to everyone,” he said.

“Working in part-time hours it would be difficult to engage everyone, and there may be people who would feel that they have been ‘missed out’, and community may not be fully updated with what is going around,” he said.

Goldy Brar, an adviser to former Liberal multicultural affairs minister Matthew Guy, criticised the government, saying it wasn’t doing enough for multicultural communities or engaging with local multicultural organisations.

“Every government should work, not just with the Indian community, they should work with all the multicultural organisations very closely,” Mr Brar said. “They should start taking it seriously, they should but they will not. It doesn’t matter how many advisors they have, Labor’s always going to neglect the Indian community.”

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