In the running

By Our Reporter
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Ravneel Chand, Scott Singh, Vinay Orekondy

The Keep Sydney Open Party started as a movement five years ago in opposition to Sydney’s lockout laws, which Deloitte have projected have cost 16 billion dollars a year to Sydney’s nighttime economy, and seen over 400 businesses close in Sydney’s CBD. With Sydney now developing a reputation as a ‘boring’ city, it is becoming an increasingly unattractive destination for tourists and young migrants.

The KSO is running three Indian-Australian candidates, which may be a record for a party other than Labor or Liberal, and certainly in a state election. Those Indian-Australian candidates are Scott Singh (Macquarie Fields) Ravneel Chand (Liverpool) and Vinay Orekondy (Strathfield). The Party is running 21 candidates in the Upper House, and 42 candidates in the Lower House.

The Indian Sun in conversation with the three candidates…

‘We’re a fresh party, a grassroots party, I think the public appreciates that’

Ravneel Chand, KSO’s candidate for Liverpool
⭐️ What convinced you to join the party of your choice?

There was no convincing necessary. I’ve been with Keep Sydney Open since our inception as a community organisation. Following every diplomatic channel, we learnt that not only were we being ignored, but so was the wider community. Uncovering these issues with the government who should be listening and working for us, forming a party and running for office is almost an obligation, one which I am happy to fulfill.

⭐️ What strategy did you use to campaign for votes in the election?

We’re a fresh party, we’re a grassroots party, and we’re not typical politicians. These points also form the basis of our campaigning, and I think the public appreciates having a party who can honestly represent them.

⭐️ What are the three main changes you wish to make if you are to be elected?

I encourage everyone to read the Keep Sydney Open policy outline. The changes we will make reflect the rain we are running. We will remove opportunity and incentive for corrupt dealings and special treatment for special businesses. We will tear up the nanny state and restore civil liberties. We will make government fairer and more open to the public it serves, that’s the reader.

⭐️ Tell us a bit about your background?

I was born in Fiji but grew up in Australia, and have lived in Liverpool for the last 21 years. I have a background in ICT engineering and have worked in the aviation industry. I am extremely passionate about volunteering in my community, with a particularly strong focus on drug and alcohol education. I’m also an avid skier!

⭐️ What do you think are the pressing needs of the Indian Australian community?

Indian-Australians are known to be lovers of live music. It’s how Indian culture is so strongly expressed. If festivals and their service providers are driven out of business, as is currently happening under the government’s festival policy, then it will become infinitely more expensive and difficult for Indian-Australians to put on live music events.

⭐️ There is a lot of disillusionment with politics and politicians in current times—what needs to be done to change that public perception?

I absolutely agree with your complaint. Transparent processes and good governance is the only way to fix it. Put an end to backroom deals, projects without public business case and costing. It must be done to restore and maintain confidence.

⭐️ Who are you inspired by?

I am inspired by Jon von Tetzchner. He is someone who has achieved enormous success in the technology sector (which I work in), with Opera Browser. Under his leadership, Jon took Opera into a global company with more than 750 employees in 13 countries.

Opera was taken over and changed direction. He has now started a new browser, Vivaldi, as an independent business, in the same spirit as the classic Opera, that is, a product focused on and built for the user, and for every user.

‘KSO is fighting for an open world, and I invite all Indian-Australians to join us in that fight’

Vinay Orekondy, KSO’s candidate for Strathfield
⭐️ What convinced you to join the party of your choice?

KSO has inspired a powerful movement in a few short years, with a particularly strong youth following. Activating progressive young people on a massive scale is the key to reinvigorating politics in Australia, so I was inspired to be part of this extraordinary movement. At the same time, I am worried that the misguided moral crusades of the government—whether they be lockout laws or music festival policies—are causing enormous damage to Sydney’s economy and reputation. This party is committed to reversing the damage and making Sydney a creative, entrepreneurial hub once again.

⭐️ What strategy did you use to campaign for votes in the election?

Have as many conversations with people as possible! Politics today is about money and advertising from a distance—we have tried to connect with voters in a very direct and real way, by talking to as many as we can.

⭐️ What are the three main changes you wish to make if you are to be elected?
  • Preserving Sydney as a multicultural, international city in the face of increased racism and anti-immigration politics
  • Repealing the lockout laws which have costed Sydney 17 billion dollars a year, destroyed Sydney’s culture and reputation and are driving away tourists and young global talent
  • Removing excessive regulation and red tape for small businesses, and finding ways to support creative startups
⭐️ Tell us a bit about your background?

I was born in Australia, my parents are from Karnataka and moved here in the late 1970s. My father, Dr. Orekondy, has been very involved with the Indian-Australian Community. I am a lawyer, teacher and mediator. I have worked in international law in the United States and France, and am practicing industrial relations law and mediation here in Australia. I have been very involved in progressive politics for the last four years, and am fighting hard against the rise of extreme conservative politics in both Australia and overseas.

⭐️ What do you think are the pressing needs of the Indian Australian community?

Many Indian-Australians are small business owners. They should be concerned about excessive and needless regulation, which make life more difficult. KSO is dedicated to making life easier for small business owners, and ensuring Sydney has a strong reputation to let us economically flourish.

Indian-Australians should be greatly concerned about the serious rise of racist and anti-immigrant politics across the Western World, including amongst younger generations. Indian-Australians have made great contributions to Australians and integrated very successfully, but are increasingly devalued, and sometimes dehumanised, on account of our origins. It is essential that we fight this alarming trend by reminding people of the value of being open to the world.

This last point has increased in great importance following the horrific attacks in Christchurch. It is clear that we are entering a new era of politics, about the politics of openness vs the politics of closure. Those in favour of closure have proven they are willing to resort to terrorism to make their point. Keep Sydney Open is fighting for an open world, and I invite all Indian-Australians to join us in that fight.

⭐️ There is a lot of disillusionment with politics and politicians in current times—what needs to be done to change that public perception?

People are disillusioned because they don’t feel their voice matters, and that they can’t make a difference. The way to combat this is for people to get involved, in newer parties where new voices are strongly encouraged and make a big difference.

Obviously many will not get involved—so it’s important for new leaders to arise within these new parties, and inspire more people to be involved and make their voice count.

⭐️ Who are you inspired by? 

I’m genuinely inspired by historical figures who have come from relatively humble beginnings and managed to create mass movements through sheer force of willpower and inspiration. Joan of Arc, Nelson Mandela and of course Gandhi were tremendous examples of this.

‘Indian Australians are vital to this State’s economic vibrancy, it is important to recognise this’

Scott Singh, KSO’s candidate for Macquarie Fields
⭐️ What convinced you to join the party of your choice?

KSO embodies my desire to represents the cultural strength of our State. There is such a diverse mix of cultures interwoven into one another that future generations will have the ability to learn and appreciate the values of other cultures. Preserving this is important to me and I wholeheartedly believe Keep Sydney Open is the best party to achieve this.

⭐️ What strategy did you use to campaign for votes in the election?

Sticking to our grassroots core, we have constantly been out on the streets talking to people; everyone from business owners to students, local residents to tourists. This helped inform our policy areas as we wanted to represent the diversity of people throughout NSW.

As a tech savvy party, we have been very vocal and present on social media. This is where a lot of our audience is and makes sense to be one of our key communication vehicles.

⭐️ What are the three main changes you wish to make if you are to be elected?

Protecting NSW’s music and culture: since the lockout laws started in 2014, close to 400 licenced venues have closed down, hitting Sydney on an economic and cultural level. We’re also seeing the same thing happening across the State with our music festivals—an industry worth $1.6B. We will repeal the lockout laws with plans to activate our night-time economy. We’ll also provide better festival guidelines with the help of music industry professionals, medical experts and law enforcement.

24hr transport: People need choice and they need safety. 24hr transport allows people who engage with Sydney’s nightlife to have an accessible and safer option to get home. This includes everyone from a late night music goer to those who work out of traditional trading hours. We will begin a public scoping study into a permanent 24-hour transport network, coordinated across public, private and rideshare operators to make this a reality.

The end of corruption in politics: We’re tired of backdoor deals being made in the interests of a small percentage of the State’s population. Rushing through the demolition of Allianz Stadium before the election and aiming to move the Powerhouse Museum without a well-defined business case are only two examples of something not being right. We’ll push for more transparency in the government so public money is spent towards the best outcomes.

⭐️ Tell us a bit about your background?

I am of mixed Indian and Lebanese background and grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs. I am now a communications professional for a medical not-for-profit and have a background of volunteering with people from disenfranchised backgrounds.

Like many people, music and culture are tied into my identity so it is imperative to me that these are maintained for future generations to enjoy.

⭐️ What do you think are the pressing needs of the Indian Australian community?

Recognition and representation: Indian Australians are vital contributors to this State’s economic and cultural vibrancy, it is important to recognise this rather than be subjected to the racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that is so present in politics.

The widely accepted values of hard-work, a fair go and enjoying life’s pleasures that are tied to being Australian are core to many Indian Australians so it seems dishonest to paint this community in any other light. These are people who put an exceptional effort into the work they do and for it, enjoy a good night out or social gathering.

The more people can see how complimentary Australian and Indian values are, the better we will be as a society.

⭐️ There is a lot of disillusionment with politics and politicians in current times—what needs to be done to change that public perception?

More honestly and transparency from the Government. People have the innate skill to know when they’re being lied to. If the current Government and future politicians want to inspire trusts from the public, they themselves need to be trustworthy.

One of KSO’s core principles is to be ‘open’ which includes being honest and inclusive. We want politics to be accessible for all, as these are the decisions that affect’s people standard of living and wellbeing.

⭐️ Who are you inspired by?

I have been blessed to have strong role models through my life. My mother taught me that hard-work and persistence overcomes adversary. My nani (grandmother) taught me to be compassionate despite how others feel towards you, and that nothing in the world beats a home-cooked meal by the ones who care for you.

 

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