Politics & Beyond: ‘Australia has voted for a change’

By Prachi Panchal
Nitin Gupta

Prachi Panchal catches up with former ministerial advisor, and Aussie expat Nitin Gupta, to talk about few recent political developments in Australia, India, USA, and beyond. Gupta became the first Australian Indian to be appointed as full time Ministerial Advisor with the Victorian government in December 2010. Since around 2018, he has been living mostly in Atlanta, USA running multiple businesses.

■ What do you think about the results of recently concluded federal elections in Australia? In your opinion what are the major takeaway lessons from the result?

Well, the Liberal National Coalition governments had got three terms, and three different individuals as Prime Minister. So they had their fair time under the sun. They were holding on to government on a very thin majority.

The expectations of voters do keep changing. The Covid pandemic has changed the world in lot of ways. There are new challenges. And majority of Australia has voted for a change.

In terms of takeaway lessons from the results—I think the loss of ALP heavy weight Hon. Kristina Keneally in the seat of Fowler, to a local Independent female candidate of multicultural background should send a clear message to major parties that parachuting a heavyweight may not work, even when the swings are generally going in your favour.

In terms of few heavy weight Liberals losing in Victoria—I remember my former boss and Liberal strategist Tony Nutt always reminding the candidates. You need to be a winning local member first to become a Minister. You need to spend enough time in electorate and be aware of the aspirations of your voters. You may be a good performing Minister, but if you fail to win the trust of your electorate, you may no longer be a minister despite your exceptional performance in the frontbench role.

I remember my former boss Hon. Ted Baillieu always being there for his local electorate, despite serving in demanding roles like State Opposition Leader, and later Victorian Premier. You should not be out of touch with your local electorate, or you risk losing your seat.

And what would be your predictions for upcoming Victorian state elections in November 2022? Do you think your former boss Hon. Matthew Guy is in a winning position?

One major difference between Federal and Victorian scene is that Premier Daniel Andrews is sitting on a very comfortable majority.

So it’s going to be a pretty tough task for my former boss Hon. Matthew Guy. But elections can throw up surprises, and setbacks can take place. Mr Guy would definitely be giving a pretty good fight I think.

And what do you have to say about recently concluded elections in Uttar Pradesh, India?

In Uttar Pradesh, the scenario was that the ruling party was united while the Opposition was divided. With a divided Opposition, it was a reasonably smooth ride for BJP led by Yogi Adityanath.

His tough on crime approach seems to have been appreciated by the majority of voters.

What do you think about the recently signed Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA)?

Finally it has been signed, and I am quite excited about it. They had been talking about it since 2014. It’s taken around eight years to reach an interim agreement. Three Prime Ministers changed in Australia during that duration.

As a Liberal Advisor of Indian origin I feel honoured to have made few contributions and suggestions towards development of the AI-ECTA policies.

At one of the breakfast events in Cranbourne that I had attended with former PM Hon Tony Abbott in early 2018, he had quoted that he believed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India could have been finalised a lot earlier had he continued in the role of Australian PM.

Reference Link (https://www.theindiansun.com.au/2018/02/22/fta-india-finalised-2015-tony-abbott/)

Obviously certain sectors appear to be clear winners. I think Australian Wines would be one of the products that would benefit immensely and the AI-ECTA should help the Australian wines capture a bigger share of growing Indian market.

What is the major difference you have found between Australian and American politics?

There is lot more money involved in American politics. Recently Georgia probably ended up having the world’s most expensive elections ever to be held.

Australian politics specially the recently concluded federal elections has seen lot more money getting involved, but it’s no way near the amounts that are spent in American elections.

What are the major differences you have found between Indian community in Australia and USA?

In Australia, the Indian community is generally a lot younger, it’s relatively a new or recent migrated community compared to Indian community in USA. And in terms of income, the Australian Indian community probably needs a bit more time to catch up with American Indian community.

In USA, there’s lot more money in the Indian community—they are earning a lot more, but they don’t have that much time. To have a strong community feeling you need spare time. That community feeling is not as strong in USA when compared to Australia, as I feel in Australia Indians do have little bit more time for building and enjoying community relationships.

Finally, few Victorian Indian origin individuals that are active in politics have been in news for the reasons that they would not ideally like? Your take on that?

My simple message to them is that there was life before politics, and there is life after politics. They are all capable and talented people, who can excel in various other fields of life. If politics is not working out smoothly, they may wish to explore other fields where they can excel perhaps?

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