Vic elections 2018: Some Indian links

PREETI JABBAL talks to a few Indian-origin candidates in the upcoming state elections

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TARANG CHAWLA
Independent Candidate, South East Metro Region (Legislative Council) 

ARNAV SATI
Independent Candidate, Tarneit Electorate (Legislative Assembly)

VIROSH PERERA
Liberal Candidate, Dandenong

NILDHARA GADANI
ALP Candidate, Eastern Metro region (Legislative Council)

PRATIBHA SHARMA
Independent Candidate, Werribee 

NEELAM RAI DHINGRA
Liberal Party Candidate, Northern Metropolitan Region (Legislative Council)

What convinced you to join the party of your choice?

Tarang Chawla: I am an independent. I do not belong to one of the major parties. I am not affiliated with Labor, Liberal or the Greens. The reason I maintain political independence is because problem solving issues which impact on people’s lives is more significant than towing the party line.

The structure of the major parties does not allow politicians to represent the best interests of the people. It demands they support the party line, to the detriment of the voting public. The voting public are not sheep, but the people who represent them lack vision. They are busy arguing with each other instead of doing the work.

I have campaigned to end violence against women since my sister Nikita was murdered in 2015. In the last three weeks, 11 women have been murdered in Australia. It will take courage and leadership from government to change this awful statistic, which affects our Indian community.

That leadership is missing and that is why I am running for public office.

One thing which sticks out is the lack of Indian-origin politicians. Although Indian-origin candidates sometimes run for one of the major parties, they are usually preselected in unwinnable seats. I am the first Indian-origin independent.

Arnav Sati: I am contesting as an independent candidate to stand against the neglect that Tarneit electorate faces by both sides of politics as it is a safe Labor seat. There is a strong need to make Tarneit marginal, so that we get adequate funding to address and resolve local infrastructure issues that are worsening into a major crisis. The electorate has also witnessed both a rorting MP and a parachuted candidate contesting from Labor party.

Virosh Perera: I have been working as volunteer with the Liberal party for long time I think it’s the right time for me to commit the party. I love making a difference in the lives of emerging communities, So this is an great honour and this  will give me opportunity represent the community in the policy level.

Nildhara Gadani: I have been working in the community for many years. My passion is working for women’s empowerment, especially in a migrant context. I met with many people who guided me through my journey. Jasvinder Sidhu, who is an active member of the Australian Labor Party encouraged me to set up a women’s association and invited me to various political forums. I really connected with Labor policies and in 2016 with encourage from Jasvinder and many others, I ran for City of Whitehorse council elections. I received lots of assistance and guidance from Labor in my community projects, and it was a gradual decision to join the ALP.

Pratibha Sharma: Being aware that the major political parties that represent the community are only seeking outcomes that are in the best interest of the party they are representing and not necessarily the people. I feel that by running as an independent, I can voice the concerns of the community better and not feel pressured by party motives. An independent candidate like myself is representing the public and voicing their concerns at a higher level. Residents of Werribee need to have their issues heard loud and clear and together we want actions taken to address these concerns. The only agenda I have is to represent the Werribee community and make it the most liveable suburb.

Neelam Rai Dhingra: I joined the Liberal Party because I wanted to put my values into action. I want to advocate for real people in my community and am fighting to provide a good and honest government for all Victorians.

Why are you seeking public office? What are you trying to achieve?

Tarang Chawla: I am running for the Upper House so if elected I will represent a region, not just a local seat. As I am an Independent and not affiliated with either Labor or Liberal, my focus will be on specific policy issues and holding government accountable for what they say, rather than simply letting them make empty promises which seems to be their current specialty.

My primary focus will be on addressing community safety for the area and ending violence against women. I have publicly maintained from the outset of my announcement to run as an Independent that if I am elected to the upper house, then I will work with whichever party forms government to govern for the good of all Victorians.

What I offer this community that no other candidate can offer, is that my foremost duty remains to the great people of this region. I am not bound by party lines. Our region is often considered an afterthought because Labor, Liberal and the Greens appear to assume we will just vote for one or them and not make an informed decision about all of our options at the ballot box. I think that is very unwise for the parties to look at us like that.

They take us for granted, only showing their faces to us at election time to throw money at us to buy our vote. We’re worth more than that. This is why people like me run for office – to give a genuine voice for our community and represent us. We are a smart group of people in the south east of Melbourne and we deserve to have a stronger voice in our Parliament. I will advocate for the people first and work with the government, whether Labor or Liberal, but never at the expense of the people in this area.

This area has the highest reported cases of violence against women for five years in a row. And yet neither party has a plan for how to address this holistically. For example, the Labor plan to build 1000 public housing properties for victims fleeing violence, does not include any indication of providing resources in the south east where they are so desperately needed.

Liberals have suggested they will look at the “financial impost” of fulfilling the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations, but not given voters any indication of what that means in a practical sense. They will look to cut costs, and history would point to them doing this if they are elected.

For the voting public, I will keep the issue of violence against women firmly on the political agenda so we do not see another murder on the front cover of our newspapers every few days. This shouldn’t happen on our watch and it does because the government is letting us all down.

Arnav Sati: I am seeking public office because I cannot trust any other politician to look after Tarneit electorate and its issues.

I intent to win and make the electoral seat of Tarneit a marginal, so that we get the funding we deserve.

The infrastructure issues cannot be resolved without significant funding, and based on the current political landscape, only marginal seats are getting adequate funding. Hence, I am trying to make Tarneit marginal.

Moreover, as a resident I have had enough of false hope and fake promises with no time-frames given by our elected representatives. I encourage every resident to support me in taking away the safe-seat status from Tarneit electorate.

Virosh Perera: As a citizen our prime responsibility is to make a Victoria a better place for the next generation. I have been working hard for community development and community integration. I would like to continue my work and leave something good for our kids. I want to give my kid the best and I feel other parents feel the same.

Nildhara Gadani: I have always aspired to serve the public – it does not matter in what role. Over the years I’ve seen a major gap in the representation of Indian-origin Australians in politics. There are many issues that otherwise get ignored due to a lack of cultural understanding among existing policy makers. Above all, I am passionate about women and family-based issues. I want to reform social services and support for the elderly, children in foster care, and those from disadvantaged families studying in public school. This work overlaps between State and Federal governments and I will advocate for changes and improvements.

Pratibha Sharma: I have always wanted to serve the community and this is my way of giving back to the wonderful community of Werribee. Every person has a right to raise their family in a safe environment with access to facilities like education, good health and transportation. Being a single parent, I know the hardships the average person faces on a daily basis, and I am standing for issues that I strongly believe in. As they say, “Never underestimate the power of the common man”.

Neelam Rai Dhingra: I want to protect, advocate and promote the interests of my constituency and highlight the issues that are important to them.

The Government should work for the people, not work for itself, and invest in future generations. I want to foster the best in Victorians, care for those who need help, and help everyone in our community achieve their aspirations. These are the values of Liberalism which I hold so dear.

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

Tarang Chawla: I did not dream of joining politics from a young age. I view it as a civic duty. Through years of community work and the recognition I have received along the way, such as being a Young Australian of the Year Finalist among other accolades, I have a social media following. I use that to communicate directly with voters.

I do not have the big budgets of the major party candidates who receive donations. I have something more powerful – the community who are fed up with being taken for granted.

I have been attending many events across cultural communities with the message that we all have a responsibility to end violence against women – our biggest law and order issue which costs the economy $2.7 billion annually.

Campaigning is more than winning votes for an election. I believe politicians have a duty to listen. I have been meeting residents of the south east daily and hearing firsthand what issues impact them. A vote for me is a vote for a better future for themselves and their family.

Nothing beats personal engagement, but our politicians are afraid because they might get caught out lying. Telling the truth is much easier, so I enjoy meeting people.

Arnav Sati: I am a true independent who is a local resident and directly impacted by infrastructure issues. Being true to the local issues and advocate harder for fellow residents is the main strategy that I focus on.

Informing residents via social media including Facebook and Youtube on rorting MPs, parachuted candidates, preferential funding to marginal seats, inadequate advocacy in parliament and empty promises.

Clear messaging through flyers and election signs (put outside residential properties) also helps to get local residents aware on issues that I stand for.

Virosh Perera: Liberal party is very well equipped with strategy; it’s a combination of digital, community engagement and door knocking but I’m unable offer further information. My personal goal is to make a difference in the lives of the people, and not limit yourself to campaigning.

Nildhara Gadani: As an Upper House candidate the region is quite large and there are 11 Lower House seats. My strategy is to ask voters to support me based on the incredible work that the Daniel Andrews government has done in the last four years. There are many projects that are still incomplete and need one or more Andrews government terms. So I am asking voters to support Labor and support me.

Pratibha Sharma: My strategy is simple. I am advocating for local community issues. Besides going door-to-door to introduce myself to the residents of the community who don’t know me already, I am going to public events where I can meet a large number of people and discuss with them their concerns and the steps we need to take to make Werribee safer and ensure that their concerns are addressed. I have also resorted to social media to make people aware of issues that I am fighting for and representing the community about. Many residents of Werribee are already familiar with me as I have engaged with them in several community and social events. I am getting plenty of support and ideas. I request local residents to come forward and vote for me this time and elect me as their representative who will be there locally for them.

Neelam Rai Dhingra: In my campaign I have been listening to members of the community, and speaking out on issues that are important to them. Victorians are sick of the crime, congestion and high cost of living in Victoria today. I’m doing everything I can to tell Victorians about the Liberals’ plans, to get back in control of these issues.

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

Tarang Chawla: It starts with formal recognition that we have made great failings in keeping women and children safe. I will push for a formal apology to the women we have failed. This has generational impact on whole families and it cannot go on.

I will push for a more robust approach from government that prioritises a whole of community response. The prevention of violence is key, including the commitment of ongoing funding for the long-term, and active community engagement forms part of the solution to end violence against women.

The major parties are treating the voting public as fools. Women die as a result. Children die as a result. Families are torn apart as a result. Enough is enough.

I will ensure that government sees out the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations in full.

If Government don’t do it, then it doesn’t cost them anything. Not one cent. But it costs our community dearly. If we fail the test, then innocent lives are at stake so it is crucial that this is done properly. I will see to it that it is implemented fully for the long-term to ensure that families are safe.

For voters in the south east, when you vote for the upper house at the election on November 24, think of your loved ones and their safety and it’s easy to know what to do. Vote for an independent who, like you, is part of the solution.

Arnav Sati: I will work to resolve local infrastructure issues by advocating for more police resources, expanding car parks, increasing bus routes with better frequency, more funding to health services and adequate number of schools in the electorate.

I will work to keep communities united and stand as one single entity for the betterment of our area to have a vibrant, safe and liveable electorate.

I will always be available and regularly meet with fellow residents to identify, discuss and resolve local issues. As we live in a safe Labor seat and our current MP rorted, we haven’t seen him in a long time. This will definitely change if I get the local support to get elected as the MP of Tarneit.

Virosh Perera: I started my life in Dandenong and I am coming back to give something to Dandenong now. When I talk to the local community, their main concern is increasing crime rates, public transport systems and education. I’d also like to see more AFL cricket and soccer facilities and games in Dandenong.

Nildhara Gadani: I’ve already answered this in your question above, about why I am in this race. Under improvements for most marginalised Victorians, I would like to add homelessness. In fact, my political mentor Jasvinder Sidhu works across all these areas so I am working with him, looking at various polices and plans to present motions in political platforms.

Pratibha Sharma: My first and foremost focus is to get better healthcare services, especially in paediatric care at the Werribee Mercy Hospital. Currently there is no paediatric facility and residents have to travel to Sunshine Hospital to get access to healthcare for their children. Secondly, due to rapid growth over the past few years, the traffic and congestion has increased considerably and my aim is to expedite the expansion of roadworks and improve public transport services for the residents of Werribee. Another concern for Werribee residents is increased crime in the area. I intend to work closely towards more police presence and community projects that involve youth participation in order to help reduce violence.

Neelam Rai Dhingra: One, fix our school system, where education standards are falling behind the rest of the world and children with learning difficulties are falling through the cracks. Two, stop the wave of violent crimes, assaults and home invasions gripping Victorian suburbs. We need more police and harsher sentencing to keep our community safe from dangerous criminals. Three, get Victorians moving by investing in key infrastructure projects, new public transport links, and fixing congested intersections across Victoria.