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Chris Minns: We have a team that looks like the community we hope to represent

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns discusses the issues that will decide the next elected government in NSW.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Chris Minns, welcome to Indian Link. There’s a school of thought that Opposition politicians know that their party will not get into power until the electorate gets sick of the government and throws them out. But why should the NSW Government be kicked out? NSW has a strong economy, with all the major credit agencies like Moody’s and S&P Global giving it a triple A or double A rating with a stable outlook. And this is despite COVID lockdowns, floods, fires and other challenges. We have a strong, stable government. So why change?

It’s great to be with Indian Link. Look, I think if the government’s making the case that the economy is strong for working people, and therefore they deserve re-election, they should be really reckoning with the fact that people are working harder than ever before, but going backwards in terms of their purchasing power, and their ability to live, thrive and survive.

What do you think are the three main issues concerning the voters for this election?

One of the big issues is cost of living. For many families, it’s very difficult to make ends meet. I look at electricity privatisation – in particular, the sale of essential infrastructure in the state. I’ll give you an example, Vales Point [Power Station] was privatised by the government for a million dollars. That new owner sold it on for $200 million. A few months ago, Eraring Energy sold for $50 million and the NSW government tried to buy it back $230 million. If you’re an Endeavour Energy company customer, we know that private companies are charging super profits on top of the bills. So there’s a lot of costs on regular families. Cost of living is the number one issue for tens of thousands of people and then I think it’s led in a weird way to the government deciding that they’re going to take action in relation to grocery prices. Now, grocery prices are not the state government’s responsibility. And if they had a plan to drop grocery prices, surely they should have done it before today.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns
(Source: Supplied)

What would be your plan to bring the prices down or ease the cost of living?

We’ve announced our first homeowners tax cut, from $650,000 to the $800,000 threshold. You don’t pay any stamp duty if you’re a first-time buyer in NSW, and a reduced amount up to a million dollars.

Secondly, we’ve put a toll cap in place. We don’t think it’s fair that communities that have to use toll roads in NSW, have to pay an enormous amount of money just to get to and from work. And you’d know that the Opal system in NSW, the public transport system, has a $50 top cap. We don’t think it’s fair that consumers and motorists are getting absolutely gouged as a result of that privatisation.

We’ve got more to say on energy in the next little period of time. And we’ve announced an Energy Security Cooperation for the state, which will put downward pressure on power bills into the future. That’s about us looking down the runway about what’s coming and see if we can do everything we can to get off this rollercoaster ride of price rises, where consumers see them fall in one instance and then radically increase the year later.

There’s been a lot of discussion about better representation in politics, more women, more people of colour, more migrants, and yet high-profile mainstream politicians continue to be parachuted in, even in-migrant heavy seats.

As the state leader of the party, I’m responsible for state pre-selections, not federal pre-selections. We’ve got a wonderful team that’s running for us at this upcoming election campaign. We’ve got broad diversity across the different groups in Sydney. I think about 48% of our candidates are women. Now, look, we don’t put out media releases trumpeting this, or trying to get a pat on our back. I’m only responding to it because you asked me that. I think that it’s important that you need to have a team that looks like the community that you hope to represent. And I’m confident that Labor does have that.

Talking about the Indian-Australian or the South Asian community, what do you think are their pressing needs?

Well, I don’t propose to speak on behalf of a community that’s over 600,000 people strong and there are obviously many needs within it. My sense is that many of the traditional issues that the rest of the community in NSW are dealing with are being dealt with by the Indian Australian community.

We’ve already spoken about cost of living; I want to speak a little bit about education. Now, we used to be ranked third in the world when it came to science, we’re now ranked 23rd. We were ranked sixth in the world when it comes to reading. We’re now 23rd. We were ranked ninth in the world when it comes to math. And we’re now ranked 31st. So, the outcomes when it comes to education in the state of NSW are declining. And I think many families are saying we want to, particularly after the disruption of COVID, make sure we’re investing in the next generation of young Australians to give them opportunities that are unrivalled anywhere else in the world. And that’s a big key focus of NSW Labor.

You’ve seen the rockstar treatment PM Albanese got in India. If your party gets to form government and you become Premier, do we see you getting on to a flight to India in the first 12 months?

I can’t promise that, but I’d love to go to India. I’ve never been there before so give me a bit of time to get my feet under the table if we win. Having grown up in Sydney, I’ve got wonderful friends of Indian background going back to my earliest years at school. So I know that if I go there, I’d have a lot of friends and family to call in on.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns
(Source: Twitter)

Victoria has done well to position itself as a preferred destination for Indian businesses, students and travellers. One of the thrusts has been through soft power attraction, such as funding millions of dollars in an Indian film festival, which has now grown over the last 10 years. NSW used to have a cultural festival dedicated to Indian cultural shows called Parramasala, which is now diluted. How would you like to build on this, using NSW’s soft power?

Well, one of the things that you can do in Australia is borrow from other jurisdictions. And if there is a good idea, it’s operating somewhere else, we’ll certainly examine it. I’ve seen particularly around Holi and Diwali, the expat community, and the recently arrived, and even those that have been in Australia for decades, have really come alive with these cultural festivals. And there’s probably a wonderful opportunity to invest more in that, because it’s becoming for NSW, a key part of the cultural calendar. And if there is a residual economic benefit associated with that, well, we’d be crazy not to take advantage of it. It’s one of the big advantages that NSW has a large multicultural community, and that it’s engaged in the Australian community is a big asset for us.

Any message to the Indian-Australian community?

The big message from me is that you’ve contributed much to modern Australia and we’re so grateful that you’re here. It might be you’re second or third generation, or you might have recently arrived after your studies in NSW, but you’re warmly welcomed. I don’t like to speak in stereotypical ways about communities. But given the characteristics, the Indian community in Australia are so strong, specifically around hospitality, [being welcoming], and hard work. [These are the people] that you want in your country, to build what Australia can become [and fulfil] the potential that we have in this nation.

There’s just no one finer than the Indian community. In NSW in particular, we’re very, very lucky to have you. For those that have arrived recently, we’re grateful that you’ve chosen Australia as your home.

Read More: Meet Sameer Pandey, ALP candidate for Winston Hills NSW

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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