What does Dr Desmond Soares hope to achieve as a representative of the people in Moreton if elected?
What convinced you to join the NXT (Nick Xenophon Team)?
Nick Xenophon strikes me as a genuine carer for the underdog, and for those who have no voice. I was particularly impressed by his work in the field of gambling reforms and support for dairy farmers.
The party called for expressions of interest from people keen to join. I applied – along with some 450 others! All candidates were put through a vetting process that even involved psychological testing and presentations. Our written applications were analysed, and background checks were carried out. Four candidates were finally picked for my state, Queensland, two each for Senate and House of Representatives.
I’ve always been interested in politics, but never took active part before this. For the past five to ten years, I’ve been depressed by the politics in our country. Labor and Liberals have both disappointed, and I’ve also been dismayed by the slogans and the bad behaviour. Rather than grumble, I thought I should put my hand up, and see if I can contribute meaningfully.
What are the three key issues facing the people of Moreton?
We have 95,000 voters, with some 40 per cent born overseas. There’s a high multicultural element here. We have Indians, Chinese, Africans, we are very diverse. The age span is also large. In terms of small business, we are the fourth largest, with some 15,000 individual entities. Other industries, we are heavy on health care, and there is some manufacturing.
The key issues in our area are transportation, employment, health and education.
Why should people vote for you?
I’ve never been a politician, so I hope to bring a fresh perspective. I’ve promised people I will answer their queries and deal with them with honesty and respect. I’m neither right nor left, but a sensible middle-of-the-road. I’m not built by ideology, but my own doctrines. I hope to be a voice for those who have none.
My passions are education, opportunity, equality and fairness. I believe in accessible education for all: we need to ensure that everyone has access to the same quality education regardless of wealth or background.
I want to help the people of Moreton to rediscover their voice. We need to become engaged and speak and be heard on the issues that matter to us. We need to define what type of community we want to live in and the services we expect government to provide for us. We need to speak up and define how we want our local member to behave both in Parliament and in the community. We need to bring back respect in the way we deal with each other in our civic life.
How are you dealing with the campaign trail? What strategy are you using to reach out to voters?
I’ve doorknocked at some 1000 homes already. You’ll find me at railway stations and bus stops talking to people. I’m also active on social media, Facebook and Twitter mostly. I like reaching out and talking to people at events and barbecues. The Indian community I’ve met with extensively in the recent past, as well as the Fijian-Indian community here. We’ve recently had the new year celebrations in many Indian communities; I enjoyed meeting many people at the Kerala celebrations particularly! I have many Indian-origin patients in my practice, from across the diaspora, but particularly South Africa. So I’d say yes, I am well acquainted with the Indian community in my electorate.
What is your understanding of issues concerned with the multicultural community in Moreton and how are you best placed to address them?
As an overseas-born Australian – I moved here from India as a 15-year-old with my mum – I think I understand very well the issues faced by families as they settle in. I also treat many overseas-born patients and have over the years come in close contact with many families at various stages of integration. I remember very well having to learn a whole host of new skills, at school and outside of school, simply in order to function well. But we all work hard at our studies, and in our professions, to give back to the society that welcomed us in. As an orthopaedic surgeon, I have paid back 400 times, in tax, over and above caring for those in need. Australia owed me nothing, but gave me everything, so I want to give back.
How can we better encourage new Australians to become involved in politics?
In the Indian community, I would say we have not really stepped up, we are too busy earning a living! But I think the awareness is growing that if we don’t participate, we will miss out. Would you like to simply complain when things are not satisfactory, or get up and try to help? Indians make up about 2-3 per cent – or is it 4 per cent? – of the population, and we should have representation to that number. We contribute significantly to the economy, and as a community, we value education, family ties, aged care, all of which are vital to the wider community. So we should stand up and make an effort.
What do you enjoy most about politics?
Meeting people. Talking to them, and equally, listening to them. I’ve just come off a discussion where I was told, you guys want to put a stop to all poker machines. I listened closely, and then replied that in fact we don’t want to, we just want to find ways to minimise the harm they cause. I think the message got home!
What might people not know about you?
That I went to school in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and studied medicine at Sydney University. That after working in NSW for a number of years, my wife and I moved to Nepal to work with an international charity that provided holistic medical care and rehabilitation to people and families affected by leprosy. That I worked in Kolkata and Mumbai with Mother Teresa’s organisation. That I continue to teach today, for the Pacific Islands Orthopaedic Association in Honiara.
And you might not know this, but my mum thinks politics is a dirty business!