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Liberal candidate Mohit Kumar discusses issues that affect the people of Chifley and his policy priorities
What convinced you to join your party and get involved in politics?
Mohit Kumar: The values of the party completely reflect my own. Liberal values include working to provide people with the tools to empower them to prosper, while at the same time protecting the vulnerable. This has been my philosophy in my own work.
The campaign trail is a rough and challenging one. What strategies have you been using to reach out to as many voters
Mohit Kumar: Campaigning has been my full time job for some time now – I’ve quit my job in the police force. I’m out all day, from about 5.30am, talking to people. There are seven railway stations in my area, and about 15 shopping centres, and I’ve been everywhere! I also like door-knocking and talking to people in their homes. On weekends, I like connecting with community groups at their events.
What are the three key issues facing the people of your electorate?
Mohit Kumar: Jobs, jobs and jobs. We have suburbs such as Willmot and Whalan, that you probably have not even heard of, that are facing many problems, primary among them being unemployment. My platform is to build a strong economy by bringing in more jobs. I’d like to see the people in my area achieve things they are entitled to, by empowering them with skills and education.
In the broader community, the key issues are jobs and growth. I think these are crucial if we are to plan for the Australia of the next 50-100 years. We are moving away from mining, and have to look elsewhere for opportunities. These can come from innovation, as in STEM for example.
I’ve just come off a wonderful event called the Productivity Boot Camp with the Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash and the Minister for Defence Marise Payne, in our area. It is a great initiative that prepares young people for work in the infrastructure industry. It focusses on unemployed youth, gets them off the streets and gives them skills to get them job ready for work in construction. It is based on hands-on practical experience rather than classroom type instruction. It is a $740 million program, a great example of our ‘jobs’ initiative. Some 120 youngsters have been prepared, trialled and hired, giving them a sense of self-worth – which they probably never had before. Such programs that give the youth foundation skills, which will help build the economy and empower them at the same time, are evidence that the government is not ignoring Chifley.
(But is the Prime Minister ignoring Chifley? He was in the vicinity recently, but preferred to go to the stronger Liberal seats such as Lindsay and Reid rather than visit yours and the marginal seats.)
I’m sorry but I think that’s a rather cynical view. Firstly, I can’t comment on Malcolm Turnbull’s diary. Second, he’s prime minister of the whole country, not only of the “safe” Liberal seats. And don’t forget, we’ve just had two top-ranking ministers visit us only days ago, as I’ve just recounted.
Chifley has been a safe Labor seat for more than 20 election cycles. Why would this year be different?
Mohit Kumar: Look, Chifley has been a Labor seat since 1969, for far too long according to me. Look at our neighbouring areas, they are all prospering. Lindsay, Macquarie, Greenway are all reaping the benefits of development and progress. Sandwiched in between, Chifley is crying out for development. Labor has taken this place for granted. The stories I’m hearing from people are that they are sick of Labor. They now want someone who can make an effort on their behalf, someone who can really connect to them.
What is your understanding of issues concerned with the multicultural community in your electorate and how are you best placed to address them?
Mohit Kumar: I’m proud to say that the multicultural community in our area has integrated well. I’ve met with various groups in the Chifley region and have identified that some of them have specific needs. The Islamic community at the moment is crying out for a burial ground of their own. Others would like to have community centres and temples for their particular needs and I’m happy to look at these specific issues. But overall, our needs in Chifley are pretty much the same as in the rest of Australia.
How can we better encourage new Australians to become involved in politics?
Mohit Kumar: I’d just say, give it a go! You can’t be on the sidelines as a witness. Be the change you want to see, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi! Someone told me recently as I was out campaigning, “Good on you, mate, for having a go; this is a hard luck seat!” This is the kind of spirit I bring to this campaign, and this is what I’d like to tell others like me: you have the opportunity, and you have nothing to lose.
Tell us about a memorable moment in any dealings with the Indian community. Have you travelled to India?
Mohit Kumar: About the community to which I belong, the Indian community, I’ve served in many different capacities. First as a NSW Police officer and prosecutor, I’ve helped raise awareness of police services, as in, what to expect, smashing the stereotypes, breaking down barriers. The idea was to help establish clear lines of communication, so police can help resolve issues in a timely and appropriate manner.
Second, as vice-president of the community organisation Council of Indian Australians (CIA) for five years, I’ve organised for members of our community to celebrate significant social events, but more importantly, have advocated for Indian issues, helped our people integrate as they’ve moved here, guiding them with settlement issues such as jobs, schools, travel etc and directing them towards services and resources available. My family learned the hard way when we came here in 1994, so I’d like the settlement experience for others a happy one.
Third, as Ambassador for White Ribbon Australia, I’ve been advocating against domestic violence, speaking to men at forums or on a one-on-one basis. It’s a scourge that is rampant and we have to eradicate it. I talk to men about signs to look out for, the different forms of domestic violence etc. It is especially important for migrant communities, because sometimes the migration experience can be isolating and frustrating and it can be a recipe for disaster.
What do you enjoy most about politics?
Mohit Kumar: Serving people and making a difference. Here in Australia, politics is so much more grassroots than it is in India, and I’m loving the direct contact with people and hearing from them first-hand what the issues are. That’s why I joined the police force in the first instance – it’s a way of serving the people so directly. In a way, politics is a natural progression for me; I’ll be able to make a difference in people’s lives long-term. Whether I win or not, I’ll definitely be chipping away!
What might people not know about you?
Mohit Kumar: Nothing much really, my life is an open book and I lead a very transparent life! Some people may know I’m not a bad singer: I won the Indian-Australian Idol contest, and have been on Indian Link Idol as well. I love to cook…And even though I’m right-handed, I’m a left-handed batsman!