Albanese addresses issues of concern from the Indian community

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The leader of the Australian Labor Party Anthony Albanese met with select members of Sydney’s Indian community at Western Sydney on 6 May.

As a guest of the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA), he was joined by leading members of his team including Kristina Kenneally Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Michelle Rowland (Member for Greenway), Andrew Giles (Member for Scullin), and Chris Bowen (Member for McMahon), as well as Andrew Charlton and Sally Sitou, Labor’s candidates for Parramatta and Reid respectively.

The Hindu Council of Australia had invited leaders of both political parties to address issues of concern from the Indian community, and the ALP took the offer up first.

Over dinner with 200 other invited guests, the Vice President of the HCA Surinder Jain put to Mr Albanese questions on behalf of the community.

In his opening speech, Albanese praised the Indian community for the diligent work they do and their contributions to Australian values. He stressed that Australia is a microcosm of the world as to the benefits of multiculturalism.

To this point, he added that his was the first non Anglo-Celtic surname in the history of Australian politics to be vying for the prime ministership of the nation.

“Australia is a land of opportunities but with falling wages and cost of living increases, it does get hard for many,” he noted.

In the interaction with Albanese, the first issue raised was the support the Indian community could expect from the Labor party for culturally appropriate aged care. Ethno-specific care for our elders continues to elude the South Asian community and remains a major discussion point.

“One of the things that I know and admire about your community is the respect you have for your elders – it is a defining characteristic. They want to cherish the culture of their origin and it is particularly important to have appropriate aged care,” Mr Albanese agreed.

He took the opportunity to stress the big difference between the two parties on aged care and the importance for ethno-specific aged care.

“Our plan for aged care, that I announced in budget reply, [is that] we will address these issues consistent with the findings of the Royal Commission report. It is imperative that we allow older members of the community to live with dignity and respect in their elder years. That means making sure food, language, practices are culturally sensitive.”

READ ALSO: Labor commits $3.5m for Little India precinct in Sydney

anthony albanese with young indian
Source: supplied

He had a similar approach when questioned about Labor’s plans to support Indian language and culture for the next generation.

“One of the strengths we have here in multicultural Australia is […] the youth learn the culture of their parents that’s passed down. It’s important that they participate in Australian culture, but that doesn’t mean forgetting the culture of their parents. That’s something the Indian community has been very good at,” Albanese noted.

He reiterated Labor’s grants program, announced recently, of $30,000 to community language schools, observing that it is an “asset” for Australia to have individuals with language skills that can be used to help deepen bilateral ties.

Another recent attempt at deepening ties between the two countries has been the much-discussed Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), which according to Albanese, “isn’t comprehensive enough.”

“We’ve said there should be an Indian-Australian economic dialogue meeting each and every year. We would also support India’s participation in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and if India chose to apply to RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), we would support that very much,” he explained.

He added, “The relationship between Australia and India has only been one that strengthens both of our economies going forward.”

On the question of Labor’s refugee policy in light of the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh, Anthony Albanese noted his Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Kennelly has raised the issue of the rise of extremism and persecution. Adding to this, Ms Kennelly stated that refugee intake “must be non-discriminatory and support those most in danger.”

She took the Coalition to task that they have cut the humanitarian intake – and provided no post-COVID plan. She said that the Labor government will look at a community sponsorship program that will provide for additional numbers, by associating with faith, civic, and business communities to sponsor refugees. “Getting the communities involved can increase intake without increasing cost to the taxpayer,” she noted.

READ ALSO: Coalition or Labor: Who would be better for India?

kristina keneally with voter
Kristina Kenneally, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, with a prospective voter. Source: supplied

To the question of quicker and less expensive parent migration visas, another major issue of concern especially to more recent migrants, there was no clear answer from the Leader of the Opposition. Rather, Mr Albanese spoke about the long delay in partner visas and other current roadblocks. It would appear the ALP have no policy so far on better parent migration experience.

The possibility of a Labor-Greens deal at the end of the elections was also brought up. Mr Albanese was asked his position on ‘Hinduphobia’, such as the claims being voiced by Greens MP David Shoebridge. What would Mr Albanese do to stop these, and would the Labor party consider not giving their preference to the Greens?

In his answer, Mr Albanese side-stepped most of the issues, other than state the Labor wants to win this election in its own right.

Source: supplied

The question of swastika being preserved for the Hindus, Buddhists and the Jains, rather than being banned as a Nazi symbol of hate was also raised. Both Mr Albanese and Ms Kenneally promised to advocate on behalf of the community.

It turned out to be a well-planned interactive session and Mr Albanese seemed friendly and forthcoming. However, as there were no follow-up questions, both politicians on stage Mr Albanese and Ms Kenneally were able to circumvent a number of issues in their replies. Nonetheless, it was an evening where guests got to interact in a formal manner with potentially the next Prime Minister of Australia.

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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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