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Maria Kovacic, the Coalition candidate for Parramatta

Maria Kovacic on her ‘local‘ credentials, her party’s economic credentials, and why she’s a good fit for Parramatta.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

 

As Maria Kovacic, the Coalition candidate for Parramatta, chatted with Indian Link, her favourite term to describe herself seemed to be “local”. It was a term bandied about a fair bit, given she was keen to emphasise her community credentials as compared to her main rival from the ALP who has just moved into the area.

“This is an area where I have focussed for the best part of two decades,” she said.

Remaining largely on the Coalition message of a strong economy as a foundation to face all challenges such as the cost of living and housing affordability, Maria believes it is time for a change in the Federal seat of Parramatta which has been in Labor’s hands since 2004.

Maria is a local resident who ran a small business in mortgage for 16 years, is the co-founder of Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Executive Women forums and is a member of the steering committee for Parramatta Eels’ Women@Eels.

Welcome to Indian Link Radio, Maria.

Thank you. Lovely to be here with you today in the beautiful Parramatta Park.

Maria, the Liberals last won in Parramatta in 2001 and Parramatta has been with Labor since 2004. Why should they vote for a change now?

This is a really important community as you’ve outlined before. Parramatta and Western Sydney are areas where I’ve been focused in my work and in my advocacy for the best part of two decades. What it is about for this community is working out who is going to be the best, strong and active local voice for them, and then to make that determination as to who they want to vote for. It’s a critical seat because it’s an important seat, an important and valuable community.

If you had five minutes with Andrew Charlton, your ALP opponent, what would you tell him about Parramatta?

Oh, wow. I won’t have five minutes with him until after the election because every moment of everyday up until the 21st of May, I will be talking to residents in Parramatta – the community that lives here, the community that works here, and loves contributing and creating this beautiful diverse and rich community. So for me, I’m focused on the community, not on anybody else. I’m a first generation Australian, much like 70% of the people in this electorate. My parents were born overseas. I understand the community, I get the challenges that come with being a migrant or a first generation Australian because I’ve lived to those in my own family. I grew up in a family where English was not the language spoken at home. So when I started school, I had to learn English – I didn’t have that as a skill, I get it. So, you know, my focus is this community, not other candidates.

What have you been hearing about the concerns of the local community in Parramatta?

There are a couple of key areas. For most people cost of living is top of mind. Families are juggling jobs, kids, the family finances. One of the things that people have said to me, is that it’s been great to see the reduction in petrol prices at the pump straight after the budget…

But that’s temporary, isn’t it? Comes off in September.

Correct, but it’s an immediate relief to cost of living pressures. People might go, oh, it’s temporary; well, a temporary measure for six months that relieves cost of living. When you have a strong economy, it’s a lever you can pull versus no temporary relief, right? So that’s an important factor.

Local roads and transport absolutely a key issue in the electorate and we’ve had some focus as well on the importance of a strong economy so we can actually deliver the things we need to deliver. Yesterday, I was at Westmead Children’s Hospital with the Prime Minister and the outgoing Health Minister and the incoming Health Minister if we are re-elected; we’re able to deliver health funding that provides continuous glucose monitoring to people with Type 1 diabetes so that people who can’t afford a device that costs around $5,000 will actually have that device that’s provided by the government as a part of our Universal Health Care Package by Medicare.

And finally, the other thing that people are talking to me a lot about is that it’s important for them to have someone that understands them to represent them, a local candidate.

Maria, you mentioned cost of living pressures, and the removal of fuel excise duty. What else can be done to ease this pressure, because inflation seems to be going up and up, and wages are not moving forward?

Such a good question. And it’s an important one. I think we need the context and the background of it and also to understand that it’s not a problem that’s unique to Australia. It’s a global problem. So that, that problem comes from two key global issues. One is the pandemic and the supply chain impacts, and the second is in relation to the cost of fuel in relation to the terrible situation we’re seeing in Russia in the Ukraine. So what that means for us here, is we have to as a community, work out how we’re going to manage those impacts domestically. And that is why it is so critical and so important that we have a strong and effective government – a government that can run the economy efficiently and effectively so that we can have a stronger future.

Maria Kovacic the Coalition candidate for Parramatta

There are expectations that interest rates will go up that’s going to have another impact on the cost of living and housing affordability. Your thoughts on this?

Interest rates go up and down. We’ve had many years of record low interest rates and absolutely it’s another factor that families will need to consider in relation to cost of living pressures. Again, that can be better managed by government, if government is effective at managing the economy if we have a government much like a family that does not manage their family budget or their family or the country‘s economy adequately, we can’t manage those problems.

There is also a debt of about a trillion dollars. What’s the Coalition’s plan should they form government on 22 May, to pay down this debt?

The Prime Minister has gone through the budget along with the Treasurer and we’ve talked about the difference…

But not for the next 30 years. That’s the time when they expect the budget to be in surplus again.

Yeah, if you would like a strategy over the next 30 years, I suggest that you give me a little bit more time than the next three minutes for us to do that. But it’s an important consideration again – if you’ve got a lot of debt and you’re bad at managing money, that’s going to make it a lot more difficult to pay down that debt. It’s like a family again, you know my background is in finance and mortgages. Families that effectively manage their budget and have control and knowledge and understanding of that budget have the power to change; the same is with government. If a government doesn’t understand the impacts, the pressure points and what they need to do, then their ability to manage those issues isn’t there.

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SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH: Up close and personal with Maria Kovocic

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Housing affordability is a major concern especially for new migrants in Parramatta. Should your party come to power after the elections, what would they do to ease this pressure?

This is a matter that’s really important to me as you know, and as you rightly detailed that’s being part of my professional background. I’m going to be somebody that’s going to be a very strong and active voice for my community around these issues for us to develop strategies around housing affordability and again, and I know I keep going back to this, but it’s like everything else if you have a strong government and a strong economy, then you can put these measures into place. We can’t do much if you do not have a strong economy.

We’ve seen the value of migrants for the economy. Should we increase the flow of migrants to Australia to further accelerate economic growth?

Great question, and it’s a question that’s been discussed readily during the pandemic as well in relation to shortages of skilled migrants. I think that in a community like Parramatta much like my own background that’s built on the migrant story, it’s even more important. People are even more interested. I think I used the stat earlier, that almost 70% of people in our community have a parent born overseas. That’s a really big number. So our connection to communities and cultures overseas is a lot different to the broader electorate. I am very much someone that values the migrant contribution, and that also recognises that there are impacts and issues particularly for small business in relation to getting staff.

So should we look at increasing the flow of migrants to Australia?

I’m going to be very strong and active advocate in terms of having those conversations in relation to how they impact this community, and I would like to connect that to broader government policy, on migration numbers.

It was about this time last year that the Morrison government abruptly shut the borders with India, threatening returning Australians with jail terms and huge fines. There was an outrage in the Indian community at this heartless act of abandoning largely Indian Australians. Your thoughts on these draconian measures which have hurt the local Indian Australian community?

I recall the time, and it was a very very difficult time. We were all in lockdown as well, and we all had different impacts from that. I think the last two years with the covid pandemic has been some of the most difficult times across our communities globally, not just here. I have many friends in India and colleagues and I have been there a couple of times over the past decade, and I was reaching out to a number of them during that time to ask them how they were, what were the impacts because as human beings, none of us could help but be impacted by the images we saw from around the world. And then to have that feeling that you are being singled out, is very very hard. I think like many things in the last couple of years, we probably wouldn’t like to see that happen ever again. The challenge of leadership is sometimes doing things that are really difficult or that later, perhaps, we recognise could have been done differently. For me, it’s so hard, how do you make decisions like that? When you’re hurting lifelong friends, you’re trying to protect communities on another hand. The friendship and the partnership between Australia and India are deep and valuable, but a decision like that as you say, has an impact that’s damaging and hurtful.

Regarding women in politics, we’ve had some startling revelations in the last two years, not just about representation but also safety. What are your views on this and how would you like to see things change?

It’s another really good question that you’ve asked and one that I’ve been asked a couple of times. I’m here today putting myself up as a woman to run for Federal Parliament. The other three major candidates in my electorate, are men. The Labor candidate is a man, there were two very good female candidates that put their hand up for Parramatta, both strong women from the Indian community who didn’t get an opportunity to run in this election. The Greens candidate is a gentleman as far as I recall and the UAP candidate is a young man as well. So, you have one out of four. I would like to see more women in politics. I would have very much liked my opposing candidate in this electorate, or the primary candidate perhaps, to have been a woman or to have more women involved. Young girls and young women can aspire to leadership when they see other women around them doing the same thing. If they don’t see that then they may consider that it’s not for them. I’ve been a strong advocate for women throughout Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Executive Women through Women@Eels at Parramatta through so much work that I do, because it’s important to have women included throughout every part of leadership across our community and our country.

Is there enough being done in Canberra for the wellbeing of the women working there?

I can’t speak for anybody else’s experience. I can only speak to mine. Some of the things that we’ve heard are absolutely not okay. What I can say for my own experiences is that I have been treated respectfully. The people that have advocated for me strongly have been good men within the party and I’m grateful for that.

The younger voters on the whole seems to be quite disgruntled with major parties. They have concerns that they think are not being addressed with the urgency that is required. What are you doing to woo the younger voters?

I’m actually not doing anything to woo any voter! I want to go and talk to as many people as I can, present my credentials and my connections to our community with them. And then I want them to decide who they want to represent them. And I will continue to say to each of them as I have so far – this is me, this is who I am and I would love to be a strong and active voice for you in Canberra.

People should pick me because they think that I am the best person to represent them in Canberra. When they look at me or the other candidates, they should think about what will this person do, and what has their past conduct and past commitment to our community shown that they will do. I would like people to pick me on my merits of being an advocate for women, small business and migrants across Western Sydney for the best part of a decade, and for living and running businesses in this community for the best part of two decades.

READ ALSO: Chai with Andrew Charlton, ALP candidate for Parramatta

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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