Hon. Michelle Rowland MP, Federal Member for Greenway, Shadow Minister for Small Business and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism
Greenway is home to one of the largest communities of Indian background in Australia, bringing great economic benefits to North-West Sydney.
In the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, the number of Indian-born Australians grew from just under 100,000 to nearly 300,000. Five years later, this number has grown to over 450,000. No other country of origin has recorded such growth.
The fact that so many people of Indian origin have chosen to make Australia their home – and the electorate of Greenway in particular – does me a great honour as your local representative in the Federal Parliament.
From my perspective, travelling to India twice during this parliamentary term has greatly enhanced my understanding of its political system, trade relationships and, above all, its people.
My travels have taken me from Chennai to Delhi, from Amritsar to Ahmedabad. I have come to appreciate that while Australia views itself as a young and successful multicultural nation, India’s society and culture has been shaped over thousands of years as multi-faith, multi-lingual and geographically diverse. This has not been without its challenges, and I believe Australia has much to learn from India in this respect.
It is often noted that Australia and India are linked by language, democratic heritage and a commitment to peace in our region. What is not so well explored is how Australia and India will meet future challenges together.
Over the past few years, I have engaged in open dialogue with diplomats and parliamentarians in both Australia and India, small business owners, academics and local residents, about these issues. Australia acknowledges that we live in the Asian Century, yet we have seemed to be on the cusp of a great relationship for a long time.
I have concluded that Australia needs to focus on two aspects. Firstly, collaboration between the two countries is key, in everything from science to economic reform. For example, whilst renewable energy policy in Australia is divided on political lines, India has forged ahead to now rank third in the world’s renewable energy attractiveness index. In comparison, Australia is ranked tenth. We should be looking to India as our nearest and highest-ranked neighbour for guidance on how to improve.
Secondly, I believe Australian politicians should pay closer attention to the issues that are important to people as citizens, rather than making loose assumptions about people’s backgrounds. This is an ethos I have pursued over the past 6 years as the Member for Greenway: to never assume or stereotype people on the basis of their background, but rather to genuinely listen to them and make it my mission to help them fulfil their aspirations. And if this can be distilled into one sentence, it would be this: people who choose to make Australia their home want their families and their children to have better opportunities than they had.
This basic aspiration underlines some key policy areas where governments have the power to directly impact on the quality of life of its citizens. It also underscores some fundamental differences between the Abbott-Turnbull Government and Bill Shorten’s Labor team in the key policies of health and education at the upcoming Federal Election on 2 July.
Labor believes that all Australians’ right to health care should be determined by their Medicare card, not their credit card.
If people put off visiting their doctor because of costs, their conditions will only worsen and cost more to treat. That’s why Labor will scrap Mr Turnbull’s GP-Tax by stealth, which will leave an average family with two children up to $400 a year worse off in doctor visits alone.
Labor will also scrap the Liberals’ cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which would have resulted in price hikes of up to $5 a prescription.
Improving education is the key to opportunity to innovation and the economic prosperity of our nation.
Labor will invest $37 billion in school funding to give every child the same chance to succeed in school. Two important reforms include improving communication with parents, and giving more opportunities for gifted children to get ahead.
Unlike Mr Turnbull who wants to cut funding over the next decade, withdrawing support for gifted children and allowing parents to better understand their school, Labor will stick up for our local schools.
The Liberals’ plan for $100,000 degrees will hurt all Australians.
Australia needs people studying science, technology, engineering and maths to make sure we get ahead in the 21st century. The future of jobs in Australia needs a higher education system that works for everyone and doesn’t leave young people with a lifetime of debt.