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As Shorten wish Indians on Independence Day – Indian Influx worries for ALP?

Indian influx raises branch-stacking question for Shorten’s Labor: The Australian @rickwallaceoz

Melbourne, August 16: As Bill Shorten prepared his statement to wish Indians on Independence Day, The Australian dropped a bombshell – Labor’s branch-stacking scandal in Victoria.

Leader of Opposition and Member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten said that the “contribution of the Australian Indian community is significant and serves to strengthen the bond between our two nations.

“Australia and India are inexorably linked by language, democratic heritage, and a commitment to peace in our region.

“Like Australia, India is also one of the world’s great multicultural nations. We stand side-by-side in our shared endeavour for peace, prosperity, freedom and harmony”, he said.

But was it all that harmonious?

It is understood that up to 1400 prospective ALP members in the Lalor constituency were frozen.

“Such is the scale of the issue that those currently suspended make up 8 per cent of the party’s entire membership in Victoria” resulting in a freeze on the memberships, according to The Australian.

The freeze came about after it was revealed that ‘bogus’ memberships were created, ‘many’ by Indians with the aim of branch stacking in Indian dominated suburbs— especially in Melbourne’s west.

Only recently, Labor party had expelled hundreds of bogus members in a historic move to cleanse membership base, built on suspicious recruitment drives. That branch-stacking effort had few hundred members registered with the same credit card or enrolled at the same address without being family members.

The Australian revealed that such a “recruit­ment scale” had not been witnessed “in 20 years”. Apparently 400 applications had been submitted in only one weekend in the federal seat of Holt.

In the current upheaval, State secretary Noah Carroll is expected to initiate an investigation, when prelim­in­ary checks revealed that number of suspect applications had the same email address.

While ALP was calling for a bigger base through online memberships, it became ensnared in individuals’ engineering branch stacking for pre-selection, which if had been successful; and given the area-focused memberships, could easily usurp sitting members in:

  1. the western suburban seats of Tarneit, held by state Treasurer Tim Pallas;
  2. Derrimut, held by Speaker Telmo Languiller; and
  3. the south-west seat of Lalor, held by Joanne Ryan

With significant Indian descent population in the suburbs of Altona Meadows, Truganina, Hoppers Crossing, Laverton, Point Cook, Tarneit, Werribee, Williams Landing and Wyndham, likelihood of upcoming Indian-descent politicos fighting for a pre-selection in the above seats if quite high.

Noteworthy is that the top ranking countries of birth among Melbourne residents are India and Sri Lanka. Influx through overseas migration of 62,300 make up the bulk of the new residents in Victoria.

A visibly changed face – now known as the Indian belt, is in Melbourne’s west and with Lalor, hitting ALP memberships in the order of 500 within a very small time, from less than a total of 200 number, compared to the erstwhile number of about 3 members being added in a month; will no doubt have Ms Ryan worried.

Joanne Ryan with former member for Lalor, Julia Gillard
Joanne Ryan with former member for Lalor, Julia Gillard

Without doubt, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Speaker Telmo Languiller also cannot be disinterested in these developments.

While Labor’s State secretary is cracking down on the mass online recruitment from a singular email address; a Labor insider not wanting to be named, called for the investigation to be directed within the suburbs of Werribee, Hoppers Crossing and Tarneit.

Melbourne has not witnessed Indian concentration in any particular areas before, but the recent influx of migrants from India and their preference for the western suburbs has changed the political face of Melbourne.

With Indian influx topping in many suburbs, Laverton boasting 14 per cent Indian descent residents closely followed by Willimas Landing at 13.8 per cent, Truganina at 9.8, Tarneit at 7.9 per cent, Point Cook’s 5.7 per cent and Hoppers Crossing at 4.2 per cent; Indians – as an electoral bloc in Melbourne’s west has become a force to reckon with and ALP would be watching closely.

Craigeburn’s 5.6 per cent Indians and Epping’s 5.6 per cent may also nudge the political face of the seats of McEwen and Scullin, both held by Labor.

Anthony Byrne in the seat of Holt will also be certainly watching as the other major Indian belt stretching from Noble Park to Cranbourne East in the south-east envelopes some major suburbs dominated by Indian descent residents – including Lynbrook boasting of 9.7 per cent Indians, Hampton Park at 8.1 per cent, Lyndhurst at 7.5 per cent, Doveton’s 5.7, Hallam 5.3 and Cranbourne hovering at about 5 per cent.

This membership drive dubbed as ‘suspect’ should not have come as a total surprise to the ALP head quarters. ‘Branch stacking with migrant numbers’ has surfaced in the inner circles of ALP a number of times in the past.

Rob Elliott, former HSU official and partner of former ALP upper house member Kaye Darveniza, hired as a Consultant at HSU by Kathy Jackson; in his email dated March 15, 2013 touched on the potential of migrants’ branch- stacking when he wrote:

Maybe we could get a new ACTU executive in on 457 visas since we clearly have nobody qualified in Australia? They’d have to be all-white though; Labor doesn’t like brown or yellow people anymore (except for branch-stacking)”.

While Labor machinery was able to purge and halt the recent online recruitment drive, it cannot be ignored that in these the ALP dominated areas, “recently arrived Indians exhibit a certain sense of impatience and urgency perhaps with little or no grass-roots work” said Dinesh Malhotra, editor Bharat Times.

“The party while purging questionable memberships should be looking at finding ways to make use of this young vibrant and intelligent army of its political warriors.

“It is time to woo Indians as a ‘bloc’ – an electoral force that can make or break pre-selection of candidates” Mr Malhotra said.

Nidhi Mehta

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