Cassandra Fernando disappeared, failed to turn up

Cassandra Fernando pre-selection has angered long serving, loyal community members of the party

Each election, political aspirants from the Indian subcontinent – Indian / South Asian candidates suddenly surface with their corflutes and billboards to make the community proud. A major chunk of them is grabbed by the two major parties, who use them to prop up the party vote (in numbers), allocating them seats the party normally would not win.

Some courageous ones even agree to put up their hand up in electorates with a margin of 15-20 per cent knowing fully well the seat is unwinnable.

Rarely do we see some candidate being given a marginal seat (notionally winnable) let alone a safe seat which would be nothing less than a gift.

Fortunately for Cassandra Fernando, she has been gifted the seat of Holt after the sitting MP Anthony Byrne accused of allegedly industrial level branch stacking and under investigation by the IBAC, decided to retire.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese was asked to take action and sack Anthony Byrne when Anthony Byrne made admissions giving evidence at the IBAC.

Anthony Albanese refused to take any action perhaps because he does not control the section of the Labor party controlling the seat of Holt. BT understands the seat of Holt is the domain of and allocated to the SDA union within the Labor party.

SDA stands for ShopDistributive and Allied Employees‘ Association. It is a union of workers who work in retail, fast food and warehouses.

Then, perhaps for the good of the party, Anthony Byrne announced his retirement, making way for the SDA to nominate their candidate – Cassandra Fernando. Bharat Times understands Cassandra Fernando was their unanimous choice.

The seat of Holt, a very safe Labor seat retained by the Labor party since 1980. Anthony Byrne won the seat in 2019 by a margin of 59.94% to Liberal candidate’s 40.06%.


Cassandra is a proud migrant (from Sri Lanka) and is a pastry chef by profession. She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager, and spent almost 15 years baking, stacking shelves.

Cassandra now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries – the SDA.

Cassandra’s pre-selection has angered many loyal Labor members of our community who have been working for the party for decades.

“She is not even three years’ member of the party, joining only in June 2019”, told one irate Labor supporter on the condition of anonymity.

Also read: Election 2022 – the Indian/South Asian faces

Cassandra Fernando’s campaign manager confirmed a Zoom interview request with us. But Cassandra simply did not turn up at the appointed time without any notice or explanation. Even a simple courtesy apology was not provided.

After communicating with us quite warmly and willingly for almost over a week, her campaign manager did not respond to our emails or text messages.

Discussing her candidacy an insider requesting to remain anonymous told to Bharat Times:

“She has been a union organizer – including recruiting members for the SDA and doing other bits of union work in the retail, fast food area. The seat of Holt – is given to SDA in the Labor party and SDA only decides who the candidate will be.” 

That may mean – Cassandra will enjoy the ride only as long as she can keep the SDA head honchos happy and they continue to back her.

Should there be a change of heart, she be gone.

But that is the rough and tumble of politics, applies to each and every seat not just Holt and she would be fully conversant in that.

While it may have upset some, after Kaushaliya Vaghela’s political career was cut short, it is good that Cassandra Fernando, one of our own, is set to become the member for Holt.

Yes, on May 21, she will become the MP for Holt, set to go to Canberra.

Rising from humble beginnings being a Sri Lankan Australian, Cassandra will be replicating what Jude Perera managed to do in the state parliament.

Facing Cassandra in the seat of Holt are also migrant Australians. The Liberal party candidate in the seat of Holt is Ranj Perera, another Australian of Sri Lankan descent. So is the Green candidate there – Sujit Mathew.

Having won the prized pre-selection for one of the safest seats with a winning margin of almost 20%, Cassandra Fernando is set for a long career in politics.

Bharat Times does not believe the aggrieved members who are complaining or criticizing the pre-selection are from the SDA. As a further clarification, Bharat Times also does not suggest Cassandra Fernando has personally caused hurt to them.

Their complaints relate more to the factional allocation of seats being tightly controlled by factional warlords who might have picked up someone absolute fresh but their own which in turn ignored some long serving, loyal members from the community working (or languishing) in other factions for decades.

To some, it may that Cassandra Fernando was in the right place, at the right time.

Bharat Times contacted Cassandra and her campaign manager again to verify the date of Cassandra joining the Labor party and put these community concerns to her for comment. We did not hear back until publishing.

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