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NSW candidates pitch to migrant voters

(Transcript from World News Radio)


With New South Wales’ state election this weekend, candidates – many from culturally diverse backgrounds – are intensifying their campaigns.



Premier Mike Baird launched the Liberal party’s official campaign in Sydney on Sunday.


Latest opinion polls show the Coalition leading Labor – but Mr Baird’s record majority in the state’s lower house appears under threat.


Julia Calixto reports.


(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

“I’m Raman Bhalla. I’m the NSW Liberal Candidate for Blacktown.”


“I’m Jihad Dib and I’m the NSW Labor Candidate for the seat of Lakemba.”


Raman Bhalla and Jihad Dib are among a growing number of migrant-background candidates running in the New South Wales election.


Both men were born overseas: Mr Bhalla from Bangladesh and Mr Dib from Lebanon, and they represent community groups that make up a large proportion of their electorates in Sydney’s west.


The region was once considered Labor heartland, but in recent years has transformed into contested political territory.


At the last state election, tens of thousands of people switched their vote allowing the Coalition to snatch ten western Sydney seats from Labor.


Mr Bhalla came to Australia from India in 2000.


An accountant by trade, he says the economy is weighing on voters’ minds.


“If you look around this electorate, these are mostly small businesses. These businesses don’t want to pay higher taxes. Rather they will employ someone, increase the payroll, rather than paying taxes, that’s what the Labor policy is.”


The sitting MP for the seat, John Robertson, says public transport is a major issue.


He stepped down as leader of the state Labor Party after admitting he’d signed a letter requesting the Sydney siege gunman, Man Haron Monis, be allowed supervised vists with his children while subject to an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order).


But he says voters understand he was just acting on behalf of a constituent.


“I think when you go to parliament it’s a very daunting task and I think they want someone who they know is experienced, that they can have confidence is able to advocate on their behalf.”


There are 11 Liberal-held seats held by a margin of less than 6 per cent.


Pundits inside both parties estimate that Labor could pick up anywhere between 9 and 17 seats, many of those in western Sydney.


That could dramatically reduce the Coalition’s historic 69 seats in the 93-seat lower house.


Liberal Premier Mike Baird has conceded federal issues will be a factor at the polls.


Former principal of Punchbowl High School, Jihad Dib, says that includes the federal government’s plans to deregulate higher education fees.


The senate refused to pass that bill last week.


Mr Dib says higher education reforms need to be addressed with caution.


He says students from disadvantaged backgrounds need special attention.


“We got so many great kids, so many great programs, but some of these programs are getting cut. And you know I think that’s a a dangerous thing. Once we start cutting programs well then what we’re basically doing is we’re saying to people who are already disengaged, well we’re shunning you. And you know we’re opening up the doors for all sorts of other people to prey upon them.”


The Lebanese community is the largest migrant group in the electorate.


One of the fastest-growing is the Bangladeshi community.


Mr Dib’s Liberal opponent, Rashid Bhuiyan, says locals want better health services to care for big families.


“The Governmnent is fully committed to improve the nursing and aged care facilities around the area. The first generation is working very hard to establish their future generation and obviously there are a lot of Bangladeshi families.”


Both candidates are Muslim and born overseas, a first for the electorate of Lakemba.




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