Sydney, 28 August, 2018
Liberal friends of India (LFI) is a great group which, if managed smartly, can be a great platform for networking among Indian Australians, who support Liberal party in NSW. These people don’t necessarily have to be members of Liberal Party, as long as they support Libs.
As we know, Liberal Friends of India was launched at the NSW Parliament LFI by the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Shadow Minister for Trade in the Jubilee Room at NSW Parliament on 17 April 2013. This is Julie’s speech. https://www.juliebishop.com.au/address-to-liberal-friends-of-india-launch/
Liberal Party website describes this group in these words “The Liberal Friends of India is a member-led group designed to strengthen and foster the relationship between the Liberal Party and the Australian-Indian community by championing the culture, success and values of the Australian-Indian community and developing stronger relationships between Australia and India.”
LFI, with The Hon Philip Ruddock as the Patron and Matt Kean, MP for Hornsby and Nihal Gupta, as the Co-Chairs, started with a great agenda, energy and enthusiasm, but the dysfunction inside LFI, largely due to unsatisfactory dynamics among Deputy Chairs and lack of vision among some of them, has not allowed it to deliver much.
Some deputy Chairs have poisonous relations with one another, which prevents LFI to be a productive platform. As a result, there has been hardly any activity under the banner of LFI of late. This example below will throw a lot of light on the inner working of LFI. A particular Deputy Chair, who has very little knowledge of, or networking in, the community, played a lot of undesirable politics in choosing the guests for invitations for a LFI meeting in which the Federal minister, Mr. Christopher Pyne, was the distinguished guest a few years ago. Several members, including many founding members, of LFI were intentionally not invited and several Labor supporting members of the community were invited. This particular Deputy Chair is totally out of depth and literally has no idea about our community. After being briefed by the competing Deputy Chairs about the game plan of this particular deputy Chair, I contacted the Chair of LFI, Matt Kean, who overruled that Deputy Chair and invited me and others. That particular deputy Chair was ignorant about the fact that I was in the launch of LFI and attended the subsequent special dinner with Julie Bishop as a guest of LFI Chair, Matt Kean. This deputy Chair was not even in this meeting. A minister, who supports this particular Deputy Chair of LFI quite blindly, got involved in this saga, leading to a terse email from me to that minister. Even after having the invitation from the LFI Chair, I chose not to attend because I felt sick and tired of the politics played by this particular deputy Chair. Because of short sightedness and lack of vision from those deputy Chairs, LFI has become totally inactive and non-productive. This result is because of those deputy chairs, who are self-centred, unable to work with one another and lack leadership. They are not able to put the interest of Liberal Party above and ahead of their partisan politics in the community. They are obviously not the bright stars of Liberal Party and certainly not of our community either.
There’s no doubt in people’s mind that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is much smarter in networking with Indian Australians. They have a much better relations and networking with Indian community as compared to Liberal party.
It is a no brainer that the Liberal Party should get its act together and reform LFI to make it a platform for networking and influence in our community in Sydney. Remember, the federal election and NSW State election are due within next few months and it is always good to network among Indian Australians, who form a substantial chunk of votes in many seats in Western Sydney. I have written about these topics before too. Here is the link. https://www.theindiansun.com.au/2014/09/08/australian-political-parties-indian-community/
If I were to offer a few suggestions to the Liberal Party, these suggestions would be as follows.
1. All current deputy chairs should be removed,
2. The Chair of LFI should be an influential Liberal Party Minister, who should have time, energy and enthusiasm to run and supervise the LFI,
3. The Chair should have about 5 informal advisers, who should guide him in regards to how best to run LFI for the maximum impact and productivity,
4. LFI should have a calendar of events throughout the year and these events must include Indian Independence Day celebration, Diwali, Australia Day and Indian Republic Day and a few more key events, which should be attended by the top political and government leaders from the Liberal Party.
My view is that there are a lot of positives in having an active and dynamic platform like LFI.
I would be remiss if I do not make a comment or two about similar platform in Australian Labor Party. Labor members of Indian community should run this group, not persons of non-Indian heritage, and should be those who are people of influence and have vision. They should have the intellectual capacity to understand that ALP’s interests come above and ahead of their own interests.
I hope that the Liberal Party’s director, Chris Stone, and current chair of LFI, Mat Kean, will act thoughtfully and reform LFI to make it a productive platform for Liberal Party’s influence and networking among Indian Australians. The very same comments are also applicable to Labor Party’s Kaila Murnain and Luke Foley.
Dr Yadu Singh