NSW Election | Kristina Keneally embraces minorities in marginals

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sari sight ... Kristina Keneally presents the Indian Subcontinent Community awards on February 18 at Government House. She says the new awards were set up in response to community demand.

Sari sight … Kristina Keneally presents the Indian Subcontinent Community awards on February 18 at Government House. She says the new awards were set up in response to community demand.

HUNDREDS of thousands of taxpayer dollars are being poured into awards for ethnic communities prominent in seats being contested by some of the government’s most senior MPs, including the Labor leader in waiting, John Robertson.

The awards, costing $300,000 and created in the past three months, are being handed out by the Premier, Kristina Keneally, to members of the Indian, Lebanese, Vietnamese and Filipino communities at official ceremonies held at Government House.

But their proximity to the election raises questions about whether Labor is using public funds and resources, including the Community Relations Commission, which is administering the awards, to shore up its campaign in western Sydney.

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Last night ... the Filipinos line up to get their community awards.

Last night … the Filipinos line up to get their community awards. Photo: Ben Rushton

After the federal election, the former premier Morris Iemma said Labor had been dumped by its ethnic heartland in crucial western Sydney seats.

The Lebanese awards, announced on January 30 by Ms Keneally and the Labor MP for Granville, David Borger, were given out by the Premier on Tuesday night. Mr Borger did not attend, but is understood to have sent his apologies.

Mr Borger, who is the Minister for Roads, is defending his seat against the Lebanese-Australian candidate for the Liberal Party, Tony Issa. Granville is home to a large Lebanese community.

On Tuesday ... the Lebanese get-together at Government House.

On Tuesday … the Lebanese get-together at Government House. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The Filipino awards, which were announced on February 1 by Ms Keneally and the Transport Minister, John Robertson, were handed out last night. Mr Robertson is Labor’s candidate for Blacktown and a possible future leader. He attended last night’s presentations.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2006 reveals Filipinos comprise the largest overseas-born group in the Blacktown area, at 5.9 per cent.

The Vietnamese community awards will be handed out tomorrow. They were jointly announced by Ms Keneally and Labor’s MP for Cabramatta, Nick Lalich, on January 31.

The original ... the Premier's Chinese Community Service awards on February 8.

The original … the Premier’s Chinese Community Service awards on February 8.

Mr Lalich, on a margin of just 7.2 per cent, is fighting for his political future against a Vietnamese-born Liberal candidate, Dai Le, in a seat which has a large and influential Vietnamese community.

The inaugural winners of the Indian Subcontinent Community Awards were revealed at an official ceremony held on February 18, after their creation was announced on December 22.

The awards were announced by Ms Keneally and the Labor MP for Macquarie Fields, Andrew McDonald, who is the co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of India. This group was created by the government in late November. The chairman of the NSW Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the commission was ”just facilitating these awards” after having been asked by Ms Keneally to administer them.

”If there is a political perception, it’s not as a consequence of anything that the commission has done,” he said.

Ms Keneally said the awards were created in response to calls from community groups to recognise community service in a similar way to the long-running Premier’s Chinese Community Service Awards.

Looking very fetching in a sari…

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