The holiday is over, and I’m sitting on a plane on my way home to Melbourne*. With 22 hours of flying time ahead of me, what better time to start investigating the smorgasbord of Independents that the Victorian Senate Ballot Paper has to offer? I apologise in advance for any excess silliness in these pages – though, in all honesty, I’m pretty silly even when I’m not increasingly sleep deprived and experiencing turbulence. But with only a few days left until Sunday, I cannot afford to let sleep deprivation get in my way!
Onward, to the first candidate of this on-board political experience, Karthik Arasu.
Mr Arasu wants you to know that he is the first Indian-born independent senate candidate from Victoria, which is oddly specific now I write it out like that. I wonder how many Indian-born politicians we have at present? I suspect not a lot – none come to mind off-hand. The other thing you need to know about Mr Arasu is that he is Working Today for a Better Tomorrow. Good man.
I found this rather nice press release about him in News18 India, very much of the ‘local boy makes good’ variety, and with some interesting discussions of Australia’s electoral process (I found it interesting that they went out of their way to note that Australians do not tend to vote along ehtnic lines – I’m guessing that in India, perhaps people do?), in which we learn that Mr Arasu was born and brought up in Chennai, studied engineering there, then emigrated to Australia where he did a Masters, before becoming a business consultant and working with small self-help groups in Victoria.
I think we can safely assume that Mr Arasu is going to be fine on Immigration.
Mr Arasu’s policies are in fact Promises, and they are rather charming, and definitely full of kindness to both people and the environment.
His first policy is zero income tax for new mothers for three years after giving birth, to help women get back into the workforce. Here’s a bit of a taste of how he writes.
It is often a challenge for new moms to return to the workforce after a break. As the time passes and years add on to the break, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to make a comeback.
After going through a strenuous process of child birth and demanding child raising years, we want to make it easier for women to return to the workforce. We are pushing for zero income tax for first 3 years after childbirth for new moms that will ease off the load and they could feel motivated to resume their careers even after a long break. The tax-free income will be capped at $100,000 per annum.
I’ve actually never seen a policy remotely like this one, so it’s hard to get my head around the pros and cons. I am not sure that tax is the main thing keeping women from returning to the workforce, but then again, the cost of childcare certainly can be, and removing tax might offset this. (I have a feeling it is already offset, but not to this extent) I wonder about costs, too – this is a situation where you can’t say, great, more people in the workforce equals more tax, but then again, if women have less of a career break, perhaps they will advance further in their careers later and pay more tax later on? It seems like a policy worth discussing, at least.
Oh, and speaking of mothers in the workforce, Mr Arasu also wants accessible and affordable childcare, with better rebates. This is a man who should do well with the mum vote, I feel.
Mr Arasu’s second policy is, I think, rather close to his heart – he wants to introduce continuous long stay visas for up to five years for parents of migrants.
I can just about hear the Australia First Party turning purple and exploding from here, and I’m still flying over East Germany. Mr Arasu is concerned about grandparents being able to spend time with grandchildren, and the cost to families with members in other countries of having to make more frequent, shorter stays. Also:
This will ease out various challenges associated with the previous arrangement and give longer time to families to connect and bond. This will enable the families to care for one another when they need it the most and young migrant children will be able to imbibe the much cherished cultural heritage from their grandparents and their irreplaceable love.
Awww…. I’m finding this candidate completely adorable, I have to say.
Now that we have made the AFP’s heads explode, it is time for Mr Arasu to turn his attention to exploding the heads of the Australian Liberty Alliance with his next policy, which is about public holidays on Diwali and Eid. (I begin to think that Mr Arasu could be our secret weapon against white supremacists…)
This kind of policy must be so hard for Good Aussie Patriots to cope with. I mean, on the one hand, it is un-Australian to say no to a new public holiday. Everyone knows that. But on the other hand, we are veering into halal-terrorist-vegemite territory here.
On a serious note, I’m in favour of this policy, and not just because I like having more time off (though, let’s be honest, that’s also nice). Australia is a diverse country, and a secular country, for all the politicians who try to call us a Christian nation. If we are going to have Christmas and Easter as holidays, then we should have holidays for other religions with a significant population in Australia (I feel Yom Kippur should also be added to this list, for example). Or if we don’t, perhaps we should allow all workers a certain number of extra leave days per year for religious or cultural purposes of their choice. It isn’t fair that I get my holy days without taking extra leave, but others have to take time off.
So I think this is a policy worth discussing.
Speaking of terrorist Vegemite, Mr Arasu also wants better food labelling, though interestingly, religious food labelling such as halal or kosher certification is not mentioned. He is, however, concerned about vegans and vegetarians needing to know what’s in their food so that they ‘are not offended by unwanted food ingredients that are contrary to their wilful choices.’ This is stated, interestingly, in a religious context.
Mr Arasu has a couple of environmental policies. He wants to ban plastic bags, which my inner environmentalist is entirely in favour of, though my inner not-very-organised-post-work-grocery-shopper is a little inclined to whimper at the idea.
He also wants multilevel carparks at stations, and shuttle buses, so that more people can commute easily. He might want to add a few more trains and trams and buses to the system generally, if he’s going to do that. Also, he might want to consider that public transport is state government, not federal. But his heart is in the right place, as always.
Finally, Mr Arasu has what I think is a very good policy for reducing tax rates for businesses in regional areas who hire local workforce. He points out that most businesses start up in cities because it is easier, and we need to find ways to incentivise people to build new businesses outside capital cities.
And that’s it. This is a somewhat random collection of policies, and I think I could just about guess Mr Arasu’s cultural and personal background by now even if I didn’t know it already – his policies clearly spring from things he has found hard in his own life and in the lives of people around him. But they also seem to spring from a place of generosity and kindness to others, and from a desire to minimise disadvantage where it occurs to him.
If all our independents are of this calibre, we could do far worse than to vote for them.
* Obviously, I’m posting these from Melbourne, but they were genuinely written in transit.