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Plurality brings Indian community into larger focus

The first Indian Association was set up in Auckland 94 years ago, just four years after the Labour Party came into being.

It was a very different New Zealand then with widespread prejudice against people of Asian origin. The Indian community had to struggle for the survival of its language and culture and practice of its religion.

Labour has long stood beside the Indian community. We have never been the party of established interests and privilege.

The Labour Party’s driving values have always been fairness and opportunity for all to make a good life for themselves and their families.

Labour was also keen to make a strong connection with an independent India.

When National Prime Minister Robert Muldoon closed, and tried to sell our High Commission property in New Delhi, Labour’s David Lange moved immediately after the 1984 election to reverse that policy.

Inspiring leaders

We opened the new High Commission and appointed Sir Edmund Hillary, a hero in both our countries, as our first High Commissioner.

For me personally, Sir Edmund and the great Mahatma Gandhi are personal inspirations.

They were humble men dedicated to bettering the lives of people. They rejected privilege and sought opportunity and fairness for all.

Labour welcomed to New Zealand Indo-Fijians who fled the coups in Fiji in 1987 and 2000. We changed immigration laws in the 1980s to end discrimination against non-European migrants.

Symbolically, and because they were competent people of proven integrity, we appointed Dr Rajen Prasad (now Labour MP) as the first Race Relations Conciliator (now called Race Relations Commissioner) and Sir Anand Satyanand as our first Governor- General of Indian origin in 2006.

Enduring principles

In the 21st Century, Labour stands by its traditional and enduring principles of fairness and of building a strong community where everyone can be included. We know that the foundation of a prosperous country is good management of the economy.

That is why Labour reformed New Zealand’s economy in the 1980s.

That is also why every year in Government from 1999 to 2008, we ran a budget surplus and paid off New Zealand’s debt and hence we were in a strong position when the Global Financial Crisis arrived.

We know the importance of hard work and saving, .Sadly Labour’s New Zealand Superannuation Scheme, which would have given the country a strong investment fund and made our country wealthy, was scrapped by the National Government in the 1970s.

Great initiatives

But in 2001, we introduced Kiwibank and a few years later the KiwiSaver. We set up the Cullen Fund, which now has $20 billion set aside for meeting the growing costs of superannuation.

We need a strong economy which is built on high tech, high skills and good R&D. That is the pathway to a value added, high income society.

We need to give our young people the skills that they need and access to the Kiwi dream of being able to own your own home. With high house prices and rising interest rates, our children are finding it hard to realise that dream.

Celebrating diversity

While we are all Kiwis in a united New Zealand, we should celebrate our diversity. New Zealand today is a multicultural society but we are still overwhelmingly monolingual.

We must have a languages policy that encourages all young New Zealanders to attain or retain fluency in a second language.

For some, it could be Hindi, for others Mandarin, Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Niuean or something else.

Whatever choice a student makes; it will help them keep alive the language and culture of their forebears, or better understand the cultures of other people.

It will also help us as a trading nation seeking to enter other markets.

That’s part of Labour’s vision.

Phil Goff is a Member of Parliament elected from Mt Roskill Constituency. He is Labour Party’s Spokesman for Trade, Ethnic Affairs, Defence and Veterans Affairs. The above is an extract of a speech that he delivered at the 88th Annual General Meeting and 88th Annual Conference of the New Zealand Indian Central Association held at the Manukau Institute of Technology on Saturday, April 5, 2014.

NZICA plans new strategy

Special projects and programmes to develop younger members of the society, advocacy to provide more representation of women at local and national levels, modernising intra-community information network and continuous dialogue with the Government on issues affecting the Indian community are among the priorities of the new team at the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA).

Harshad Patel, who was re-elected to the post of President at the Annual General Meeting on April 5, 2014, described the Association as the ‘voice of the Indian community in New Zealand,’ saying that he and his team will work hard to resolve some of the issues that have caused concern in recent years.

“We will also discuss with the Indian High Commissioner to consider the general problems faced by Kiwi Indians. We also aim to provide image-building measures for New Zealand in India and vice-versa,” he said.

Among the others elected to various positions at the AGM were Bhikhu Bhana (Vice-President), Prakash Biradar (General Secretary), Rupindir Virk (Assistant Secretary) and Manjit Singh (Treasurer).

“NZICA is determined to develop a new strategic plan to strengthen its branches and affiliate associations to empower the sizeable population of Kiwis of Indian origin. The Indian population is close to 160,000 as per the latest census,” Mr Patel said.

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