Three Indian origin candidates in the race for Senate seat vacated by Marise Payne

Pallavi Sinha was among those from the Hindu community in NSW who contributed to legislative reform that protected the rights of Hindus to display the sacred Swastika. 

Who will fill the Senate seat vacated by Australia’s longest serving female senator Marise Payne? The answer to that question will be known on 26th of November as the Liberal party rank and file will vote for preselection in Sydney.

There are several candidates in the fray for this spot including three candidates of Indian origin. They are Dave Sharma, Pallavi Sinha and Ishita Sethi.

Currently there is not a single person of Indian origin from the Liberal party in the Federal Parliament. The ruling Labour Government has two Indian-origin MPs.

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Pallavi is a multi-award winning Lawyer and Notary Public and was selected in the prestigious AFR and Westpac 100 Women of Influence. She is Principal of Lawyers with Solutions and is also actively involved in advocacy work in areas such as gender, social cohesion, education and small business.

Pallavi, who has been a long time member of the Liberal party, was given number 12 spot in the NSW Parliament Upper House elections in 2019. She managed to get the second highest personal votes in the Liberal party in the Upper House elections at that spot.

Pallavi Sinha (Image: Supplied)

Pallavi has over 20 years experience in senior executive and leadership positions and is Co-Chair Liberal Party Friends of India. She has previously been Vice-President of AIBC (Australia India Business Council) and has experience in developing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific especially India (Australia and India are also members of the QUAD). She also has significant experience in domestic and family violence advocacy.

Pallavi is also a well known speaker and commentator and was the first Indian Australian woman to be invited to join Saxton Speakers Bureau. She was also among those from the Hindu community in NSW who contributed to legislative reform that protected the rights of Hindus to display the sacred Swastika. 

Announcing her candidacy Pallavi said,

“Born in Western Sydney, I have lived in NSW my whole life. I have served the Party in numerous capacities, including as a 2019 endorsed Upper House candidate, on the Executive of the Legal Policy branch, and as Co-Chair Liberal Friends of India.

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I bring experience in the legal, business or executive sectors of over 20 years, and am actively involved with community work, including presenting submissions to Senate Committees which contributed to changes in Government policy.

I pay tribute to those who have served as Senators before me. If preselected, I look forward to the honour and privilege of the opportunity to serve the Party, and the people of NSW & Australia in Canberra, and to win back Government.”

Given Pallavi’s track record, many in the Indian diaspora will be looking forward to this race.

Dave is a former Member of Parliament (from Wentworth, NSW), Ambassador and company director. He is a law graduate of the University of Cambridge, has chaired and worked with a number of publicly-listed technology companies, and was chair of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and the Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee.

Dave Sharma (By Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website – www.dfat.gov.au, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28269891)

Dave was a career diploamt prior to entering Parliament. He was Australia’s Ambassador to Israel from 2013-2017 and also had postings in Washington DC and Papua New Guinea. He was awarded an Australian Service Medal for his peacekeeping duties in Bougainville.

Dave studied at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with first-class honours in Law. He also has a Master of Arts from Cambridge and a Master of Arts (International Relations) from Deakin University.

Known as a strategic thinker, Dave has high-level experience in national security, trade, international relations, public policy, and technology and innovation.

Ishita Sethi is a barrister, business owner and an academic. She was born in India but immigrated to Australia with her parents in the early 80’s.

Ishita has been elected to and served on NSW Bar Association Council, NSW Liberal Women’s Council, Executive Board (Treasurer) of 2 Selborne Chambers and Management committee of the Toongabbie Legal Centre.

Ishita Sethi (Image: Facebook)

Her statement regarding her candidacy says,

“This country needs a fresh start, and I have the skills, experience and tenacity to be a strong advocate for the values that make our nation great.

If selected, I will work tirelessly on behalf of all Australians to enact policies that expand opportunity and uphold liberty and justice for all. There are serious challenges facing our country but also incredible potential.

With optimism and dedication, we can build a brighter future.”

The Liberal party’s own review of the 2022 Federal election stated “To successfully win seats, the Party must reflect modern Australia. It is therefore important the Party, as a priority, has a greater gender and ethnic diversity in pre-selection candidates”.

People of Indian origin account for more than 3% of Australia’s population and Indians are among the largest and fastest growing migrant communities in Australia.

It remains to be seen if the Liberal party, after successive election losses, will decide to pick its first ever Indian origin Federal Senator.

Former Foreign Minister Marise Payne (2018-2022) resigned from the Senate on 30th September after a long innings in politics.

Marise Payne (Image source: Twitter)

She was also the Minister for Women in the Scott Morrison government and Minister for Defence in the Turnbull government. Ms Payne was first appointed to the Senate in 1997 and has been Australia’s longest serving female Senator.

Other notable names in the race for the Senate seat are former NSW state transport minister Andrew Constance, former ACT senator Zed Seselja and Monica Tudehope (political staffer and daughter of former NSW finance minister Damien Tudehope). Also in the race are former NSW RSL President James Brown, Lowy Institute research fellow Jess Collins and Barrister Nimalan Rutnam who is of Sri-Lankan origin.

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