Grassroots Labor Party members reject plan to parachute ‘white millionaire’ Andrew Charlton into Western Sydney’s seat in Parramatta

Speakers from the Western Sydney Labor Party say a move to throw a high-profile candidate from the city’s eastern suburbs into the marginal federal seat of Parramatta is “undemocratic” and a “slap in the face” to the multicultural society.

Andrew Charlton, CEO of multinational information technology company Accenture and former adviser to Kevin Rudd, is said to be the candidate that Labor leader Anthony Albanese prefers to replace retiring MP Julie Owens.

Charlton lives in the city’s affluent eastern suburbs in a $ 16 million home overlooking Sydney Harbor, but is reportedly ready to move to Parramatta if elected.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union lawyer Abha Devasia is one of many local candidates vying for pre-selection.

She said Labor should have recognized the need for more diversity in the wake of criticism of the decision to parachute Kristina Keneally into Fowler’s western Sydney seat.

A smiling woman in the foyer of a building.
Union lawyer Abha Devasia says it would be “disrespectful” to society to choose a “white millionaire man” to run for office.(Delivered. )

“I desperately want Labor to win, but choosing a white, millionaire man from the eastern suburbs to run for Parramatta would be a tone-deaf choice and deliberately disrespectful to our society,” Devasia said.

A member of the Western Sydney Labor Party, who did not want to be identified, said the plan to bypass a local vote was a “slap in the face”.

“He [Albanese] must be careful if he puts [in] the wrong candidate, “said the Labor figure.

Albanians speak at a conference.
Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has caused waves among ordinary members with his pre-election. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Last year, Mr Albanese angered some Western Sydney party members with his decision to parachute Kristina Keneally into Fowler’s secure Labor seat, bypassing local candidate Tu Le, a lawyer by Vietnamese heritage.

Multicultural voters

Labor holds Parramatta by a narrow margin of just 3.5 per cent and the seat will be heavily contested after the retirement of Mrs Owens, who has represented the area for the past 18 years.

One third of voters are of Indian, Chinese or Lebanese descent, according to the latest census.

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Parramatta is a multicultural seat where a third of the electorate has Indian, Chinese or Lebanese heritage. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)

James Shaw, secretary of the Parramatta Federal Electorate Council, has demanded that the Labor National Executive hold a general vote to pre-select a candidate.

“The decision on who the candidate is should be made by the party members. They are the rules of the party and that is the process to be followed.”

Sir. Shaw said the first thing he had heard about Mr Charlton’s potential candidacy was “by reading it in the newspapers”.

“I think it’s bad that we have not been heard,” he told ABC.

“The party members who are running have nothing to do with Andrew or anyone else personally, it’s simply about democracy in the party.”

Competitors call for rank and file voting

A smiling woman.
Law teacher and former Tamil refugee Durga Owen was considered the frontrunner for the pre-selection in Parramatta.(Delivered. )

Durga Owen, from the same left-wing faction as Julie Owens, was considered a frontrunner for the pre-selection.

Mrs Owen arrived in Australia in 1995 as a Tamil refugee before becoming a relief worker, lawyer and law teacher at Western Sydney University.

She said she would support Andrew Charlton if he were to be elected in advance, but insisted that a universal suffrage was crucial to party democracy.

“I’m just disappointed that members of the local party were not able to say that,” she said.

Party member says the candidate should reflect demographics

A smiling man with glasses.
Vice President of the Parramatta Labor Party branch, Alan Mascarenhas, is eager to run for office. (Facebook.)

The Vice President of the Labor Department in Parramatta, Alan Mascarenhas, is another candidate who hopes to run in the pre-selection.

Mascarenhas, son of Indian migrants, ran as a Labor candidate for Epping in the 2019 state election, which recorded an eight percent fluctuation against Dominic Perrottet.

“Of course, there are great benefits to choosing a local who lives in the area, reflects the demographics and knows the local issues back to the front,” he said.

Dundas-Rydalmere department secretary Anthony Ellard, from the right-wing faction, is another candidate standing in line to contest a ballot paper.

Sir. Ellard said that although Mr Charlton appeared to be an intelligent man, a career in the private sector is “very different from being a Member of Parliament in the marginal space”.

“You need a local who understands the local issues, what actually affects the individuals on a daily basis,” he said.

Encourages diversity of voices

A smiling young woman wearing headphones with a microphone on.
Liverpool councilor Charishma Kaliyand says a diversity of votes is needed. (Facebook. )

Liverpool councilor and former Labor candidate Charishma Kaliyand rejected reports that she was interested in running for the Parramatta.

She said candidates who “represent the diversity of the area” had been overlooked in favor of Mr Charlton, who “does not have an immediate connection to the local community”.

“We want to make sure we have a diversity of votes in all of our parliaments … it’s really important to consider whether this election reflects that,” she said.

“What the boardrooms of Accenture need may be different from what the community in Parramatta needs.”

Charlton could not be reached for comment.

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