The decision to parachute Kristina Keneally in to contest a safe Labor seat at the expense of a local Vietnamese-Australian woman could turn people of colour off politics, according to the first Indian-born member of the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Deepak-Raj Gupta says while Senator Keneally's switch might be smart politically, it could send a message to aspiring culturally diverse candidates that they are destined to be "bridesmaids" when it comes to standing for public office.
His comments came as another Labor-aligned migrant community leader slammed former Prime Minister Paul Keating's endorsement of Senator Keneally's candidacy, saying it was "discouraging and disheartening".
Labor's commitment to cultural diversity in its parliamentary ranks has been called into question after party powerbrokers orchestrated Senator Keneally's move from the upper house to contest the seat of Fowler in Sydney's western suburbs.
The move allows the high-profile opposition frontbencher to avoid a contest with Deb O'Neill for the top spot on the NSW Labor senate ticket, which she was poised to lose.
But it will come at the expense of migration lawyer and western Sydney local Tu Le, who had the backing of retiring Fowler MP Chris Hayes.
Ms Le has reacted angrily to the party's intervention, as has Labor MP Anne Aly - the first Muslin woman elected to Federal Parliament.
"For the Labor party to be in a position where they are pushing aside a community representative from one of the most multicultural electorates is hypocrisy as far as I'm concerned," she said.
Mr Gupta become the first Indian-born person to sit in the ACT Legislative Assembly in July 2019, before he lost his position at last year's territory election.
While he praised Senator Keneally as a politician, Mr Gupta said the handling of her Fowler preselection could turn aspiring leaders with ethic backgrounds away from politics.
He said the next generation of political leaders could be left feeling that while they might be valued when it came to volunteering and supporting campaigns, they were not seen as future candidates.
"[They feel] when it comes to us, we are still seen as a second-class citizen or will be always be a bridesmaid of the party, and we will never get a chance. That discourages the future generation ... who are really taking an interest in politics."
Mr Gupta said he had been strongly supported by the ACT Labor branch throughout his career. He is part of the party's new multicultural action group, which was set up in response to a key finding from its election review.
Manoj Kumar, the chair of Victoria's Sub Continent Friends of Labor branch, was furious at Mr Keating's public endorsement of Senator Keneally and his comment that local candidates, while well meaning, might never reach her level of ability.
'"It is discouraging and disheartening for multicultural communities across Australia. It is a very, very bad move," he said of Mr Keating's intervention.
"We are so competent. We are doctors. But he [Mr Keating] is saying that we are not enough. What does he mean?"
The former Labor state and federal election candidate said the party should introduce a diversity quota, which targeted 20 per cent representation of people of colour in parliaments.
"The progress of democracy remains incomplete without inclusion of ethnicity representation at all levels of decision making in modern Australia," he said.
Senator Keneally, who will move from her home on Sydney's northern beaches to live in the Fowler electorate, has said she would fight for her new community.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has this week hailed the "incredible cultural diversity" in Labor's ranks.
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