Indian-Origin Candidate for Australia’s By-Election in Middle of Controversy

Australian Greens party members oppose the candidature of Alex Bhathal for Batman by-election.


As the Australian Labor Party and Australian Greens Party gear up for battle for Batman by-election this week, Greens’ perennial Batman candidate Alex Bhathal has found herself in the middle of a controversy. In weeks leading up to the by-election, Bhathal has become the a subject of a 101-page internal complaint by 18 party volunteers, the Australian reported.

While the party leadership stepped in last week, saying that the “internal matter” has been resolved, federal Greens leader Richard Di Natalie affirmed the party’s support to their Batman candidate. “We’re now in a position where Alex has been endorsed completely, comprehensively by her branch, by the state party and indeed by so many people in this electorate,” Di Natalie said, news.com.au reported.

Di Natalie added that the complainants had requested “confidentiality.” However, several party workers told ABC news website that they would prefer that Bhathal loses the election, since the due process for investigation as per party rules was not followed.

The issues raised against Bhathal, going far back as 2013, ranged from intimidation to bullying, according to the Australian, which obtained a copy of the complaint. “This misconduct has included systematic intimidation, and malicious and reckless false statements about members and party decisions,” the document, which was filed mid-January, states.

The document also talks of Bhathal’s alleged misuse of confidential party information in 2013 and 2014. A spokesman for Bhathal’s campaign was quoted by the ABC as saying that the issues raised “relate to a period over five years ago when the party was undertaking significant reforms, including the establishment of a position of state director. These reforms were vigorously debated but once passed, have been an important factor in the Greens recent success.”

Bhathal, a social worker, told news.com.au that people can make their own judgments, saying: “I think the people of my community have known me for over 30 years, they’ve known me as a mum at the local school, as a committed volunteer, as a social worker and I trust that they will rely on their first-hand knowledge of me when they go to vote.”

These revelations have also led to caustic attacks against her on social media, with people targeting her heritage, saying Bhathal should open her “bullying chakra.” Bhathal, in response, released a statement saying that she is proud of her South Asian heritage and is “disappointed” by attacks on her “culture.” Bhathal’s father hails from Punjab and moved to Australia at the age of 17.

The Batman by-election, which is scheduled to be held on March 17, was announced after Labour MP David Feeney resigned on Jan. 31 following questions over his dual citizenship. Feeney, who defeated Bhathal in the 2016 elections, told the parliament that he had no confirmation of whether his British citizenship, inherited through his Irish father, has been renounced.

This will be Bhathal’s sixth attempt at the Batman seat — she has run for the seat repeatedly since 2001. Batman is the seat covering inner north of Melbourne, which covers Northcote, Thornbury, Preston and Reservoir.

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