The number of federal MPs with an Asian heritage has doubled since the May 21 election, but proponents of diversity say Australia still has a long way to go.
In the previous term, out of 151 seats in the House of Representatives, only three were occupied by MPs of Asian descent: Gladys Liu in Melbourne’s Chisholm, Jan Gudenaf in Moore in Perth and Dave Sharma in Sydney.
However, after the election last weekend, six candidates of Asian descent declared victory: independent Dai Le in Sydney Fowler; and candidates from Labor Sam Lim in Perth’s Tangney, Michelle Ananda-Raja in Melbourne’s Higgins, Zaneta Mascarenhas in Perth’s Swan, Sally Sita in Sydney’s Reed and Cassandra Fernando in Melbourne’s Holt.
Mr Goodenaf, who is currently holding on to his seat in Western Australia, could potentially bring that figure to seven.
Erin Chu, co-founder of the Asian Australian Alliance and a former Labor member, said that while this was an important milestone, it was far from enough.
“The good news is that the number of Asian Australians entering parliament has doubled, but it should not be seen as a peak,” Ms. Chu told SBS News.
According to the 2016 census, more than 16 percent of Australia’s population is of Asian descent.
But six deputies of Asian descent make up less than 4 percent of the lower house, which has 151 seats.
And that’s the problem, according to Ms. Chu.
“Six – or maybe seven – politicians in the lower house do not fit this proportion, so there is still a lot of work to be done,” she said.
Osmond Chiu, a researcher at the Per Capita think tank and a member of the Labor Party, said that despite doubling the number, Asia’s representation in the Australian parliament remains lower than some other progressive democracies in the world.
“More than 5 percent of New Zealand lawmakers and more than one in 10 Canadian lawmakers are of Asian descent,” Mr Chiu said.
“So we really need to look closely at why we continue to lag behind such countries and take action,” he said.
So how did the two main parties – Labor and the Liberals – behave in this election when it comes to Asian representation?
“You can’t ignore the community or take us for granted”
The Labor Party nominated nine candidates of Asian descent (11 fewer than the Liberal Party), five of whom won.
While Cassandra Fernando fought for Holt’s safe place to work, and Michelle Ananda-Raja, Zaneta Mascarenias and Sally Situ fought for the marginal liberal seats of Higgins, Swan and Reed respectively, the biggest surprise of them all was Sam Lim in Tangany.
Former dolphin trainer from Malaysia Mr. Lim had to climb the mountain.
He faced Scott Morrison’s close friend Ben Morton in Perth, who held the seat with a comfortable margin of 9.5 per cent.
But that changed this weekend when Labor took seats in Pier, Swan, Hasluq and Tengna.
Ms. Chu said that the sudden victory of Labor in Tangany could be attributed to the Asian representation in a culturally diverse region.
“There are a large number of Chinese voters in Tang. Sam can speak 10 languages … [including] English, Bahasa Mela [Malay] and Chinese languages such as Mandarin and Cantonese, ”she said.
“Therefore, he was able to communicate effectively and interact with society. And the community has seen that people like them can effectively represent them. ”
But not all Labor elections went according to plan.
At Fowler’s mansion in southwest Sydney, where there is a strong Vietnamese community, Labor has parachuted former Senator Christina Kenilly to claim a seat, overturning the selection of local rank-and-file members for the pre-election of Vietnamese Australian lawyer Tu.
Independent Dai Le has run a strong campaign aimed at Ms. Kenilly’s candidacy and the fact that she is not local, getting a traditionally safe seat from Labor and receiving 52.39% of the vote based on bipartisan preference.
“It simply came to our notice then [pre-selecting Kristina Keneally] it was a mistake, ”Tu Le said.
“My community has sent a very clear message to all parties that you cannot ignore the community or take us for granted.
“Members of the community do not want large parties to ride on them.
“In particular, in a community like mine, with a large number of migrants and refugees, community members say that ‘our voice matters and what we consider important.’
Independent Dai Le, a former Liberal candidate, said it was Labor’s “arrogance” that forced her to fight for Fowler’s place.
“The Labor Party was arrogant enough to parachute someone from the North Beaches who has no roots in this community, has nothing to do with this community, and basically took us for fools,” Dai Le told SBS News.
Ms. Dai Le said she was elected thanks to the support of her community.
“I think my victory in the community is quite significant … it shows that they support a person who is actually a person from the community, a person who is not involved in any serious mechanisms,” she said. she.
Mr Chiu of Per Capita said that this “disappointing result for work” shows that “there are no safer places” and that voters are abandoning “previous voting schemes because representation is important to them”.
“What is happening is a fragmentation of the political system,” he said.
If voters are disappointed with one party, they will not necessarily vote for another major party in Australia’s two-party system, he said.
“Now they are ready to vote for the Greens and the Independents,” he said.
“The mood for failure”: how the liberal candidates lived
The Liberal Party of Australia had 20 candidates of Asian descent – 11 more than the Labor Party – none of whom claimed victory.
Incumbent MPs Gladys Liu in Cheeseholm and Dave Sharma in Wentworth have lost their seats, and Mr Gudenaf in Moore is leading by a small margin at the moment but cannot claim victory.
“I think why [these sitting] Candidates from the Liberal Party were rejected because of the failures of the Morrison government and its positions on a number of issues, from wages to climate integrity and how it coped with the response to the pandemic, “Mr Chiu said.
“The candidates could not overcome the fact that the vote for them was a vote for Scott Morrison,” he said.
As for the other 17 non-MP candidates, Ms. Chu said they had no hope of success.
“It is widely considered a place that can be won in Australia, with a margin of 6 per cent or less,” Ms Chu said.
“But if you look at these 17 candidates from the Liberals of Asian descent, 14 of them fought for safe seats from Labor with an advantage of more than six percent, which means they were set up for failure.”
In northwestern Sydney, Benelong – a large population with Chinese and Korean heritage – Liberal candidate Craig Chung, who was ignored in favor of Simon Kennedy, said he was “disappointed that none of the [the Liberal] candidates of Asian descent were elected. ”
“The question we really need to ask is, ‘Why is this?'” he said.
“Both major political parties have poorly selected candidates of Asian descent in places that can be won,” he said.
Labor Party Jerome Laxal received the post of Benelong with a blue ribbon, and Mr Chung said the shift was because the Liberal Party did not listen to the local community.
“More than 40 percent of the Benelong population has an Asian heritage … and that community has spoken out. They need community members who think like them, act like them, look like them and reflect their values.
“And in many cases this did not happen – both by Labor and the Liberals.”