It shouldn’t be a surprise when I say Chinese-Australian voters are just like other Australian voters. We are interested in policies that affect our everyday lives, how our MPs present themselves and the election promises they bring to the table.
An exclusive poll conducted by media agencies Anomaly and Identity Communications on Chinese-Australian voters during the 2016 federal election found the top issues of concern were the economy, heath and tax. Labor’s proposal to end negative gearing on existing homes and cut capital gains tax concessions were unpopular, which would have had a hand in Labor losing the multicultural seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the only seat Malcolm Turnbull’s team managed to snatch off Labor.
In the NSW election, Daley’s damaging comments aside, the fact is the Coalition government ran a more effective campaign, led by its $90 billion infrastructure program, including roads, rail, hospitals and schools. Likewise, in my home state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government invested heavily in big-ticket items in education, health, roads and public transport, including an airport rail. Andrews didn’t merely retain government but increased Labor’s majority by winning a number of seats in Melbourne’s east – traditional Liberal heartland with a large Chinese-Australian population.
The Liberals not only out-campaigned Labor in NSW; they had more candidates of Chinese heritage. There was tokenism in this, too. Most were relegated to marginal and non-winnable seats. But the Liberals used Scott Yung to full effect in Kogarah, where he achieved an 8 per cent swing. It was not enough to oust Labor’s Chris Minns – a strong contender to replace Daley as opposition leader – but Yung is now in the running to take federal Liberal preselection in Reid.
I’ve been told by Chinese-Australian Sydneysiders that the state Liberals held regular business and community forums at the grassroots level, connecting with Chinese-Australian voters, while Labor was nowhere to be seen.
Labor dropped the prominent Chinese-Australian Upper House MP Ernest Wong and replaced him with a union official. That left the Chinese-Australian community with no representation in NSW Labor. If our community matters to state Labor, why not replace Wong with a prominent Chinese-Australian?
Chinese-Australians have had enough of the political tokenism displayed by all sides of politics.
We are not political cannon fodder and we no longer want to serve as cash cows and walking ATMs at fundraising dinners. We’re tired of having candidates in non-winnable seats. We want to be recognised for our commitment to Australian democracy.
My advice to Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison to take a step away from WeChat and show some genuine interest in our community’s concerns.
Jieh-Yung Lo is a Chinese-Australian writer and commentator.