As a Chinese-Australian, I do not think I recall ever seeing our community being front and centre in Australia’s political system. But this past weekend, perhaps for the first time in Australian history, Chinese-Australians determined whether Australia’s federal government would be in majority or minority government. The Bennelong byelection was not just a mini-referendum of the Turnbull government or the eligibility of Bill Shorten as prime minister, it was a test on how multicultural communities are perceived in the eyes of political parties and campaigns.
When it came to winning over the Chinese-Australian community, both major parties thought the Sam Dastyari scandal would be the difference-maker. The byelection campaign quickly turned from bread-and-butter issues such as education, infrastructure and health, to Chinese foreign influence in Australian politics. But the Chinese-Australian community is not a monolithic community, and it shouldn’t be treated as one by political parties. Assuming the donations saga would be the only issue that would sway our vote was also a huge mistake.