Tolley: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

I’m less pessimistic than Tolley given overall progress election to election, albeit slower than desired. And gender equity may be more of a factor in winnable ridings as visible minority and Indigenous candidates are largely, but not universally, as a function of riding demographics:

Recent elections have resulted in more women, racialized and Indigenous people holding political office in Canada. That’s good news, but we’ve got a long way to go. Elected institutions still do not reflect the demographics of the populations they claim to represent. These representational gaps are a clear indicator of democratic inequality.

It’s not that there is a shortage of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. It’s that the major parties still tend to privilege candidates who are white, male and middle-aged. Parties have many of the tools they need to address electoral under-representation, but rather than being a gateway into politics, parties are frequently the gatekeepers. It’s time this changed.

Political parties are the central pressure point in any effort to address electoral under-representation. The problem isn’t really voter bias: Canadians tend to base their voting on party and leader preference, and this inclinationtends to override all but the strongest prejudices against local candidates. There also isn’t a shortage of qualified candidates, but parties frequently underestimate the electoral potential of those who don’t fit the mould.

If all parties nominated a more diverse slate of candidates in winnable districts, elected institutions would be more representative.

In the lead-up to Ontario’s most recent election, commentators pointed to the high number of women and racialized candidates, including many with immigrant and minority backgrounds. But when the votes were counted, the legislature’s gender composition remained stalled at just 39-per-cent women.

What happened?

We need to look beyond aggregate candidate “diversity” numbers. It’s not just who gets nominated, but also where they run. Realizing it is electorally advantageous, some parties have attempted to recruit more women and racialized candidates, but women especially continue to be disproportionately nominated in ridings the party has no hope of winning. This isn’t inclusion.

And although there has been some progress in the right direction, it’s not enough – and it hasn’t been across all parties at all levels of government.

For example, prior to the Ontario election, the Liberals set aside 22 ridings and designated them women-only nomination contests. In the end, the party’s dismal electoral fortunes meant they only eked out a victory in one of those designated ridings, but polling indicates this was more a rejection of the party and its leader than the individual candidates.

If all parties committed to nominating more women in winnable ridings, the demographics of our elected institutions would shift.

International evidence confirms the key role that parties can play.

In 2005, Britain’s Labour Party introduced legislation that permits parties to use all-women short lists to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In the 2019 election, 51 per cent of the party’s elected MPs were women. There is noevidence voters punished Labour for using a positive discrimination measure, and the selected women were every bit as qualified as other candidates, often even more so.

There is a straight line between more equitable nomination practices and increased gender representation. Political parties that are serious about democratic equality should take note.

But parties need to think about diversity beyond gender.

In Canada, the primary beneficiaries of most diversification efforts are white women. Federally, my own research shows that racialized candidates come forward for party nomination in numbers that exceed their share of the population, but parties still show a preference for white candidates, even in some of the country’s most diverse ridings. And even when they nominate more diverse slates, parties nonetheless funnel more money to prototypical white, male candidates.

Without financial and organizational support, candidates are being set up to fail.

Politics is increasingly seen as inhospitable. Electoral engagement is at an all-time low. If parties wait to see which candidates knock on their door and want to run, chances are it will be one of the usual suspects. The time to think about candidate recruitment and organizing is now – not just at election time or the few frantic months that precede it.

Enough hand-wringing. Parties need to recognize their role and commit to action. To open the gates, they must pro-actively identify, recruit and support a more representative slate of candidates with money and organizational capacity in ridings where they can actually win.

Source: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

Australia: Will the hateful army who bullied Yassmin Abdel-Magied come after Australia’s diverse new parliamentarians?

Remains to be seen:

If the euphoria and back-patting over the federal election results are anything to go by, Australia is a vastly different country from the one Yassmin Abdel-Magied left five years ago.

A new cohort of confident, competent, successful and ethnically diverse parliamentarians are about to enter public life. They have been widely celebrated as a sign that the country is getting multiculturalism right.

I am sceptical of these good vibes. History teaches us to be worried about how they will be treated over the next few years.

If recent history is anything to go by, at least some of them will be in for a rough ride. The ones most likely to attract negative attention will be those who are unlucky enough to have the deadly combination of confidence and “difference” due to wearing a hijab, having dark skin or non-Anglo features.

Australia’s tall poppy syndrome goes into overdrive when it comes to people who aren’t white and have the audacity to criticise Australian racism

Australia’s tall poppy syndrome goes into overdrive when it comes to people who aren’t white and have the audacity to criticise Australian racism. Lest we forget, two years before Abdel-Magied was relentlessly abused and trolled for a six word Facebook post that sought to remind Australians of the plight of people affected by war and living in horrendous conditions at Manus and Nauru, Adam Goodes was subjected to appalling, career-ending bullying by footy fans in stadia across Australia.

Like Abdel-Magied, Goodes’ “mistake” was that he was both brilliant and uncompromising in his rejection of racism.

For both personalities, public vilification followed soaring success. Goodes had been Australian of the Year, and Abdel-Magied had a string of high-profile engagements including a television program on the ABC.

And yet, as Ketan Joshi has calculated, in the year following the Anzac Day post, over 200,000 words were written about her in the Australian media, with 97% of those words appearing in News Corp.

The pile-on included Peter Dutton who, from the lofty height of his position as immigration minister, welcomed her sacking by gloating “One down, many to go” and called for more ABC journalists to be fired.

Imagine that? How is it fair dinkum for a 26-year-old naturalised Australian citizen who posted on her personal Facebook account to be personally targeted by the minister for immigration?

The pile-on fuelled by wealthy and unhinged News Corp presenters created an environment in which Abdel-Magied endured real-life attacks. A pig’s head was dumped at the Islamic primary school she attended and posters were put up in a Sydney neighbourhood by a white nationalist group that racially stereotyped Abdel-Magied and journalist Waleed Aly – another overachieving brown migrant who has been the subject of sustained abuse.

Thankfully, the campaign to silence Abdel-Magied has not worked, just as the efforts to silence Goodes have not killed his spirit nor dimmed his capacity to be a positive influence on the lives of members of his community.

Still, their treatment creates a chilling effect. They are not alone of course. There is ongoing racial abuse hurled at other footy players, and racist commentary follows virtually every appearance of high-profile African Australian Nyadol Nyuon. Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi wrote in the Guardian last year that she has been called “a maggot, a cockroach, a whore and a cow”.

I haven’t copped it as bad, but each time I have appeared on Q+A the memory of Abdel-Magied’s treatment has loomed large. Indeed, before my first appearance I was warned they shouldn’t “Yassmin me”. Each time, I worried about appearing too strident lest I spark a frenzy based on a comment I didn’t see coming.

While nerves are part of the deal when you appear on television, being afraid to speak your mind is not. Being overly concerned about making factual observations about racism and sexism is a function of living in a society that has a track record of bullying Black people with a public profile. As Yumi Stynes found out, it can be easier to minimise and ignore racism, even when it is staring you in the face live on television. The consequences of calling it out, or even observing it, can be catastrophic.

This sort of silencing has the cumulative effect of diminishing the quality of the national conversation about racism. We should be able to have honest, mature discussions about racism. Instead, we are held hostage by the thin-skinned bullies at News Corp, the lily-livered bosses at the ABC and the worst instincts of their audiences.

To be sure, the record numbers of public representatives voted into office from non-European backgrounds is a cause for celebration. In a proud editorial, the West Australian noted that WA Labor senator Fatima Payman, who came to Australia as a refugee at the age of nine, represents “modern Australia, for now and the future”. The paper is right.

Unfortunately it is also the case that if Payman dares to point out systemic race-based obstacles that prevent the success of people from her communities, the army of hateful people who bullied Abdel-Magied will almost certainly come after her.

Diversity in parliament isn’t just about new faces, it’s also about accepting hard truths. The class of 2022 is inspiring because, against all odds, its members have made it into politics.

But if Australians want parliament itself to become a site of inspiration too, we will all need to move beyond the good stories and learn how to celebrate those who refuse to sugarcoat the truth.

If Abdel-Magied’s assured refusal to hang her head in shame for being herself teaches us anything, it is that there is no expiry date on the truth.

  • Sisonke Msimang is a Guardian Australia columnist and the author of Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home (2017) and The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela (2018)

Source: Will the hateful army who bullied Yassmin Abdel-Magied come after Australia’s diverse new parliamentarians?

Australia: How did Labor get it so wrong in Fowler?

One of the more interesting vignettes in Australia’s election, when parachuting a “white” candidate backfired spectacularly:

“Dai! Dai!” they cry from across the street, followed by a burst of Vietnamese.

As their new federal member walks through the Cabramatta mall in a pink suit, people run across to shake her hand and hug her. In Gough Whitlam Place, Dai Le is mobbed by fans and poses for photos.

After a lacklustre election, the electorate feels, well, alive.

There’s shock and amazement that a once seven-year-old girl who fled Vietnam by boat will be heading off to Canberra to represent them. Who would have thought?

“We are the little people,” one man said. “But this time we raised our voice.”

“Kristina Keneally sucks!” a tradesman in fluro added.

It’s all a wild dream, according to Ms Le, who spoke to 7.30 a day after Labor’s parachute candidate Kristina Keneally conceded defeat.

On Saturday night, as the results trickled in from booths across Fowler in Sydney’s south-west, the veteran local councillor’s pleasant surprise turned to shock and disbelief.

The very safe Labor seat of Fowler hadn’t changed hands since its creation in 1984, and it had been held by retiring incumbent Chris Hayes on a margin of 14 per cent. Ms Le won narrowly but enjoyed a 16 per cent swing towards her. A political miracle.

“I sat there in my lounge room and I literally looked back at that time when I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean with my mum and two younger sisters and I remember how fearful that moment was for me because we thought we were going to die,” she said.

If the 2022 election was about flipping the bird to the major parties, then the result in Fowler speaks volumes.

Questions over Labor’s multicultural legacy

Gough Whitlam is known as the father of multiculturalism and used to live in Cabramatta. There’s a monument to his legacy in the heart of the mall. It sits in front of a cafe where old men gather around tables to play traditional games.

So how did Labor, the purported party of multiculturalism and the working class — the people of Fowler are both — get it so wrong?

Some blame Labor’s Sussex Street headquarters, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese played his part by backing Kristina Keneally over young lawyer Tu Le.

Ms Keneally would have lost her Senate spot had she stayed there, and needed a safe Labor seat to return to parliament.

Mr Albanese described Ms Keneally — a white American-born woman from the northern beaches, who did not grow up in south-west Sydney — as a great migrant success story.

Ms Keneally was unavailable for an interview.

“Fowler shows that people will see through cynical ploys,” Per Capita research fellow and Labor member Osmond Chiu told 7.30.

“They don’t want to be taken for granted, and when they feel like you’re taking them for granted they’re more than willing to punish you.”

The Keneally decision sparked an outcry among some Labor MPs at the time, but the increase in cultural diversity among Labor ranks in this parliament is likely to neutralise the anger.

Either way, the end result is the first Vietnamese Australian to enter federal parliament, just not on the Labor side.

‘I’m not a teal’, Dai Le declares

If blue seats turned teal this election, then Dai Le’s Fowler turned from red to pink. The politics are slightly the same, the shade is a little different.

The disparity between Fowler and the wealthy teal electorates in Sydney and Melbourne is stark.

In Fowler, most voters are labourers and tradespeople, clerical and administrative workers, machinery operators and drivers, and community service workers.

According to the 2016 Census, 60 per cent were born overseas while more than 80 per cent have parents born overseas. Vietnamese is the top ancestry.

The rise of the independents in Australia is as uneven as our country.

Dai Le is quick to say she’s not a teal even though she’s happy to sit down and “have a cup of tea” with them.

How she votes in the parliament remains to be seen.

When 7.30 asked her how she would vote on climate change, Ms Le seemed to echo Scott Morrison who told 7.30 last week that some parts of the country were more insulated to such issues.

“The teal independents are very much affluent,” Ms Le said. “They have other things they can worry about. Whereas my electorate, we actually have to worry about food on the table.

“The climate change issue, the federal ICAC issue, I mean it is important to us, but for me it’s our health system.

“For me, the priority would be how to make sure there is affordable and cheap electricity prices.”

As she embarks on a life in the Canberra bubble, Ms Le is promising to be her same, genuine self, and on the streets of Fowler, voters are proud that one of their own will be in parliament.

“Menzies, years ago, talked about the forgotten people,” said Than Nguyen, a former Vietnamese community leader.

“We are the real forgotten people.”

Politicians be warned. If you forget the voters, they’ll remember.

Source: How did Labor get it so wrong in Fowler?

Soutphommasane: We’re about to have Australia’s most diverse parliament yet – but there’s still a long way to go

Still less than 10 percent (Canada is just under 16 percent):

The message from Saturday’s election result was clear: Australians want a political reset. And not just about issues such as government integrity and climate change.

While much attention has been directed at the teal wave of independents, another change is taking place to the composition of parliament.

This Australian parliament is shaping to be the most diverse yet in its ethnic and cultural background. Capital Hill is about to see a substantial injection of colour.

A fitting result

Newly elected members Sally Sitou, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Sam Lim, Zaneta Mascarenhas, Cassandra Fernando and Dai Le will bolster the non-European representation of the House of Representatives.

The Indigenous ranks of parliament are also set to swell, with the additions of Marion Scrymgour and Gordon Reid in the House, and Jacinta Price in the Senate.

In many ways, it is a fitting result to an election that had its share of controversies about representation.

Labor caused consternation when it parachuted former Senator (and ex-NSW Premier) Kristina Keneally into its then safe southwest Sydney electorate of Fowler, cruelling the prospects of local Vietnamese-Australian lawyer Tu Le.

A second captain’s pick from Anthony Albanese, millionaire former political adviser Andrew Charlton, ran in the western Sydney seat of Parramatta, to the chagrin of local aspirants from multicultural backgrounds.

Such picks left many asking, with good reason: if worthy candidates from non-European backgrounds can’t get preselected in multicultural electorates like Fowler and Parramatta, how can we get more diversity into parliament?

It’s a question that lingers, notwithstanding what this election has delivered.

Still a long way to go

If it feels like a surge of diversity will flow through the parliament, it’s only because there was so little to begin with.

While those from a non-European background make up an estimated 21% of the Australian population, they made up just a tiny fraction of the 46th parliament.

The 47th parliament could feature up to 13 parliamentarians with a non-European, non-Indigenous background, along with nine or ten (depending on final results) parliamentarians of Indigenous background.

That may sound like a strong result – it’s certainly an improvement, and better than how many other major institutions in Australian society perform – but we should put it in perspective.

It would still mean just a tiny fraction of the parliament (no more than 10%) having a non-European or Indigenous background – far less than what you’d see if the parliament actually reflected our society accurately. Australia lags significantly behind the US, UK and Canada and New Zealand.

It’s not all about numbers, of course. We can’t judge the calibre of our parliament solely on whether it’s proportionately representative.

Yet when sections of society can’t see themselves within our public institutions, it is a problem. The very legitimacy, and quality, of those institutions can suffer

A new phase?

For a long time, calls for greater multicultural diversity in politics have been typically greeted with indifference. It wasn’t an urgent problem. Gender diversity was a higher priority. Political parties didn’t feel the pressure from those supposedly excluded from the system.

That now has changed. Labor has been brutally punished for its Fowler move. A swing of more than 16% saw the seat fall to independent (and former Liberal) Dai Le.

Clearly, being from a non-European background isn’t the electoral handicap political parties have sometimes feared.

Something generational is at play. Australia may once have comfortably accepted that newer arrivals were expected to play the role of the grateful supplicant in their “host society”.

But the children and grandchildren of yesterday’s migrants don’t see themselves as guests in their own country. They aren’t happy refugees or cheerful migrants who are content to know their place. They’re taking their lead less from the Anh Dos of the world and more from the AOCs (Democrat politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) of US politics.

Demands about access and equity for non-English speaking background people have been replaced with calls for the equal treatment of “people of colour” and for attention to “intersectionality”.

We could be seeing a new phase in the evolution of Australia’s multicultural project.

While a triumph in many respects, Australian multiculturalism has to date fallen short on several counts. A celebration of cultural diversity has never been accompanied by a sharing of Anglo-Celtic institutional power. Or, for that matter, by a full reckoning with racial inequality and injustice.

That’s why it will be interesting to observe this new parliament. The very presence of this new ethnic and cultural diversity will, in subtle and not so subtle ways, be felt in Canberra and beyond.

Critical mass matters. It is hard, for example, to imagine a more diverse parliament trying to wind back racial hatred laws (as parliament has done on more than one occasion with respect to the Racial Discrimination Act).

Or to imagine a diverse parliament indulging other periodic bouts of race politics (think of the scaremongering over African gangs in Melbourne or the McCarthyist targeting of Chinese-Australians).

All such excesses become much harder when the people debating such matters have skin in the game.

So don’t mistake the wave of multicultural politicians for being a mere symbolic adornment in Canberra – like the political equivalent of having exotic foods and festivals.

It may feel like a subplot for now, but this could end up being just be as significant as the teal revolution.

Source: We’re about to have Australia’s most diverse parliament yet – but there’s still a long way to go

Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

More on the lack of diversity among Australian politiciants:

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world, but it’s a different story in the country’s politics, where 96% of federal lawmakers are white.

With this year’s election, political parties did have a window to slightly improve this. But they chose not to in most cases, critics say.

Tu Le grew up the child of Vietnamese refugees in Fowler, a south-west Sydney electorate far from the city’s beaches, and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.

The 30-year-old works as a community lawyer for refugees and migrants newly arrived to the area.

Last year, she was pre-selected by the Labor Party to run in the nation’s most multicultural seat. But then party bosses side-lined her for a white woman.

It would take Kristina Kenneally four hours on public transport – ferry, train, bus, and another bus – to get to Fowler from her home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she lived on an island.

Furious locals questioned what ties she had to the area, but as one of Labor’s most prominent politicians, she was granted the traditionally Labor-voting seat.

Ms Le only learned she’d been replaced on the night newspapers went to print with the story.

“I was conveniently left off the invitation to the party meeting the next day,” she told the BBC.

Despite backlash – including a Facebook group where locals campaigned to stop Ms Kenneally’s appointment – Labor pushed through the deal.

“If this scenario had played out in Britain or the United States, it would not be acceptable,” says Dr Tim Soutphomassane, director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner.

“But in Australia, there is a sense that you can still maintain the status quo with very limited social and political consequences.”

An insiders’ game

At least one in five Australians have a non-European background and speak a language at home other than English, according to the last census in 2016.

Some 49% of the population was born or has a parent who was born overseas. In the past 20 years, migrants from Australia’s Asian neighbours have eclipsed those from the UK.

But the parliament looks almost as white as it did in the days of the “White Australia” policy – when from 1901 to the 1970s, the nation banned non-white immigrants.

“We simply do not see our multicultural character represented in anything remotely close to proportionate form in our political institutions,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Compared to other Western multicultural democracies, Australia also lags far behind.

The numbers below include Indigenous Australians, who did not gain suffrage until the 1960s, and only saw their first lower house MP elected in 2010. Non-white candidates often acknowledge that any progress was first made by Aboriginal Australians.

Racial representation: parliament v population. .  .

Two decades ago, Australia and the UK had comparably low representation. But UK political parties – responding to campaigns from diverse members – pledged to act on the problem.

“The British Conservative Party is currently light years ahead of either of the major Australian political parties when it comes to race and representation,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Progress in diverse political representation. .  .

So why hasn’t Australia changed?

Observers say Australia’s political system is more closed-door than other democracies. Nearly all candidates chosen by the major parties tend to be members who’ve risen through the ranks. Often they’ve worked as staffers to existing MPs.

Ms Le said she’d have no way into the political class if she hadn’t been sponsored by Fowler’s retiring MP – a white, older male.

Labor has taken small structural steps recently – passing commitments in a state caucus last year, and selecting two Chinese-Australian candidates for winnable seats in Sydney.

But it was “one step forward and two steps back”, says party member and activist Osmond Chiu, when just weeks after the backlash to Ms Le’s case, Labor “parachuted in” another white candidate to a multicultural heartland.

Andrew Charlton, a former adviser to ex-PM Kevin Rudd, lived in a harbour mansion in Sydney’s east where he ran a consultancy.

His selection scuppered the anticipated races of at least three diverse candidates from the area which has large Indian and Chinese diasporas.

Source: Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

Australia: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Sharp contrast with Canada where 18.2 percent of candidates in the 2021 election were visible minorities:

Of the more than 1,200 candidates in the federal election running for the House of Representatives, just 100 (8%) come from backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, according to lists compiled by the Asian Australian Alliance and the Centre of Multicultural Political Engagement, Literacy and Leadership (Compell). There are a further 38 diverse candidates running for the Senate.

According to a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, 21% of Australians have a non-European background and 3% an Indigenous background. Over 300 ancestries were identified in the 2016 census.

Less than 40% (458) of House candidates are women, with the majority of both diverse and female candidates running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.

The most commonly self-identified occupations of House candidates – aside from existing members of parliament – are managers, retirees and businesspeople. Some unique occupations listed by only a single candidate include a showman, firearms dealer, humanitarian and a carbon farmer.

Although the lists are largely crowdsourced via public statements and may not be comprehensive, as the Australian Electoral Commission does not release extensive data on candidates’ backgrounds, they nevertheless highlight a troubling lack of diversity in the electionwhich “is not representative of multicultural Australia”.

Most diverse candidates are challenging safe seats

Of the 100 House candidates identified as having backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, just three are incumbents in safe seats: the Coalition’s Ian Goodenough and Labor’s Linda Burney and Peter Khalil. Labor’s Cassandra Fernando is contesting in Wills, where the incumbent Labor MP Anthony Byrne is retiring.

The majority of diverse candidates identified (57%) are challengers in safe or fairly safe seats. There are five diverse candidates in marginal seats currently held by their parties, including Dave Sharma, Marion Scrymgour, Gladys Liu, Anne Aly and Ken Wyatt.

Tharini Apolline Rouwette, the CEO of Compell, says the makeup of parliament and the candidates isn’t reflective of Australian society. “Our parliament is not representative of multicultural Australia, hence why we need diversity in parliament and also to normalise people of colour in leadership roles,” she says.

“There’s about 4% of people of colour in parliament today which is hardly reflective of the Australian population that is increasingly becoming multicultural. The information collected, together with my follow-up surveys/interviews will hopefully be the beginning of a long journey towards collecting information that will inform us as to what we need to do to get more people of colour elected in government.”

More candidates in marginal seats are women

Men make up over 60% of the 1,204 candidates in the AEC list, according to data compiled by Ben Raue at the Tallyroom. There are four non-binary candidates and two whose gender is unknown.

Both major parties have more male than female candidates, but a slightly higher percentage of Labor candidates are women.

Women make up a disproportionate share of candidates in marginal seats – they represent 38% of all candidates, but 41.6% of candidates in marginal seats. Some 263 women (56%) are running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.


Guardian Australia compiled a list of occupations from the AEC candidate list, identifying around 254 unique occupations – an approximation, since there can be a number of names for the same occupation, and some candidates wrote expansive job titles such as “finance” or “business”.

Aside from member of parliament, lawyers, directors, consultants, managers, retirees and the unemployed are among the biggest occupations for candidates in the major parties. Some candidates who quit their jobs to contest the election are listed as unemployed.

The most common occupations for Coalition members are lawyers and directors (nine each), followed closely by consultants and managers. Union officials and unemployed are the top occupations for Labor candidates.

Students and retirees make up the top occupations for the Greens. Managers and businesspeople top the list for the United Australia Party, and retirees is the most common occupation listed for One Nation.

Source: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Australia’s state parliaments lagging on racial and cultural diversity, report finds

Of note:

Australia’s state parliaments are lagging behind in racial and cultural diversity compared with the populations they represent, according to a new analysis.

While approximately 21% of Australians have non-European ancestry, according to a 2018 report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, only 10% of Victorian state MPs and 9% of NSW MPs have non-European ancestry, not including Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry.

This is far lower than comparable state or sub-national parliaments in the UK or Canada, according to Osmond Chiu, a research fellow at the Per Capita thinktank.

In Canada, 23% of MPs in the Ontario parliament – the country’s most populous province – are of a visible minority, and 18.3% in the British Columbia parliament. This is compared with 29.3% of Ontario’s general population having non-European ancestry, and 30.3% in British Columbia.

Grassroots members in NSW Labor have argued that the party must increase the diversity among its MPs or lose electoral ground. A cross-factional group propose inserting a clause into the party’s platform at the upcoming NSW state conference, recognising the under-representation.

The motion argues that a lack of representation is an electoral issue for Labor as the Coalition has made significant ground campaigning in more diverse communities, especially in western Sydney.

Chiu told Guardian Australia that previously-safe Labor seats in Sydney had been won by Liberal MPs in recent years as part of a concerted strategy from the Coalition.

“There is a belt of multicultural marginal seats in Sydney that will determine government at a state and federal level,” he said. “They were once Labor-held seats but were lost to the Liberals who spent more than a decade focusing on culturally diverse voters in these seats.

“As Australia becomes more diverse, other seats will be at risk if Labor does not take the growing cultural diversity of the electorate seriously when the Liberals clearly do.”

Chiu said that under-representation was also an issue for the Liberal, National and other parties, not just Labor.

“However, there’s been an assumption that Labor does better because of its historic support for multiculturalism,” he said. “The reality is in some ways the Liberals are ahead of Labor. For example, there currently are two state and territory Liberal leaders, Gladys Berejiklian and Elizabeth Lee, with non-European ancestry versus none for Labor.”

In the United Kingdom, the London Assembly is 32% BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) compared with 40.6% of London. Scotland and Wales’s populations are far less diverse than Australia, but their parliaments are comparatively more diverse than Australia’s parliaments, according to the Per Capita research.

In Scotland, 4.5% of MSPs are BAME compared with 5% of the population. In Wales, 5% of MSs are BAME compared with 5.6% of the population.

The change to be tabled at the NSW Labor conference states that the party “recognises the ongoing under-representation of culturally and linguistically diverse people in senior leadership positions across business, politics, government and higher education”.

It adds that NSW Labor should be “committed to improving the representation of culturally and linguistically diverse people across all organisations and institutions, including within the party”.

Nearly 50 party units across NSW have endorsed the change to the party platform, with more than 300 party members signing a petition, according to Chiu.

Source: Australia’s state parliaments lagging on racial and cultural diversity, report finds

Why Australia lags rest of world in political diversity

Australia also compares poorly to Canada. Of course, the USA under Trump was completely different, being overwhelmingly male and white:

Since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first 100 days of a US presidency carry a certain mystique. The period is meant to provide a window into a new president’s political soul.

In nearly every respect, as we’ve seen already, Joe Biden’s presidency will seek to be the opposite of Donald Trump’s. Last week’s inauguration tried to soothe and restore confidence in American democracy. His first executive orders reversed Trump’s trademark policies, including the immigration ban on Muslim countries, the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organisation, and the building of a wall along the Mexican border.

Then there’s his cabinet. Having promised to govern with a team that “looks like America”, Biden is proposing a cabinet with more people of colour and women than any other before it.

Assuming confirmations by the Senate, the majority of Biden’s 25-strong cabinet will be non-white and just under half will be female. It’ll be the most diverse US cabinet. Given the resurgence of white supremacy implicated with the Trump presidency, the make-up of the Biden cabinet feels like an institutional rebuke of the past four years.

There are several firsts. Kamala Harris is not only the first female vice-president but also the first African-American and south-Asian woman elected to the position. Lloyd Austin is the first African-American man to be secretary of defence, Deb Haaland could be the first Native American to be secretary of the interior and Pete Buttigieg (nominated to be secretary of transportation) the first gay member of cabinet.

It’s hard not to think about how Australia shapes up in comparison, and what it may say about our two political cultures.

We barely see any diversity within the highest levels of politics and government. In a 2018 study conducted during my term at the Australian Human Rights Commission, we found only about 3 per cent of the federal ministry and 5 per cent of members of Federal Parliament had a non-European or Indigenous background. Far below the estimated 24 per cent within the general Australian population who have such backgrounds.

Within the 22-strong Morrison cabinet, there is one Aboriginal man (Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt), but no other minister who has a non-European background. Six women feature in the cabinet.

We don’t just lag the US. In Britain, for example, politicians from south Asian backgrounds fill two of the four “great offices of state”. In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s 20-strong cabinet includes five ministers who are Maori and eight female ministers.

So why are we such laggards? Aren’t we meant to be one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world?

Some of our lack of diversity reflects the stubborn cultural default of Anglo-Celtic leadership within our institutions. Calls for more multicultural diversity are often either casually dismissed or ignored.

At another level, it may also reflect the history of Australia’s multiculturalism. When multiculturalism was introduced as policy in the 1970s, it followed the dismantling of the last remnants of the White Australia Policy.

Even with migrant ethnic politics, the change didn’t emerge from a groundswell of popular sentiment. It was largely done top-down, helping governments to move on from the international embarrassment caused by Australia’s stance on race.

This history had a political effect. For migrants, multiculturalism came almost as a gift from government, rather than something that had been decisively fought over and won. As a result, our multiculturalism can lack some edginess. Advocates don’t agitate the way they otherwise might.

Some Australian cultural reflexes reinforce the tendency. Many of us like diversity, but only as a therapeutic source of national pride. We don’t always like it when it challenges us. A certain disapproval seems reserved for minorities who don’t express perpetual gratitude for the opportunities presented by this great land. If you’re from a migrant background and offer criticism of Australian society, you risk being lashed as an unpatriotic ingrate.

There is, you might say, a certain pressure for our multiculturalism to be nice and polite, maybe even compliant. Many minorities feel a social expectation to be happy “quiet Australians” who won’t disrupt the peace.

Compounding the problem, many multicultural true believers too often think that being smart and working hard will be enough to see them rise in our society. They wrongly believe that meritocratic diversity’s time will inevitably come.

That isn’t the moral of the story if we return to the Biden diversity cabinet. We’d be naive to believe that enlightenment secures representation. That only happens when minorities reveal their collective power and use it.

Let’s not forget that Black Lives Matter has defined the cultural currents opposing Trumpism. Or that African American voters delivered Biden the South Carolina primary, without which he’d have lost the Democratic nomination race. Biden couldn’t have won the presidency were it not for the very solid black and minority vote behind him.

So if there are signs in the US that a critical mass of diversity has arrived in Washington, it’s not because Biden and his team are moved purely by progressive idealism. It’s because the balance of political power there has shifted, and because diversity can’t be ignored. We’re a long way away from that here.

Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist and professor at the University of Sydney, and a former race discrimination commissioner.

Source: Why Australia lags rest of world in political diversity

Why Some New Canadian Communities are More Prominent in Politics – New Canadian Media

Richard Landau on some of the reasons behind greater prominence of some communities over others, highlighting the following factors:

  • Educational Attainment
  • Economic Self-empowerment
  • Longevity & Social Engagement

I think he underplays two additional factors:

  • Community cohesion around ‘homeland’ issues (e.g., Ukrainian Canadians, Canadian Jews);
  • Greater diversity with the community (e.g. among Canadian Muslims with the large number of diverse ethnic origins) or lack thereof (e.g., Haitian Canadians, Italian Canadians).

And of course, as Landau notes correctly, the first-past-the-post system means that communities with higher community concentrations will tend to elect someone from within the community:

Some communities punch far above their weight. For example, if we use political representation as one yardstick, Canada has nearly 500,000 Sikhs (about one and a half per cent) and yet with six MPs, nearly two per cent representation in Parliament. According to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, there are currently 17 elected Sikhs at the provincial and federal levels.

Meanwhile, the close to 1.2 million Muslims in Canada, are vastly under-represented and currently can count amongst themselves only three elected members at the provincial and federal levels along with the Mayor of Calgary.

“Sikhs have been more successful because they tend to concentrate geographically. They are more cohesive as compared to others, especially Muslims. This is not to say there are no internal differences between them.” – Mohammed Ayub Khan

Mohammed Ayub Khan, PhD candidate in the department of political science at McMaster University says Muslims must contend with an immense national linguistic diversity and a lack of effective electoral education in the community. As a result, voting percentages continue to remain low among Muslims.

“Sikhs have been more successful because they tend to concentrate geographically,” Khan says. “They are more cohesive as compared to others, especially Muslims. This is not to say there are no internal differences between them.”

Khan goes on to add that this is exacerbated by an absence of professional media, which can highlight and discuss what the issues are within the Muslim faith community. He also points to negative attitudes, if not outright hostility, from the larger population. He says that while Sikhs come second in terms of unfavourable attitudes, they are able to overcome this due to their geographic concentration.

When a community embraces educational attainment, economic self-empowerment, and to a lesser degree, social engagement with the broad mosaic, it can indeed give itself appropriate representation and a prominent voice in the life of the nation.

Why Some New Canadian Communities are More Prominent in Politics – New Canadian Media – NCM.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Congress – The Daily Beast

Federal_Representation_-_2011_ElectionA reminder in the US of gaps in political representation for women, blacks and hispanics (chart above shows Canadian representation from the 2011 federal election):

Cue the confetti: The new Congress sworn in on Tuesday is the most diverse in our nation’s history!

That would truly be a milestone to celebrate—until you see what that record “diversity” actually means. Ready? The breakdown of the 114th Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian.

… Look, I don’t care if you are a liberal or a conservative. It’s impossible to make the claim that our Congress accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. And it’s not missing by a little but a lot. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.

But what do we really see? The new Senate has only two black senators. That statistic is even more striking given that earlier this week the first black person ever elected to the Senate, Edward Brooke, was laid to rest. Brooke won his seat in 1966 and served two terms. How far has Congress really evolved on race when in 50 years it has gone from one black senator to two? (Even the arguably more democratic House is only at 10 percent black members.)

Congress moves slowly, and I don’t mean just on passing legislation.

Latinos, the fastest growing minority group in America, are even more underrepresented in Congress. They hold 3 percent of the Senate and a little over 7 percent of the House.

And let’s look at religion. Congress is now 92 percent Christian, resembling more to a papal enclave than our religiously diverse nation. The latest Pew Poll found that nearly 20 percent of Americans identify as atheist, agnostic, or not being affiliated with any religion. Yet there’s only one member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who openly acknowledges she’s not a member of any religious group.

OK, let’s put race, ethnicity, and religion aside and address the most glaring under representation in Congress of any group: women. This Congress will welcome more women than ever before at 19 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Congress – The Daily Beast.