The first dual-language political debate in Australia’s history was held recently in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm. The debate, between Labor’s Jennifer Yang and the Liberal Party’s Gladys Liu, was attended by about 100 people – with roughly 80 of them of Chinese background.
The candidates each began with a speech before the debate was opened up to questions from the crowd. Organisers said they had spent three months collecting questions from the electorate’s Chinese Australian community and 14 common concerns were debated by the candidates. Yang and Liu answered some questions in English, and some in Mandarin.
Both candidates have political experience and busy Chinese social media networks. Liu was born in Hong Kong and she can speak English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Yang was born in Taiwan and she was the first Chinese Australian mayor of the City of Manningham.
Liu was confident in the debate and did not seem to need her prepared notes during her speech. She told the crowd of her experience in Melbourne and explained why she wants to be the Liberal Member of Chisholm.
“I have been in Australia for 34 years, and I have lived in Chisholm for more than 30 years,” she said.
“Thirty-four years ago, I came to Australia to study. I was very lucky because I had a scholarship. When I graduated, my first job was as a speech therapist. Afterwards, I devoted myself to society because of the change in my family.
“The Liberal Party and the Labor Party all invited me. I considered the concept of these two political parties. The Liberal Party encourages everyone to work harder. When I knew these concepts, I chose the Liberal party.
“In the beginning, I did volunteer work as a party member. Then, I joined the management of the Liberal party. I am the only Chinese Australian person who has reached the top of the Liberal party.
“The election is for the long-term development of the whole community in the next six or 10 years. As a good economic manager, the Liberal party will provide a stronger economy for the future of Australian.”
Liu criticised her opponent Yang for having to refer to her speech notes.
“My suggestion is that you make sure next time you write it bigger, so … (it’s) easy to read,” she said. “The prepared answer is not right for this time.”
Yang’s campaign slogan is to let Chisholm be better. She explained the Labor Party’s education, medical care and environmental protection policies.
“We as the opposition party, we did not say the other party did bad, so vote for us,” she said. “We have very detailed policies on education, health care, climate change, renewable energy. Welcome to our Facebook and Wechat platforms. You can also go to the Labor party’s official channels to get our information.
“Education is the best gift we can give our children. We are going to do a preschool program and invest $14 billion in public schools. My husband had lymphoma. For cancer policy, we want to help more cancer patients and hopefully, they do not have to worry about the extra cost.”
In Mandarin, she said: “If the Labor party takes office, we will ensure that the (climate change) Paris agreement can be achieved.”
The debate’s organising committee leader William Dong said both candidates were excellent Chinese Australian politicians. He said the debate was set up to promote more Chinese Australian interest in mainstream politics.
“Gladys Liu has Hong Kong spirit and Jennifer has the style of the Republic of China. They are the best Chinese Australian politicians. We decided to host the debate because we want to promote more Chinese Australia concern about Australian politics,” Dong said.
The debate was held at the Glen Waverley Mountain View Hotel on April 14.