On a recent trip to Perth in March this year I had the opportunity to have lunch with Tshung Chang. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, Chang ran as the ONE NATION candidate for the seat of Riverton at the last Western Australia (WA) State Election. The other interesting thing is that Chang is of Malaysian Chinese heritage – well his father is Malaysian Chinese and his mother is of anglo background. All the same, Chang is every bit of an Asian Australian as I am and Chang can speak fluent Mandarin and Cantonese in addition to English. Having spent a decade or so working in banking in Southeast Asia, he has a deep understanding of Asian culture and the nature of doing business there. Now all this may not be overly impressive, because many Aussies go to Asia to work and live, but what will interest you, is his motivations on running as a ONE NATION candidate. Why did Chang run for a party which around 20 years ago had a strong position against allowing Asian migration.
In addition, we can’t forget the infamous speech Pauline Hanson made in 1996 where she said, and I quote:
“I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians,”
“They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.”
So… Chang being of Asian descent, running for ONE NATION – why and how did this happen? That is a question he will answer in the interview I had with him. However, Chang isn’t the first Asian Australian to run for this nationalistic right-wing populist party which has really spewed more hateful rhetoric than I can count with my own fingers. Remember Shan Ju Lin? The Taiwanese Australian who was initially endorsed as a ONE NATION candidate for the upcoming Queensland State Election late last year, and later dis-endorsed with her homophobic Facebook posts? And is this a trend that we are seeing? Settled and established Asian Australians who somewhat feel the need to assimilate ( such a horrible term ) because they believe in the model minority myth? Chang seems to think so, and he said that his public profile as a passionate ONE NATION member is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the diversity of membership.
This in many ways scares me, but it then leads to the bigger question whether the major political parties and the bigger minor parties such as the Greens are representative of the diversity in Australia? The last time I checked having 1 or 2 people who are not of anglo or European background is not being representative. So in essence are these parties pushing Asian Australians and Australians of colour away? I will leave this question for you to reflect on and end on this this before I get onto the interview. The Liberal incumbent for Riverton retained his seat at the WA State Election with just over 10,000 first preference votes, and Chang got over 1,000 first preference votes – this is around 4.9% of the vote which is not small in terms being a first time candidate. Anyways, I will end here with my ramblings and allow you to read the interview I had with Tshung Chang.
Tshung, it was only around 21 years ago, that Pauline made her first ever maiden speech as a Senator. In this speech she went on an anti-Asian immigration rhetoric. In 2016, Pauline went on an anti-Muslim immigration rhetoric in her speech. This shows that ONE NATION has a racist and bigoted agenda and this is why they get media populism. How do you as an Asian Australian get around this psychologically?
Well, you just need to see who are the members of ONE NATION today and its policies. It is the broadest church of any party in terms of age and gender. Even the leader Pauline is female. I am pretty sure in 4 years time there will be more members of ONE NATION who are Chinese, Indian and even Muslim Australian background. I don’t agree that people’s views can’t change, Pauline has come a long way in how she sees things. I do think that some of the issues and the rhetoric around Pauline is in the articulation. If she couched some of the things she says in a different way she may be PM now.
ONE NATION will be around for a very long time and the issue of why it has such a reputation is due to political correctness gone mad. During the 1970s and 1980s you would call a spade a spade, nowadays people are too scared to talk about Muslims or else they will be called and labeled a “RACIST”. This is why people are harbouring resentment. I also want to add that people are worried about Islam because ( and these are based on things I have been told whilst door knocking) is that school kids are told (if they are Muslim) a boy and girl can’t shake hands in public schools. No one is strong enough to say these are kids, let them be kids.
In your interviews during the election campaign you mention the term ASSIMILATION. Now this term has an extremely horrible history and was used as an attempt to wipe out our First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) communities back in the day. It really has bad racial overtones. Why should we who are people of colour need to assimilate to white anglo celtic/Christian culture?
Not at all. It really depends on how you define it. There is nothing wrong with saying everyone who comes to Australia needs to learn or know how to speak in English. It is the best way to get a job and do well in life in all honesty. I always encourage people to learn as many languages as they can, but ensure they know English. So to “ASSIMILATION” – I spoke earlier about learning and mastering English, well my view of “ASSIMILATION” is just that and it is also about accepting everyone, respecting the laws in Australia and not bringing in your own laws. As for me, I have managed to earn respect because I worked hard – we all did that no matter whether you came to Australia as a 10 pound Pomme, or whether you came later from Greece etc – everyone worked hard. The core value of being an Anglo-Celtic is about working hard and saving and I think this is a good value to have.
ONE NATION has worked with groups whose primary focus is about being anti-China anything and everything. I understand and support the efforts to make it more difficult for foreign ownership as a whole, because it is important to ensure things are owned and operated locally rather than internationally. But it seems that this debate has devolved into xenophobia with the general perception that the “Chinese” are buying up everything in Australia. This is the platform your former party member Queensland candidate Shan Ju Lin ran on – she was very anti-China. How do you feel about all this?
To be honest, I have not sensed any anti-Chinese feeling in WA. I think another way of looking at is that this feeling is all dependent on the different waves of Chinese migration to Australia. We have the wave who came during the Tiananmen Square Massacre days as students as well as some of those who came only 20 years ago – most of these migrants didn’t come with a lot of money. You also have those who came during the Gold Rush period as well as from other Asian countries. But what Australians are seeing in the last 5 – 10 years are the affluent Chinese and this sadly does cause resentment from the mainstream Australian society of all colours as well as with other Chinese diaspora groups.
I have been thinking about this and with regards to the foreign ownership debate whether you are an American, Canadian, British, New Zealander or a Chinese company, there has to be standards in terms of transparency. If the Chinese company fulfils this, then there shouldn’t be any issues. I have taken this to the party room, with regards to transparency in terms of Chinese companies/investment.
In terms of myself personally, I practice what I preach and even for my own campaign in Riverton I didn’t take any money from fundraising or from any Chinese or any other company. I have used all my own resources for the entire campaign. If foreign nationals think they can buy influence in Australia, then this really needs to be looked at closely with a fine tooth comb. Just look at both the Liberal Party and the ALP and all the issues they have with being bought. This buying does influence parties to take certain sides with regards to geopolitics – and this is not just reserved for Asia but also other parts of the world such as the Middle East etc.