By ROD McGUIRK – Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The previous Australian government’s stance against a more aggressive China drove away many Chinese-Australian voters in recent elections who saw the administration’s language as enabling racism, a senior campaign strategist said on Wednesday. country.
The Conservative coalition government of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison lost the election last month after nearly a decade in power to the centre-left Labor Party.
Labor campaign manager Paul Erickson on Wednesday blamed the coalition’s rhetoric on China for significant voting shifts in favor of Labor in electorates with large Chinese-Australian populations.
“Comments we received were that there was a view that the government’s response to the more aggressive and assertive behavior of the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing government was sometimes seen in the community as an attack on Chinese-Australians. or rhetoric that has allowed racism in the community,” Erickson told the National Press Club.
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Of Australia’s 25 million people, 1.2 million are of Chinese descent, according to the latest census.
Coalition government figures had argued that Beijing had wanted Labor to win the election because Labor lawmakers were less likely to defend Australian interests against Chinese economic coercion.
A conservative lobby group Advance Australia had displayed advertisements on the sides of trucks during the election campaign that depicted Chinese President Xi Jinping casting his vote with the slogan: “The CCP says vote Labour”.
Morrison had called Deputy Labor Party leader Richard Marles the ‘Manchurian candidate’, the title of a 1959 novel about the son of a prominent American political family who is brainwashed by Chinese authorities into becoming an unwitting assassin. .
The senior ministers had also pointed out that China and the Solomon Islands had announced a security pact during the campaign as an attempt to undermine the coalition’s re-election chances.
Labor has described the pact as Australia’s worst foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II. New Foreign Minister Penny Wong will fly to the Solomons on Friday in a bid to improve bilateral relations.
Former defense minister Peter Dutton, who since the election replaced Morrison as leader of the conservative Liberal Party, argued during the campaign that pro-Labour communication on Chinese social media platform WeChat was proof that Beijing wanted the government to change.
Maree Ma, chief executive of Vision Times, one of Australia’s leading Chinese-language media outlets, said WeChat exchanges were more positive towards Labor than they had been in the last election in 2019.
Ma told Australian Broadcasting Corp. a week before the election: “A lot of articles talk about how Labor will be friendlier to China, which may or may not be the case in reality.”
Ma said soured China-Australia relations and concerns over China’s pact with the Solomons were not major election issues for Chinese-Australians.
“The vast majority of the Chinese community here doesn’t really have much to do with the Chinese government and what they really care about is whatever other English-speaking voters care about, which is who can run the country better; it’s about jobs, about the economy,” Ma said.
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