How will ethnic Australia vote in 2022: an essay in memory of Jim Jupp

For Jim

James Jupp died early in April at the age of 90. Jim remains a towering figure in Australia’s knowledge of its own diversity, an instigator and creator of some of our most powerful documents of memory, and a continuing challenger to the worst aspects of Australian racism and self-satisfaction.

There are nearly twenty years between us, he a child of the Depression and War, me a post-war reffo kid drawn to understand the strange land in which my parents had concluded their escape from European and Asian tyrannies.

His passion for politics began early. He attended the London School of Economics in the post-war expansion of education under Labour, where he completed a Masters thesis on the Radical Left in Britain. He deepened his fascination for party politics and the interaction between morality and venality.

Armed with his M.Sc (Econ) he set out for his Australia on his own money (he was not a Ten Pound Pom as he had not done his national service and Australia would not fund him). He was on a vague promise of a job in Melbourne from Hugo Wolfsohn, a Melbourne University politics academic , a Dunera refugee, then visiting the LSE. Sailing from Marseille through Singapore to Fremantle, Jim arrived penniless, staying at the Salvation Army hostel. Borrowing the train fare from Bill Hartley, a left-inclined activist he had met on the ship, he travelled across the country to Melbourne. Jim became involved with the ALP in Melbourne during that period after the Split. Six months after his arrival he became a senior tutor in politics at Melbourne University.

I first met Jim Jupp through reading his Australian Party Politics as an undergraduate in the Government program at Sydney University in the late 1960s. It’s also where I read his first book on immigration, Arrivals and Departures.  By then he was back in the UK at the University of York – heading the Department of Politics there when he met Marian at a political science conference, and the rest is history – 44 years of a great marriage.

Jim seemed to have an attraction for the Dominions, moving to Canada for a few years in the mid-1970s, where he completed his PhD through London University on democratic politics in Sri Lanka. From a chair in Politics in Canada, he returned to Australia in 1978 to become Principal Lecturer at the Canberra CAE. He then went on to establish the highly regarded and pivotal Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies at the ANU.

Now a mature scholar with a ferocious appetite for work (he always intimidated me) he created an expansive and insightful set of projects without which it would be hard to imagine Australian migration, multicultural and political studies today. Although he was working with the inheritance of the earlier founders – such as Jean Martin, Jerzy Zubrzycki and Charles Price- he was able to integrate their different perspectives into a much more multifaceted and interdisciplinary project that was quite his own.

His interest in the politics of immigration and the dynamics of policy led him into many engagements with government, including the chair of the Hawke-era review of Multicultural policy (ROMAMPAS). Its report demonstrated his emphases on equity, fairness, participation, cultural respect and reciprocity: to my mind it is by far the best of the many attempts to portray the complexities and opportunities of multiculturalism in Australia over the past 45 years. However he recognised that governments were fickle beasts who could not be fully trusted to hold to rationality, let alone principle. It was in that context I think that he decided an important contribution he could make would be to create a real and collaborative history of multicultural Australia and the peoples who had made it. In 1984 he convinced the Hawke government to support the preparation of an Encyclopaedia of the Australian People, drawing on his own amazing network of scholarly and community contacts. It would be one of the most important mementoes of the Bicentennial year in 1988, recognising the integral place of Indigenous Australians, and publishing challenging analyses of the country that Australia had become, while offering stimulating visions of the country it could become.

He was distressed by the resurgence of racism that had characterised the 1996 election, and the destruction of so many institutions of multiculturalism that followed the Coalition victory. His commitment to knowledge about Australia as a crucial element in reducing the ignorance on which prejudice was based, drove him to convince the Council of Australian Governments (with the advocacy of Jeff Kennett) to support a new edition of the Encyclopaedia, which was published for the dawn of the new century in 2000. 

Jim early recognised that the big debates about cultural diversity were already being superseded by the emergence of religion as a defining line within Australia. His Encyclopaedia of Religion in Australia from 2009 (the third of his volumes in which I was privileged to have a commentary) remains a stunning survey of the diversity of beliefs that humanity can pursue within a single society.

There are many other dimensions of Jim’s work and life that we could explore and perhaps his friends will gather in the future to undertake that joyous and revealing task.

His last work An Immigration Nation Seeks Cohesion brings together his life’s passions. Written in his mid 80s and drawing on his work across all the fields in which he had contributed, there is a chapter that contains his vituperative and unrelenting commentary on the collapse of a humanitarian morality in Australia. Jim echoed Karl Marx’s words, as he reflected on White Australia, where history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.

He passed the book to me when we last met at the International Metropolis Conference in Sydney in 2018. In a somewhat faltering hand, it is inscribed “Best wishes to Andrew, a great friend over the years, Jim Jupp”.

Election time – shaping up for the ethnic vote debate

The debate over whether an “ethnic vote” phenomenon exists in Australia re-emerges at each Federal election; and here. Broadly put, some argue that at the margins people from ethnic communities can be influenced by issues which are cultural rather than economic, or which relate to their countries of origin rather than to their duties as Australia citizens. The rise of racism (as with the emergence of Pauline Hanson’s movement in 1996) can drive those who feel targeted, to support parties with anti-racist programs. Particular candidates can also instigate opposition based on anti-racism, as when the Chinese and Korean communities organised to defeat John Howard in Bennelong in 2007, then swung back to the Liberal Party with the moderate John Alexander.

In 2016 I suggested issues associated with ethnicity would play a critical role in the deciding votes in marginals with significant multicultural populations. As it turned out they did – delivering at least two seats in NSW and one in Victoria to Turnbull, and thereby government.

In 2019 I suggested that ethnic voters might well save Morrison’s government. While Queensland proved more important in the large, the saving of Chisholm and Reid gave Morrison the tiny buffer he needed to gain a plurality. Some of the resistance to the ALP push came in Labor electorates, where the “ethnic vote” was focused on conservative religious values displayed during the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, ultimately recruited by the commitment of the LNP to pass a religious discrimination act if re-elected.

Christina Ho and I drilled down in the 2019 results for the marginal Liberal seat of Banks, concluding that the Chinese Australian voters (a grab-all that conflates many divergent tendencies and backgrounds, but captures the “visible minority” element relevant to experiences of racism) tended to be slightly more pro-Labor than the average voter, but followed the broader swing towards the Liberals.

The heightened awareness of the role that ethnicity may play in this election derives from three factors – the salience of international affairs (China, Russia/Ukraine, India) in public discourse, the quantum increase in the take-up of citizenship from the waves of arrivals in the high immigration years before 2017, and the appearance on the political scene of the second-generation of earlier arrivals in significant numbers. There are also a number of both first and second-order issues that have particular salience for some ethnic communities.

The government pandemic responses have unlocked insights into structural discrimination against ethnic minorities that have long been buried under the “most successful multicultural society in the world” slogan. The high rates of death among ethnic communities, the economic and social undermining of their well-being through lockdowns which affected industries employing high proportions of ethnic workers, and the unrelenting experience of reinvigorated racisms experienced by people of colour, have demonstrated that Australian multiculturalism faces critical challenges.

Where the Parties Stand

A statement on cultural cohesion promised for 2021 by Minister Alex Hawke has not eventuated, while the April 2022 Budget cut expenditure for multicultural programs by 10% (at page 41) , and reduced support to the Human Rights Commission for anti-racism programs going forward. The ALP has not yet released its main policy goals, though a policy report on Multicultural Engagement from 2021 was very limited in its goals and did not include earlier commitments from 2016 and 2019 to expand government multicultural policy capacity. The Greens proposal for multicultural legislation sits undebated before the Senate, though the party has re-visioned its anti-racism policies, including the proposed Act once more. At time of writing the main parties all agreed to provide policy updates, but have not yet done so.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities of Australia (FECCA) has an election wish-list. It wants an Office for Multicultural Australia covering the whole of government, based on a commitment and strategy to advance a fair and inclusive society.

It may be moot to what extent the policy choices offered by the parties in cognate areas actually capture the attention and enthusiasms of significant voting blocs. However, it is at the margins that choices made have an impact on outcomes. Critical electorates with significant ethnic populations include Parramatta, Reid, Banks, Greenway and Lindsay in NSW, and Chisholm, Bruce, and Wills in Victoria. Then we need to add the high Jewish population areas of Goldstein and Wentworth where the teal independents also face populations with significant proportions of overseas-born, also apparent in North Sydney. These are the areas most opposed to the arguments of supporters of religious discrimination legislation.

On the ground

An early focus on Chisholm and Parramatta helps clarify what impact an “ethnic bloc” might have. Noting that the 2021 Census will not be released until June, the data depends on 2016 – more than five years ago and a pandemic in between – the two electorates are apparently different but may have many similarities.

Almost half the population of Chisholm reported speaking a language other than English at home. The electorate had a China-born population of 14%, with 17% having both parents born in China. About 20% spoke a Chinese language at home, with 15% speaking Mandarin and 5% Cantonese. The next major language was Greek. However in the intervening period, the Chinese population would have grown and the Greek declined. Reflecting the high proportion of the China-born population, 36% of the population reported No Religion, while 6% reported Buddhism. In 2019 the Greens vote of 12% and the ALP of 34% were insufficient to halt the Liberals win – with a primary vote of 43%, though suffering a swing of just over 2%. The informal vote at that election rose by 50% to 4.5%. In 2022 it will be the LNP Gladys Liu against ALP Carina Garland.

Over 60% of the Parramatta population spoke a language other than English at home, with Arabic and Mandarin equal on 8%, Cantonese and Hindi about equal on 5% and Tamil on 3%. About 15% were born in India, with another 8% in China. Hinduism and Islam were highly-represented as religions, though the largest religious group was Catholic. Since 2019 the sub-continent population has risen, with many more becoming citizens. In 2019 Labor led the Liberals on first preferences, (45% to 41%), with the Liberals helped out by the UAP and the Christian Democrats. The swing to the Liberals was 7%, with an informal vote of 8%, steady from 2016. While the ALP secured a 2pp win of nearly 6000 votes, the seat is being strongly contested. In 2022 it will be ALP Andrew Charlton against LNP Maria Kovacic.

Do It Yourself

Readers can explore their own electorates (here given for Chisholm) by searching the ABS Quick Stats and the AEC Tally Room.

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