A Yes Vote Just as Important to Chinese-Australians as for Our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters
Kingsley Liu (刘仲权律师)
With a population of 1.4 million, Chinese-Australians are the largest ethnic minority community in Australia and our say has weight. From the perspective of that community, an important objective must be playing our part in seeing Australia lift its game to match world standards of acceptance of minorities and particularly of its indigenous peoples.
We all know our Constitution is terribly flawed, it maintains the Race Power in Sec 51 xxvi. The race power provides Parliament the power to make laws for “the people of any race whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.” Those in politics and public commentary who’ve spent a lifetime opposing any forms of Constitutional change point to the implied conventions of the Constitution as guaranteeing national stability and fairness to all Australians. The most cited convention is – despite what the Constitution says – the British Monarch is not our head of state, rather it is the Governor General. However, “conventions” cleared the way for the White Australia Policy and laws to imprison Australians of Japanese, Italian and German ancestry during World War Two.
Colonial power was still the basis for global rule back in 1901 when Australia became a federation – not a sovereign nation, rather a formalised grouping of six smaller British Colonies still under the British Crown. Australia never legislated a Bill of Rights that guarantees civil rights and liberties—such as freedom of speech, and press, where it sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. Because of this, the passage of Immigration Restriction Act, Poll Taxes, Dictation Tests, Citizen Tests, and Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme had been operating one after the other for over 100 years. And all of these instruments have contributed to the marginalisation of Chinese-Australian communities. The right thing for us to see is marginalized communities coming out from underneath.
The same flaw much more tragically operated from the beginning of white settlement to keep suppression and marginalization of the Indigenous community – some in apartheid South Africa even envied our constitutional race powers.
The Voice is where the Chinese and Indigenous peoples can reach for shared values in our communities. The same sharing extends further for multicultural Australia, with 25% of the population not being of Anglo/European descent. Why cannot we maintain that any advance for Indigenous rights works to “affirm a kindred action” for other minorities. Any step forward to multi-polarity in the entire community not only brings more expansion and development of the Indigenous rights, but fundamentally advances our own for Chinese Australians and other minorities.
We need to ask if the yes vote for Voice is only allowed for indigenous peoples, then what would the indigenous vote be by itself for its Voice? Fair go is fair go. Polling says over eighty percent of Indigenous Australians support the Yes Vote.
I ask my fellow Chinese Australians as to why would we merge our precious votes along with No camp and how would we be able to explain to our children that whilst we do not consider ourselves as racists, yet in 2023 a number of us may vote together with the No’s to stop the Voice. If so, sadly our anti-racism campaigns over the recent years from the Chinese community comes to nought.
When we view the photo of Jimmy Chi, we know that we know that Chinese Australians and Indigenous Australians stood together, and often married, in the Northern Territory, throughout the 1800s and that we walked overland from Darwin to Cooktown across sacred lands.
Author : Kingsley Liu
A third-generation Chinese-Australian, Kingsley has had a diverse career, spanning power engineering and investment banking from Melbourne to Canada and Asia.
In 2006, Kingsley co-founded The People’s Solicitors alongside Jeff Shaw QC, the former New South Wales Attorney-General, and later a Supreme Court judge, to represent disadvantaged individuals and the less privileged.
He remains an active Honorary President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia. His three-year tenure as the National President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association was transformative.