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Episode 62: Will the new Australian Parliament be diverse?

Traditional dancers from Myanmar perform for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Liberal candidate for Cowan Issac Stewart at a multicultural event.

The newly-elected federal parliament may have a record number of female MPs but it is likely to have fewer MPs born overseas than the last.

SBS Italian news, with a slower pace. This is Slow Italian, Fast Learning, the very best of the week’s news, read at a slower pace, with Italian and English text available.

Italian

L'Australia sarà anche un esempio di successo multiculturale, ma difficilmente ciò si riflette nei corridoi del potere della nazione.

E le persone critiche di questa situazione, come il leader dei Verdi, Richard Di Natale, sostengono che l'elezione ha fatto poco per modificare la reputazione del parlamento federale come un club per soli uomini bianchi.

"Parliament is profoundly unrepresentative of the Australian community. The Australian parliament looks nothing like the Australian community."

Saranno anche state elette più donne, ma la diversità etnica resta insufficiente, nonostante un numero sempre crescente di membri provenienti da un backround di immigrazione.

Andrew Jakubowicz, professore emerito di sociologia dell'Università di Sydney, ha dichiarato che il parlamento federale è rimasto indietro rispetto alle sue controparti statali quando si tratta di rappresentanza multiculturale.

"The dynamic of change which is sweeping through the Australian community more widely is very apparent in politics at a state level, in the federal level, it seems to have been squeezed out."

Secondo l'ex commissario per la discriminazione razziale Tim Soutphomassane tutte le istituzioni devono fare di più per abbattere le barriere culturali.

"The cultural default of leadership in Australian politics and in other areas of institutional life remains heavily Anglo-Celtic. Because you can't be what you can't see and we need to see more Austrlaians from culturally diverse backgrounds stepping up and stepping forward for public roles."

A suo parere tuttavia ci sono anche fattori più oscuri all’opera.

"A number of candidates from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds have been targeted for racist abuse and vilification. That's a deterrent for many people to run for public office."

Mentre nel prossimo parlamento ci sarà circa il 10% in più di donne rispetto al passato, il numero di parlamentari nati all'estero sembra destinato a diminuire.

Ci si aspetta tuttavia un leggero aumento dei parlamentari con un genitore non europeo e di background indigeno.

Richard Di Natale afferma che le cifre hanno anche sollevato dubbi sul fatto che i controversi requisiti di cittadinanza nella costituzione stiano dissuadendo gli australiani con un background multiculturale dal presentarsi come candidati al parlamento.

"Section 44 is an anachronism from a by-gone era. We need a referendum to abolish the section 44 clause that means if you are a dual citizen you can't run for parliament. It's a nonsense."

Ci sono comunque stati alcuni risultati eccellenti per il multiculturalismo in queste elezioni.

Ad esempio il combattutissimo seggio di Chisholm, dove la candidata liberale è in vantaggio sulla sua rivale laburista, nella corsa per diventare la prima donna australiana di origine cinese eletta alla Camera dei rappresentanti.

English

Australia may be a multicultural success story but it's hardly reflective in the nation's corridors of power.

And critics like Greens leader Richard Di Natale say the election has done little to soften federal parliament's reputation as a white boy's club.

"Parliament is profoundly unrepresentative of the Australian community. The Australian parliament looks nothing like the Australian community."

More women may have been elected but ethnic diversity remains stagnant, despite an ever increasing number of constituents from a migrant background.

Emeritus Sociology Professor Andrew Jakubowicz from the University of Sydney says federal parliament is falling behind its state counterparts when it comes to multicultural representation.

"The dynamic of change which is sweeping through the Australian community more widely is very apparent in politics at a state level, in the federal level, it seems to have been squeezed out."

According to former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphomassane all institutions must do more to break down cultural barriers.

"The cultural default of leadership in Australian politics and in other areas of institutional life remains heavily Anglo-Celtic. Because you can't be what you can't see and we need to see more Austrlaians from culturally diverse backgrounds stepping up and stepping forward for public roles."

But he believes there are also darker factors at work.

"A number of candidates from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds have been targeted for racist abuse and vilification. That's a deterrent for many people to run for public office."

While there are set to be around ten per cent more women in the next parliament, the number of MPs born overseas looks likely to decline.

But there is expected to be a slight increase in parliamentarians with a non-European parent, and from an indigenous background.

Richard Di Natale says the figures also raised questions about whether controversial citizenship requirements in the constitution are deterring Australians with a multicultural background from standing for parliament.

"Section 44 is an anachronism from a by-gone era. We need a referendum to abolish the section 44 clause that means if you are a dual citizen you can't run for parliament. It's a nonsense."

But there were some standout achievements for multiculturalism at this election.

Like the hotly-contested seat of Chisholm, where the Liberal candidate holds the lead over her Labor rival, in the race to become the first Chinese-Australian woman elected to the House of Representatives.

Story by Gareth Boreham  

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