Tu Le says people are 'furious' about Labor's Kristina Keneally selection 'debacle'

It comes as questions are asked about whether ethnic diversity quotas should be adopted in Australian politics.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese pictured with Tu Le

Labor leader Anthony Albanese pictured with Tu Le Source: Facebook / Tu Le

The young Western Sydney lawyer stood aside so former New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally can run at the next federal election in her local area says the "debacle" has caused anger in the community.

Retiring MP Chris Hayes backed Vietnamese-Australian Tu Le to replace him in the safe seat of Fowler, which encompasses suburbs with large multicultural populations, but was overruled by the NSW Labor Party.

Ms Le said on Tuesday the "debacle" of parachuting in Senator Keneally, who lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches, highlighted a lack of diversity in politics.

"I grew up, I live, in this area and I fight for this area every day in my life as a community worker, as an advocate, an organiser, and a lawyer," she told ABC Radio.

"We know it happens a lot of the time on both sides of politics but I think now people who couldn't care less about politics are more engaged. They're furious, in fact. The public commentary about this clearly shows their rage."

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese also addressed the fallout on Tuesday, calling Ms Le a "great social justice advocate" and said he has "encouraged her to hang in there". 

"I think Tu Le is an outstanding Australian and she has a great commitment to the country and to political change," he said.

"She's an articulate, very talented, passionate advocate for her community and for the cause of Labor, and I certainly hope that she hangs in there."

Mr Albanese defended Labor's diversity credentials, pointing to his Italian surname and the party's federal Senate leader Penny Wong as examples.

"The Labor Party has done an enormous amount for diversity," he said. "Kristina Keneally was born in the United States, came to Australia, and is another great Australian success story of a migrant who's come here and became the New South Wales premier."

Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating - who was raised in southwestern Sydney's Bankstown and served 26 years as the member for Blaxland, which neighbours Fowler - has also defended the decision to select Senator Keneally. 

“Local candidates may be genuine and well-meaning, but they would take years to scramble to her level of executive ability, if they can ever get there at all," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"What Western Sydney needs is someone with this ability ... to garner or eke out a bigger share of the national income, because people in Western Sydney live on the ebb and flow of the economy."

Calls for diversity quotas

With the fallout from the saga continuing, some are now questioning whether political parties should install diversity quotas to ensure representation for all Australians.

When questioned about the idea on Monday during an interview with the ABC, Labor MP Ed Husic said he supported Senator Keneally's pre-selection but indicated he would also support the introduction of diversity quotas.

"I think we should be absolutely looking at that issue and making sure that parties do reflect the communities that they represent," he said.

"Our parliament should look like the Australian community."

Senator Keneally discusses her nomination for preselection as the Australian Labor Party's candidate for the seat of Fowler at the upcoming federal election.
Source: AAP

But not everyone supports the idea.

Dominic O'Sullivan, a political scientist at Monash University, said quotas can often "mask the problem" rather than fix it.

"While the ALP prides itself on the number of women it has in parliament, and there’s lots of positive outcomes from that, it means the party doesn’t have to answer the question: 'Why are there barriers to women being elected?. What is it about our party culture, our national culture, that bars participation?'" he said.

"So, quotas are a lazy solution." 

Professor O'Sullivan said while he does not support diversity quotas, he does want to see designated seats in parliament for First Nations people, as has been done in various ways in New Zealand, Fiji and Norway.

"I think the arguments are quite different - First Nations people are not simply an ethnic minority, they’re people who’ve been here forever, had no voice in the political system that’s been established and yet are very much affected by the decisions that system makes," he said.

"So a truly inclusive political system that respects prior occupancy, I think, justifies designated seats. I don’t think one can make the same argument for migrant minorities." 

Published 14 September 2021 at 4:36pm, updated 14 September 2021 at 4:46pm
By Claudia Farhart
Source: SBS News