This year's election has seen the highest number of women in parliament and greater diversity compared to previous years. Politics has had its fair share of shame for non-diverse and female-friendly environments, yet this year's election has proved that change is truly occurring. This year, for the first time, the Northern Territory held both Senate spots filled by Aboriginal Women. Malaendirri Mccarthy and Jacinta Price are both proud to represent their land. Moreover, Indigenous affairs will have their first Aboriginal minister, and Dai Lee, a former refugee from Vietnam was elected as her local member.
However, there has been a lot of criticism around the role of ‘parachuting’ MP’s, and how this can impact the diversity of those running as a local member for their electorate. The two sides to this discussion assess either how this can be unfair in subverting the traditional values of an MP representing their own electorate or that parachuted politicians may have a greater political background and look upon their electorate with bright ideas and fresh eyes.
Yet, can these parachuted MPs really be better than a local, no matter what their experience is?
Today, we will discuss the controversial topic in politics regarding Dai Lee and Kristina Keneally, and what this means for diverse candidates.
Who is Dai Le?
Dai Le is a former refugee born in Vietnam, she spent 3 years in a Philippine refugee camp before moving to Australia at age 11. Dai Le was originally an ABC journalist who previously stood with the Liberal party in state elections, now running as an Independent. Growing up as a diverse member of this electorate, she states that the Sydney Western Suburbs were treated as second class members during COVID, and to have an Eastern Suburbs member parachuted in to represent this area was simply a ‘slap in the face’ to community members. Dai Le beat Kristina Keneally, after winning over the 14% margin from Labor's ‘parachuted’ candidate. Tu Le (Vietnamese Australian), also wanted to contest for Labor in the electorate of Fowler, but Keneally was favoured. Tu Le went on to say that the success of Dai Le proved the communal belief that Keneally did not represent the seat's diversity, considering it has been a Labor seat since the electorate was created in 1984.
Who is Kristina Keneally?
Kristina Keneally has been a member of the Labor party since 2000. She has been a member of parliament from 2003 to 2012. Not only being in the Senate and House of Representatives but also the 42nd premier of New South Wales. Since running for the Fowler electorate, she has been set on making the electorate a better place for all to live in. Dealing with the backlash of her ‘parachuting’ situation, Keneally released a statement congratulating Dai Le on her win.
What is parachuting?
‘Parachuting’ is a term used when a party sends in a particular candidate from their party to represent an electorate. In this instance, Kristina Keneally has grown up and lived in the Eastern Suburbs. The Labor party ‘parachuted’ Keneally into running for Fowler as a candidate. Labor has previously held this electorate seat for all the years the electorate has been around. Since this hot topic has very varying opinions, the general consensus from community members is varied. Yes, the Labor party ‘parachuted’ her for a reason, clearly, she has something they want in parliament. However, this takes away from the meaning of an MP, to represent the people of their electorate, how can Keneally do this in an entirely different suburb that has an entirely different socioeconomic standard? Does this idea take away from the sense of a diverse community representing the people of Fowler? That's for you to decide!
How does this affect diversity?
The media has changed this situation to be a narrative that Dai Lee has only won since the electorate is a Vietnamese community. However, it’s her roots in the local community and people, knowing the way of life and how to combat issues within this area that enabled her success. If Kristina Keneally was perhaps a member of this community, the outcome could have been different. When using ‘race’ and ‘diversity’ as a reason for outcomes in politics, it can turn messy and not represent the positive side of diversity in parliament we should be focusing on since this year's outcome included so many diverse candidates.
Ultimately, we can see that both individuals have the experience and qualifications needed. Is it fair to allow one member to be ‘parachuted’ in? The choice is up to you! Regardless of experience, we can see that Fowler values the same sense of diversity, community and identity that has been shown this year in the election. What will the future bring for Australia's diversity in politics now?