#ASIANAUSPOL is part of a longer term collaborative project between BEING ASIAN AUSTRALIAN and the ASIAN AUSTRALIAN ALLIANCE to identify, showcase, discuss, and encourage Asian/Asian Australians who are running as a candidate or who are already there for Federal, State and Local elections.
A proud Asian Australian, former diplomat and public policy advisor Zhi Soon is going for it and running as the Labor candidate for the seat of Banks which is located in South Western Sydney.
QUICK STATS ON THE FEDERAL ELECTORATE OF BANKS
- Currently held by incumbent Liberal Member David Coleman since 2013;
- It is one of the most marginal Liberal seats in greater Sydney, and is often overlooked from other high profile marginal seats.
- In terms of its cultural diversity, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that around 55% of Bank’s population were born overseas which is above the Australian average of 35%;
- In terms of “Asian ancestries”, the top response according to the ABS is 16.2% identify as having Chinese ancestry with Nepalese, Hong Kong and Vietnamese as the other main Asian backgrounds.
After looking at these statistics, you question why is a middle aged white man representing an obvious culturally diverse electorate? Isn’t it time that Banks has an MP who actually visibly represents a largely culturally diverse population and electorate? Well, those are my thoughts, and we asked Zhi Soon, who tells us that despite not coming from a political family the question about the lack of diversity in Australian Parliament is an important one and he hopes that he can contribute to the change.
You know what? we can absolutely do better and parliaments across the country should look and feel more like the communities it represents. Really, you shouldn’t see any gaps from the people we see walking down the street in modern Australia and the elected faces we see in Parliament, says Zhi Soon.
And part of ensuring Australians from diverse backgrounds and in relevant to this interview Asian/Asian Australians feel that they can actively participate in politics is about removing both the formal and informal barriers for participation, and encourage more of us to stick our hands up to be part of the political process. If elected, I would like to encourage more diverse representation and I will represent all the voices of my diverse community in Parliament.
Born to Malaysian Chinese parents in Kuala Lumpur, Zhi Soon’s parents migrated to Australia when he was just 3 years old. His entire life growing up and his adulthood was spent in and around the Banks electorate. When his parents first arrived, they lived in Hurstville before settling down in Revesby and Revesby Heights. Zhi Soon himself lives in Padstow with his partner and his sister and her family living in Kenthurst – so he is pretty much through and through a “Banks boy”.
Growing up I was a bit of a nerd and I was into playing chess and video games. I also enjoyed sports and played tennis and rugby, so I guess I was a nerdy and sporty kid. Like many migrant and Asian families, my parents instill in myself and my sister the value of education and hard work, but more importantly they instilled in us the importance of community and how in any society we need to support one another.
With so many options in terms of representing political parties and being an independent candidate, Zhi Soon chose to represent the Labor Party. It is always interesting to understand why a person chooses to be part of a specific party and refreshing to see Asian/Asian Australians take part in the political process and sticking their necks out.
For me what inspired me to join the Labor Party and represent it, is its core values on the importance of collective action and how this is a helpful way to solve problems, no matter how big or small these problems are in everyday life.
I was brought up with a strong sense for the need of equality, fairness and the importance of community, so these are core Labor values. I decided to be a candidate for Labor as I feel this is the way the people of Banks will be adequately represented.
I wanted to ensure the communities I grew up with and live in voices are heard and their ideas and opinions included to shape the vision for the electorate and the country. I believe all the experiences I have had working in and around government will help me because I understand the system and the dynamics of the community, which will be useful to ensure the voices of the people in Banks are conveyed and considered as part of the policy making process in Australia.
The rise of anti-Asian hate in Australia and all over the world has become a major issue. More locally, in Australia it is double layered with anti-Chinese sentiments added on top of the anti-Asian hate issue which have been highlighted since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Jason Yet-Sen Li who has just been confirmed as the victor for the NSW by-election for the state seat of Strathfield has highlighted the issues around anti-Asian racism in Australia during his victory speech ( after the by-election day was over) saying:
Race is used as a partisan political weapon for short-term gain but with devastating long-term consequences – Jason Li, Member for Strathfield
Zhi Soon was there at the victory event after helping out on the by-election day for Jason Yet-Sen Li and he was inspired by Li’s words and had a few things to say about anti-Asian hate in Australia and the government debate over the Australia – China deteriorating relationship.
On the current situation what I am most disappointed by is how the current racial discourse we see happening affects young Chinese and Asian Australian kids in the school yard- getting bullied for their race which leads to them questioning their identity.
They will question who they are as Australians even though they have every right to be embraced and feel Australian. When Jason made his comments about the long term racism situation, what I took from it is sometimes you think these are just words being thrown around in the public and political debate, but what many in governmental positions ignore is that these words have real implications on the ground and that racism is the unfortunate consequence of the current discourse.
Finally, for those who are interested in supporting, engaging and helping Zhi Soon for Banks, how can you do so, and what words does Zhi Soon have for you?
With me, you have a candidate who not only lives in the area, but who also grew up here and I will represent you as best that I can. I want a government who will create equal opportunities in healthcare, education and take action on climate change and housing affordability. I am not a career politician. I am just somebody who is like you and your family.
Please reach out to me, follow me on Facebook – send me a message or an email and we can catch up virtually and/or in person. If you want to help out in my campaign, we can talk about the different roles and a big part of my campaign is getting people excited about wanting to vote and to be part of the election process.
Interested in following and knowing more about Zhi Soon? if you would like to make a donation to his campaign, please click here. Also, here are all his social media handles:
FACEBOOK: Zhi Soon – Labor for Banks | Facebook
Images provided and via Facebook