Aussie first: Chinese face-off in Chisholm

Liberal candidate Gladys Liu (left) and Labor rival Jennifer Yang held Australia's first federal election debate in English and Mandarin last month in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm.
Liberal candidate Gladys Liu (above) and Labor rival Jennifer Yang held Australia's first federal election debate in English and Mandarin last month in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm.PHOTOS: GLADYS LIU, JENNIFER YANG/FACEBOOK
Liberal candidate Gladys Liu and Labor rival Jennifer Yang (above) held Australia’s first federal election debate in English and Mandarin last month in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm.
Liberal candidate Gladys Liu and Labor rival Jennifer Yang (above) held Australia’s first federal election debate in English and Mandarin last month in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm. PHOTOS: GLADYS LIU, JENNIFER YANG/FACEBOOK

The Melbourne seat of Chisholm has been one of the most tightly fought electorates, but one outcome in the federal election on Saturday is certain: the winner will be a Mandarin-speaking Asian-Australian.

For the first time in Australian election history, the candidates from both major parties - the Liberals' Ms Gladys Liu and Labor's Ms Jennifer Yang - are migrants with Chinese heritage.

Ms Liu moved to Australia from Hong Kong to study speech pathology in the mid-1980s.

She later opened a speech pathology clinic and then worked as an adviser to two Victorian Liberal state premiers.

Ms Yang moved from Taiwan in 2001 to complete an information technology master's degree.

She later worked as an information security engineer and served as Mayor of Manningham Council in the state of Victoria.

Last month, the two candidates held the country's first dual-language federal election debate in Mandarin and English.

"The Parliament should reflect the people it serves, and the lack of cultural and gender diversity is a real shame," Ms Yang was reported as saying.

Discussing whether they faced a "glass ceiling" or "bamboo ceiling" - as women of Asian ancestry - Ms Liu said: "I don't really see any kind of ceiling because I am an achiever and I always do my best to achieve."

The seat of Chisholm includes a range of diverse cultures.

About 20 per cent of residents have Chinese ancestry.

At the 2016 election, the seat was the only one that the Liberal party won from the Labor party.

The result was partly credited to Ms Liu's active effort to muster the Chinese community vote, especially via social media.

The winner was Ms Julia Banks, a Liberal MP who later quit the party and is contesting a separate seat as an independent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2019, with the headline 'Aussie first: Chinese face-off in Chisholm'. Print Edition | Subscribe