Letter from Dr Anthony Pun, OAM, National President, Chinese Community Council of Australia and Chairman of the Multicultural Communities Council of New South Wales.
We are indebted to Tony Kevin for giving us a good overview of the proposed legislation, and in particular, the areas of concern. (Turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse? Maybe. Australia’s new package of national security laws. 27 June 2018.)
The Chinese Australian community rate this issue with high significance and equivalent to the White Australia Policy of our past. When that policy was put into effect, the pioneering Chinese immigrants were not in a position to debate, articulate or make critical comments in the media. One of the main reasons was a lack of critical mass in the population to make their voices heard.
Today, we wish to present a different picture of the 1.2 million Chinese diaspora in Australia and the pioneering immigrants of the early 19th century. Chinese Australians today are mostly educated in English, understand and support democracy, freedom of speech and rule of law – despite their families’ countries of origin (ASEAN countries or China) and the political systems of those countries.
The majority of Chinese Australian families would have at least three generations in Australia. Their lifestyle is not different from any mainstream Australian families. The second and third generations are mostly English speaking, respect core Australian values of democracy and rule of law. They also love barbecues, cricket, football and beer.
The majority of Chinese Australians have moderate views and are not opposed to any security measures that are necessary to protect Australia and our lifestyle. Their public views are formed independently and generally free from any foreign interference. Their views (including those of the author) have been formed and matured in Australia where there is healthy political discussion and no restriction or censorship of political literature.
The SMH article This Labor MP has been cultivated by Chinese Intelligence (27 June 2018), raises serious concern about how the media projects the image of the Chinese Australian community to the general public. Despite its adverse perception, it does give us an opportunity to further our voice in the matter of political preselection and political fund raising.
The Chinese Australian community is seriously concerned with the reported reasons for sidelining Mr Ernest Wong MLC. The reported remarks regard him as a political liability and ineffective parliamentary performer. What did Mr Wong screw up? He has done nothing illegal and he has served his party well.
Or perhaps, when politicians reach their use-by date, they can be discarded without acknowledging their contributions to the Party. A bit cruel, I reckon – but “reality” in political life.
The SMH article also gave Chinese Australians the impression that politicians of Chinese descent are regarded as great “milking cows” by the Labor party. The perception that both parties have “milking cows” is much closer to the truth.
Attending political fund-raising dinners/parties on both sides of the political fence over the last 30 years led me to believe that the modus operandi of political fund-raising in the Chinese Australian community has not changed.
It is a well-known fact that Chinese people love to have a photo opportunity with an Australian politician and some of them are willing to pay for it. Nothing harmful to Australian security or illegal in this innocent pastime.
However, the perception that a person is nominated to stand for public office, based on fundraising activity alone, remains prevalent today. Previous concerns regarding this issue raised with political parties by the Chinese Australian community have fallen on deaf ears.
Our objection has nothing to do with national security. We wish to raise the question – why can’t major political parties nominate Chinese Australians because they have suitable qualifications other than fund-raising ability? Or to be cynical, do political parties select candidates who are more easily controllable?
The quest for money for political donations seems to be the trigger for introducing foreign interference and transparency bills. Their introduction has caused tension in the Chinese Australian community particularly when the media portrayed a perception that Chinese are all linked to the Chinese Communist Party and generated xenophobic responses from the general public. This has caused unnecessarily stress in the Chinese Australian community.
However there is a good side to the foreign interference and transparency bills. Firstly, they could curb political donations from foreigners. Such action will produce a level playing field for all political parties and I guess, this is one of the main reasons why Labor consented to bi-partisan support for the bills. In this context, the national security consideration is secondary. Tony Kevin’s article provides further insight into whether the security concerns are real or imaginary.
Secondly, in particular regard to the Chinese Australian community, it will stop the current fund raising modus operandi and put the “milking cows” to rest.
It is time for Chinese Australian political activities to align with the mainstream and to be just as successful as the Greek-Australian, Italian-Australian and Lebanese-Australian communities.
Hence, it is the wish of the Chinese Australian community to start afresh, focussing on the talents of Australian-born Chinese (ABC) based on their education background (particularly legal), knowledge of party philosophy and properly schooled as Young Liberals, Young Labor, Young Nationals etc. to take up political office in the near future.
Chinese Australians are not against the bills, but the rush to get the bills through means there could be some unintended consequences that may be problematic to resolve in the future.
The Chinese Australian community is a law-abiding community and would be compliant with the new legislation when it is passed. We appeal to the Commonwealth government to ensure when the bills have passed, the matter of Chinese espionage, spies and other adverse perceptions be put to rest so Chinese Australians can concentrate their efforts into making Australia a great place to live for all future Australians. Divisive domestic issues will create instability and would fracture the current peaceful, cohesive and harmonious multicultural society we live in.
Dr Anthony Pun, after graduating in 1978 with a PhD from the University of NSW, began his career at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney and retired as Chief Medical Scientist, Blood Transfusion Service, Haematology Department. He was an author and co-author of 31 publications on blood transfusion, clinical laboratory computing and bone marrow transplantation.
He served 5 years as a Member of the Immigration Review Tribunal (Sydney Registry 1994/99) and 3 years as a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal in the General and Equal Opportunity Divisions (2001/2004). Dr Pun has also worked as a consultant in the financial sector until his retirement.
Dr Pun, a former President of the Australian Chinese Community Association (1989/92), is a prominent member of the Chinese Australian community and is actively involved in a number of community organizations. For his services to the Chinese Australian community, he received two NSW Premiers Awards for Community Services (1991 & 1996) and the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997. In February 2010, Dr Pun was awarded a third NSW Premier’s Award, the “Jack Wong Sue award for services beyond the Chinese community in the field of anti-racism and multiculturalism”.
Dr Pun served twice as Chairman of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW (1997/98 and 2001/2003). He also served as Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (1996/99) and President of the Canterbury Multicultural Aged & Disability Support Services (CMADSS 1999/2003).
Dr Pun was a Member of the Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council (under Health Minister Tony Abbott), the NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on Hearing and the NSW Education Department’s Sydney Region Multicultural Committee. He also served for 9 years, as an Ambassador of the Australia Day Council of NSW. He was also the Overseas Director for Australia for the Shanghai International Culture Association.
In recognition of his continued community service, the NSW Parliament unanimously passed a resolution in the Legislative Council paying a tribute to Dr Pun’s 25 years to the Australian community. The resolution was moved by the Hon Maria Ficarra, MLC, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier of NSW. For Parliamentary Tribute to Anthony Pun, See: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20120501009
Dr Pun is currently the National President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia and current Chairman of the Multicultural Communities Council of New South Wales.