The Labor candidate for the Melbourne seat of Chisholm, Jennifer Yang, and former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, were critical of the mainstream media for using scare tactics to paint a bad picture of Asian migrants and international students at yesterday’s open round-table discussion hosted by the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI).
The room was abuzz at Burwood’s Deakin University Business Centre where guests were invited to discuss the topic ‘Asia in Australia and Australia in Asia’, with the former PM and Yang, along with newly inducted Labor senator, Raff Ciccone. The focus stayed on fostering stronger relationships with our Asian neighbours across the pond.
Before guests sat down, Yang said she was worried about the pre-poll results for this month’s election, but was also “very excited to broaden (her) horizons”.
Yang took to the microphone first as guests awaited a fashionably late Rudd, explaining how, as a first generation Chinese-Australian, she hopes to be elected into a government that “reflects the diversity of modern Australia”.
“Australia is built by migrants from all over the world, generation after generation,” she said. “In recent times we see more Asian migrants coming to Australia, and I think that’s a good thing to see how Asian Australians can enrich culture here and help contribute to debate, and bring in some different perspective, especially in politics.”
Rudd stepped in then. “This is where we are in the world. It doesn’t require rocket science. Where we are through the geography of our future, it requires us to be fully engaged with the countries and cultures of our region and to deepen and broaden them,” he said.
When the moderator, ADI’s Professor Greg Barton asked what universities could do to help the bond, Yang said universities were helping, but the media wasn’t.
“Universities are doing the best … people are much more well educated and open minded,” she said. “(But) the university community (locally and internationally) can see how unfair the media play to that.
“Eighteen months ago when the Four Corners report came out, it was saying all these Chinese students are spies, which was basically what it was saying. We had a lot of students feel that pressure. They needed some mental support. They were just here to study and experience the democracy.”
When asked what could be done to build media trust and break down the “negative” bias between the Australian public and China, considering it has one of the highest journalist incarceration rates, Rudd said: “Australia is a liberal democracy, that’s never going to change, that’s who we are.”
“What I have said constantly to Chinese leaders is that we will never change and we will defend these values not just domestically, but internationally, even if that causes disagreement. Therefore when tensions arise in terms of China’s domestic human rights practices whether this relates to freedom of press or journalists in that country, then our opposition should be of no surprise to China and we should be able to articulate that.”
Rudd, who is now the president of the Asia Society Policy Institute based in America, has been travelling across the globe and around the country to rally Chinese voters in Australia to vote Labor on May 18.
The round-table discussion was held at Deakin’s Burwood campus on May 2.