Labor MP Ed Husic, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, candidate for Lindsay Emma Husar and Labor MP Jason Clare during a visit to the UWS Launch Pad Smart Business Centre.Election 2016 on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s campaign. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Monday 13 June 2016.Labor MPs across western Sydney – and in two Melbourne seats – will defy the will of their electorates and vote “yes” to legalise same-sex marriage in Parliament.
More than any other area in , the people of western Sydney voted “no”.
Here, where up to three quarters of the population in the electorates of Blaxland and Watson voted against same sex marriage, the cultural clash of marriage equality and the conservative values of immigrant cultures told the story of the polls.
The same two factors repeated themselves in the only two areas to vote against same-sex marriage in Victoria: Calwell and Bruce.
The “no” campaign targeted conservative immigrant cultures and it showed.
Voters from Lebanese and Chinese backgrounds now outnumber those from n heritage in these areas, 72 per cent of all people had both parents born overseas. 30 per cent are from a Muslim backgrounds in Blaxland, 23 per cent in Watson, 10 times the national average of 2.6 per cent.
The “no” vote forms a ring around the whiter, wealthier, irreligious inner-Sydney suburbs, and almost all of them are Labor-held – with the Liberal seats of Bennelong and Banks exceptions – and historically working class.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke told Fairfax Media he would not be changing his vote to “no”, despite “yes” securing just 30.4 per cent support in the postal survey in his electorate of Watson, one of the lowest results in the country.
“I went to the last election with a commitment to vote ‘yes’. That doesn’t change. My community knows that if they are treated with prejudice, vilified, or marginalised in any way I will stand up for them, regardless of polls.”
In Chifley, where 58.7 per cent of people voted no, local MP Ed Husic, a “yes”-voting Muslim, said the community would find a way to accommodate all points of view.
“There are a lot of socially conservative people in my area. I voted ‘yes’ because I thought it was an important step forward for the inclusive tradition we have in this country,” he said.
“We have always accommodated millions of people who speak different languages, who wear different things and found a way to include people from all different walks of life.”
Fellow western Sydney MPs Chris Hayes and Julie Owens also indicated they would be guided by the national result, rather than the results in their seats, which were 36.3 per cent and 38.4 per cent respectively. So too did shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, despite more than 60 per cent of constituents in his electorate of McMahon voting “no”.
“I’ve said previously that if the national vote is in the affirmative I won’t use my vote to frustrate the passage of the legislation,” Mr Hayes said.
“That’s not to say I won’t work to get matters of religious liberty considered, but not in this bill necessarily,” he said, adding that he could vote ‘yes’ or could abstain.
Ms Owens said she would take 24 hours to consider the implications of the vote but “my inclination is still to vote ‘yes’, it was overwhelmingly ‘yes’ across “.
“My job is to work with my community to see if we can find ways to make them more comfortable with the national decision,” she said.
Labor frontbencher and long-term same-sex marriage supporter Jason Clare, whose Labor electorate of Blaxland had the highest “no” vote in the country at 73.9 per cent, said he would not be changing his vote.
“I’ve always known the views of the people of Blaxland on this issue and I have been very upfront about mine,” he said.
Labor frontbench MPs Michelle Rowland (Greenway) and Linda Burney (Barton) also confirmed they would still vote “yes”, despite a victory for “no” in their seats, as did Liberal MP David Coleman.
ABC election analyst Antony Green said the pattern of the “no” vote in western Sydney correlates to electorate with large populations born in non-English speaking countries.
The story is repeated in Victoria where Bruce, one of only two electorates to vote “no” in the entire state, has three times the level of families with Chinese backgrounds, and in Calwell, where one of the state’s largest Iraqi communities resides along with the Turkish, and Lebanese diaspora.
They are more likely to be married themselves, but less likely to have a university degree, according to figures from the 2016 census. Median incomes here are a couple of hundred dollars per week less than the rest of Victoria and significantly less than the “yes” voting electorates in inner-Melbourne.
Local MP Julian Hill confirmed he would still be voting “yes” after 53 per cent of his electorate voted “no”.
In Calwell, religion has undoubtedly had an impact, with 17.7 per cent of the electorate from an Islamic background, six times the state average, while 34 per cent are Catholic, 12 per cent higher than the rest of the state.
The member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou, said she would still vote “yes”, despite 56 per cent of her electorate voting “no”.
“I understand where my electorate is coming from, I think a large number of my constituents’ views are informed by their religious faith and I will work with them on this issue,” she said.