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.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 with n parents in these areas, 72 per cent of all people had both parents born overseas. 30 per cent are from a Muslim background 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.
The story is repeated in Victoria where Bruce, one of only two electorates to vote “no” in the entire state, has three times the proportion 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.
Despite community leaders foreshadowing the electorates will become more socially conservative as more migrants flock to them, not one “yes” voting Labor MP that spoke to Fairfax Media from the top 10 “no” voting seats in NSW or Victoria said they had decided to change their vote.
The former president of the n Federation of Islamic Councils, Keysar Trad, was pleased at the 75 per cent “no” vote in Labor frontbencher Jason Clare’s electorate of Blaxland, and surprised it was not even higher.
“That result is heartening,” he said. “I would have expected more than that, I think the clergy of both Muslim and Christian faiths has done their role and educated our parishioners about the ramifications of a “yes” vote.
“It’s quite possible that this area was the best informed about the survey.”
Mr Trad said the entire survey process was regarded with a deep mistrust by both Islamic and Chinese Christian migrant communities, who believe it had been hijacked by out-of-touch inner-city leaders. He warned local MPs to prepare for a backlash.
“It is polarising,” he said. “Unless these survey results are neutralised very quickly by a bipartisan decision then the electorate may go far more conservative in the future.”
In the outer Melbourne electorate of Calwell, the religious migrant community 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.
Community leader Bernard Amah said it was “great news” that at 56.8 per cent, Calwell recorded the highest “no” vote in Victoria.
“Islamic leaders and I talked as much as we could,” the priest said. “Many people here believe same-sex marriage is against nature, if people are living in it, I have no problems, but you can’t make it a law.”
University of Sydney demographer Zakia Hossain said for many migrants, even the concept of the survey could be outside the norm.
“The literature shows that first generation migrants are more conservative and try to hold onto their traditional and religious values,” she said.
“It could be a very sensitive issue that needs to be understood from this context.”
With James Massola