Liberal candidate Gladys Liu has been officially announced as the winner in the Victorian seat of Chisholm — making her the first ever Chinese-Australian female member of Federal Parliament’s Lower House.
- Roughly 20 per cent of the population in the seat of Chisholm are of Chinese ancestry
- Ms Liu beat out Labor’s candidate with a margin of 1,100 votes
- If a Labor challenge is successful, it could trigger a by-election in Chisholm
Speaking for the first time after being declared the winner, Ms Liu said she was thrilled to have won what was one of the election’s tightest contests.
“I’m very happy, very excited for what’s going to happen in the future — at least three years and more, hopefully,” she told the ABC.
Ms Liu beat Labor’s candidate and fellow Chinese-Australian Jennifer Yang by just 1,100 votes to gain the crucial multicultural seat.
She praised her team for their deep commitment to her campaign and said she received a great welcome when she arrived in Canberra to take up her historic new role.
“It is a great addition to a great team, because not only am I female but I can speak … two other languages, and also I am coming from a different ethnic background and that will enrich not only the country but also the parliamentary setting,” she said.
The challenges of a divided community
Ms Liu was born in Hong Kong, but the former speech pathologist has put down roots in Chisholm since moving to Australia three decades ago.
Roughly 20 per cent of the population in the seat of Chisholm are of Chinese ancestry, but the community is heavily divided along politcal lines.
“In Chisholm we have more people born overseas than here and my goal is to make sure that people — no matter where they are from, overseas or here — I want people to understand each other and welcome each other and work with each other.”
Ms Liu won the seat with just 50.58 per cent of the vote over Ms Yang who gained 49.42 per cent for Labor.
Ms Liu seemed unfazed by the narrow margin, saying “no one party can have 100 per cent support”, and the split vote among the Chinese community was “consistent with the voting trend in the country”.
“In terms of the political awareness … a lot of Chinese have shown interest in different political parties, their values, their policies,” she said. “I think this a great achievement and improvement from the whole community.”
Ms Liu said her goal was to represent everyone in the community “whether they voted for me or not”.
“This is one of my jobs — to make sure they are well represented and their voices are heard in Canberra,” she said.
Accusations of dirty tactics
But Ms Liu’s win has been called into question by Labor party officials.
Last month, she had to fend off accusations of using dirty tactics during the campaign after the ABC revealed she had posted a how-to-vote card on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
Ms Liu at first denied authorising the material, but the ABC recorded information showing she posted the how-to-vote card under her own WeChat account at the end of April.
“There were many many attempts to bring me down through the media including ABC and many other media channels,” Ms Liu said.
“I feel there were a lot of nitty gritty, some minor things or even non issues and some lies as well.”
The message told voters to “copy exactly as it is to avoid an informal vote”, suggesting any other preferencing would result in an invalid ballot.
The Labor Party is set to challenge Ms Liu’s win, alleging such material was designed to confuse voters into voting for the Liberals.
If a Labor challenge was successful, it could trigger a by-election in Chisholm.
But Ms Liu said she only posted material that was “authorised by the Liberal Party headquarters” and she had “no control” over what her supporters posted.
When challenged over the how-to-vote card, Ms Liu responded, “What’s wrong with that? All parties do that”.
“All the campaign materials were authorised by the state director and that should be a question for the state director,” she added.
As for her political future, Ms Liu said her “priority is to serve Chisholm and represent them”.
When asked if she will be running for minister she replied, “Let me go to Federal Parliament for the first sitting and see how it goes.”