NSW set to elect first Muslim MPShaoquett Moselmane
ELEANOR HALL: History is about to be made in New South Wales with the election of that state\’s first Muslim MP. Shaoquett Moselmane who is a Labor Mayor in Sydney\’s south has been promised a vacancy in the state\’s Upper House.
The aspiring state MP told our reporter Simon Santow that while he has suffered discrimination inside the party on the basis of his religion, his move to Parliament will send the message that the Labor Party is now inclusive.
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: Fingers crossed there may be an opportunity this time. Just a matter of being a little bit wary about this process. I just, you know, wait and see what happens but the view is and the decisions are exist and I will be taking over the vacancy when Henry Tsang resigns.
SIMON SANTOW: The promise has been made to you?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: Oh, definitely. It has been made to me ever since shaking hands with Bob Carr in 2003. A number of vacancies have come and gone at a sitting of the faction meeting in October of last year, it was decided that I would be the person to fill the next vacancy which has now has come up.
SIMON SANTOW: It will make you the first MP of Islamic extraction in New South Wales, in the New South Wales Parliament. How does that make you feel?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: To tell you the truth, Simon, I, you know, as an Australian, irrespective of what one\’s religion is, it shouldn\’t be counted although it is a matter for the person.
If it helps certain sections of the community to see somebody of a Muslim background in Parliament then that is a positive but I think it is important for the New South Wales Government and Australia as a whole, they send significant messages to the world if you like, particularly our neighbours, Australian society is inclusive.
It allows and helps and does not bar members of the community who are of different religious background and I think that is a huge plus for New South Wales and for Australia, given our situation where our neighbours, Indonesia, Malaysia and so forth particularly Muslim countries, I think it is a plus for New South Wales.
SIMON SANTOW: Have you ever suffered from discrimination?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: The level of ignorance out there, there\’s particular views and opinions about different religions, overwhelming majority of Australian citizens are good Australian citizens who respect and stand other cultures.
SIMON SANTOW: Now for more than a decade you have been a councillor in southern Sydney and over that time you have also been mayor. I suppose one of the biggest challenges in that time has been the riots at Cronulla beach just a few years ago that spread in fact, to parts of your electorate. Was that an example of the racial intolerance that you would like to see addressed?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: That aspect of racial intolerance really stood out and raised its ugly head at the time as a result of significant pressures and different players adding to the mix but I think that shows there is some underlying racial intolerance there. The need for a multicultural representation in the state parliament I think is there.
SIMON SANTOW: Have you come across racism within the ALP, within the Labor Party?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: There is certain elements of racism do exist and sometimes they do manifest themselves fairly sharply with some quarters. For example, in terms of branches, in recent times only a number of new Australians if you like, different background, entered into the various branches of the Labor Party.
The older members, some elements of the older members have particular views of who should be running the Labor Party and the branches and um…
SIMON SANTOW: Do they assume that if it is ethnic Australians joining a branch that it is branch stacking?
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: Well, the unfortunate thing, that is one element of it but with everything people like to maintain control on their own and don\’t like outsiders. In some respects people of non-English speaking background have been seen as outsiders and I think the party and New South Wales is moving forward in terms of being harmonious and inclusive of all communities. I hope that it would improve in time as well.
SIMON SANTOW: But some people would argue that it is well and truly overdue to have a Muslim representative in the New South Wales Parliament given the numbers, the population numbers in New South Wales.
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: That is a fair argument. The representation should have been there for a while now but ultimately people should go in there on the basis of their merit and the basis of their good contribution to the community. They shouldn\’t be there just because they have a particular religious or cultural background. They should be there because they can serve the community of New South Wales and they…
SIMON SANTOW: But conversely, they shouldn\’t be excluded because of their…
SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: That is correct. That is correct. Unfortunately that has happened in the past but hopefully, you know, once I personally go in and the people of New South Wales see a different face that perhaps has been portrayed in the press and the media about Muslims as being a negative image, I think I may be able to improve that.
And for people in New South Wales to see that really there is no difference between you and I and everyone\’s religion and everyone\’s cultural background is their own as long as it doesn\’t impede on the rights and benefits and welfare of others.
ELEANOR HALL: That is aspiring Labor MP in New South Wales, Shaoquett Moselmane, speaking there to our reporter Simon Santow.