A CHINESE-only branch of the Liberal National Party has formed on the Gold Coast, dividing the party faithful.
The Gold Coast LNP Chinese Heritage Branch has just held its first meeting, with dozens of members joining several sitting MPs for the inauguration.
The new branch comes just weeks after the launch of a similar splinter group in the Brisbane suburb of Sunnybank, and is reminiscent of the influx of Chinese members to the party’s federal Ryan branch when Chinese Australian Michael Johnson was MP.
While LNP officials have embraced the enthusiasm of the new Chinese supporters, some rank-and-file party members are not impressed, questioning why they wouldn’t just join existing branches.
“We welcome Chinese members, or members of any racial background, but having their own branch is more like segregation than integration,” one member told The Sunday Mail.
“There’s a lot of people quite uncomfortable with it.”
Another Gold Coast member said it made more sense for immigrants who were passionate about politics to join a local branch rather than create their own.
“I don’t understand it,” the member said.
“It’s quite divisive.”
LNP president Gary Spence said the formation of Chinese-only branches was no different to the existence of the Young LNP and LNP women branches.
All members are Australian citizens, enlisted on electoral rolls.
“Many members speak English as a second language and are pleased to have a chance to actively participate in Australia’s democracy with fellow Mandarin and Cantonese speakers,” he said.
“Many of the members are also in small business and are very supportive of the LNP’s economic agenda, strong border security and law and order platform.”
Member for Mermaid Beach Ray Stevens, a guest speaker at the Gold Coast group’s inaugural meeting, said it was heartening to see Chinese immigrants wanting to be involved in the political process.
“A lot of them are small business owners with LNP values but they felt more comfortable (with a Chinese branch), particularly the ones who don’t speak English very well.”
By Jeremy Pierce
The Sunday Mail (Qld)