Like most elections in recent memory, our national attitude towards immigration has been front and centre in the lead up to this weekend’s vote. The darkest expression of this can be witnessed in the trend to blame new Australians for rises in crime, a lack of jobs, and pressures on housing and transport.
Because of the structure of voting legislation in Australia, not all recent immigrants are able to vote. But considering migration accounts for 62 percent of the country’s population growth, it’s fair to say they’re still going to have a big role to play in the future of our country. With that in mind, we headed out to see how some recent immigrants are feeling about the state of national politics.
Ali, 20, student from Mauritius, not voting
If you were allowed to vote, who would you vote for?
I think I would vote for Labor.
Why is that?
Compared to the other political parties, the policies they have put out on climate change are pretty good. I also care about immigration rights because one day I’d like to settle down here and the Labor party don’t seem as harsh on immigrants as the Liberals do.
The environment is a global issue—does it frustrate you Australia isn’t doing anything?
I’m studying to become an engineer, and I've seen the different ways that we could solve climate change through technology. But policies implemented by state and federal governments really affect what we can do for the environment, and it’s frustrating to not see that happen.
Do you think if you were able to vote in an election here, you'd pay more attention?
Definitely; if I had the right to vote I would 100 percent research the different political parties that would be best for the country.
Your home country is Mauritius. How do the politics there compare to Australia?
First of all, you don't have to vote back home. It's also very corrupt and politicians are looking after their own interests rather than the interests of the people. Australia is incredibly lucky because most politicians have a good idea for a better future and people are able to vote for the benefit of the country, not just themselves.
Meg, 22, videographer from New Zealand, not voting
Do you know who you would vote for if you were allowed to?
I don't know much about Australian politics, which is kind of embarrassing. But I think that generally I would vote similarly to how I do in New Zealand, so the Greens or Labor.
Why is that?
I think they care more about the people—not just rich people—and the environment, and the future. I often feel like right wing parties only care about what's happening right now, people benefitting from things right now.
Does New Zealand politics influence the way you feel about stuff that happens here?
I feel like all political leaders should be like Jacinda Ardern—I'm so proud of her. New Zealand is also just way more chill than Australia. There are so many crazy political adverts and really negative advertising. Everybody is just ripping each other out, and I don't think I ever noticed that until I moved to Australia.
Does it annoy you that you’ve lived here for a while and can’t vote?
I think it sucks I can't vote. I know permanent residents in New Zealand can vote, but you can't do that here which is pretty crap, because things will be announced and then there is literally nothing I can do about it and have my say.
Deng, 35 from Sudan, Voting
Who are you going to vote for?
I’ve already voted for Labor because I feel supported by them. I think that when the government changed so much, things have gone downhill.
What do you think has gone wrong?
I think that people are frustrated and they want change. Living in Australia is great and there are lots of opportunities but it's hard to find them sometimes.
Has it been hard for you?
I was injured in my workplace and it’s been hard to find another job because of my injury. I have qualification and I apply for jobs but I can't get a job. So life has become really hard.
Do you think a change of government will help people who are struggling?
It will not help that much, but it will mean new people and a new system. Wherever there is something new, there is a bit of hope.
How does the politics of your home country compare to here?
I came here as a refugee from Sudan. I was given an education and a job, and while things have changed now, that's my problem, not Australia’s. When I have a problem, I don't feel like it's that big because it's different compared to what I would be dealing with in Sudan. Australia's very good compared to Africa.
Sharmeen, 26, tech worker from India, not voting
If you were voting this weekend, what kind of things you would want to see change on?
I'm really worried about jobs. A lot of my friends don't have many opportunities to get a job, and there aren’t that many fair jobs for international students either. If you're not a permanent resident or a citizen you can't even apply for the job which makes things pretty hard.
If you were to become a citizen, what kind of party would you vote for?
I would vote for the kind of party that welcomes us and is inclusive.
Who would you vote for in your home country?
In India there are two major parties, and the current regime is very nationalist and want to impose a one religion system in the country, which isn't that great, so I know I wouldn’t vote for them.
There are quite a few minor parties like that here. How do you feel about them winning seats?
I think I would have serious second thoughts about trying to live here forever if that happened, because it would be really unsafe and we would have to deal with more discrimination. Nowadays you can be from everywhere and it shouldn't matter—a mix of people is good.
Sophie, 23, media officer from Canada, Voting
Hey Sophie, who are you voting for?
The only conclusion I've come to so far is not the Liberals and not the Nationals.
I've just seen so much hypocrisy from them over the last couple of years. They've come out really strongly against gay marriage because of family values and then most of them have mistresses. They've also said some pretty nasty things about women and migrants and a lot of really vulnerable people.
Does coming from another country give you a different perspective on how they treat migrants?
I know I'm white, but the way that migrants are talked about: a lot of it here assumes that migrants are all people of colour and all coming from bad situations to come and take our jobs, which is not the reality of migration.
Has it made you feel unwelcome?
Personally no, but I don't want other migrants to feel unwelcome. When I think about who I'm going to vote for I don't want people who need to migrate and genuinely just want to have a better life to feel unwelcome.
If you were at the polls right now, who would you vote for?
Probably Labor, simply because they probably have the best shot at unseating the Liberals. There's a lot of things Labor is doing that I don't agree with, but it's just the lesser of two evils at this point.
How does what is happening in Canada influence your opinion about Australian politics?
Australian politics just seems cooked to me most of the time. There's so much shouting in parliament and it's just madness. Having grown up in a system where we get free healthcare, and a better social security net, I think the way we deal with things is a bit more humanitarian and less based on fear.
Interview and photos by Maggie Coggan-Gartlan. Follow her on Twitter.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.