For hundreds of thousands of Australian residents, next month’s New Zealand election has greater significance than the recent WA or ACT polls or the NSW by-elections. 

By global standards, both New Zealand and Australia have a very high proportion of their population who were born in another country.  In 2006, 22.9 percent of people usually living in New Zealand were born overseas, compared with 23.9 in Australia.  This figure is only increasing slowly in Australia, while in New Zealand, it has risen from 17.5 per cent just ten years ago, suggesting they could well overtake Australia on this measure in the next few years. As with Australia, the percentage of overseas born people in New Zealand from Asian countries is now close to the percentage from the UK and Ireland.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are two Asian born MPs among the 226 members of the two house of parliament in Australia.  New Zealand only has the one house of Parliament, which normally consists of 120 seats.  In reporting on the ethnic campaign launches of the two major parties, the New Zealand Herald predicts the election “will probably result in Labour and National having three Asian MPs each”.

The Nationals already have a Chinese born MP in Pansy Wong, who was first elected in 1996.  At this election, the party is also hoping to provide New Zealand’s first ethnic Korean and Sikh MPs.
Candidates for the Labour Party with credible chances of being elected include ones with Chinese and Fiji-Indian heritage, joining Pakistan-born Muslim MP Ashraf Choudhary. New Zealand’s current Governor-General, Anand Satyanand, has Fiji-Indian heritage.

New Zealand has of course done far better than Australia when it comes to having Indigenous people as Members of Parliament, helped by but not solely due to having a number of seats set aside specifically for Maori.

I knew it had done better having women in positions of high office too, but I didn’t know that in 2005, according to Wikipedia at least, it became

the only country in the world in which all the highest offices in the land have been occupied simultaneously by women: Queen Elizabeth II, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives Margaret Wilson and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias were all in office between March 2005 and August 2006. New Zealand’s largest listed company, Telecom New Zealand, had a woman – Theresa Gattung – as its CEO at the time.

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