Terri Butler and Bill Shorten campaigning in Griffith
Newcomer to the Griffith by-election, Terri Butler doesn’t have a profile in the electorate that could in any way equal that of her predecessor Kevin Rudd, and on top of that, she is up against a well-known and well-liked opponent.
On the plus side, Ms Butler is new: this can bring its own energy and freshness, and the old Labor leadership battles are no longer the ‘front and centre’ distractions they were in 2013.
While Ms Butler sees herself as the underdog in terms of financial resources, she considers she has the backing that will really count come election time.
“Though the LNP candidate has a lot more money to spend on this campaign than I do, I have more grassroots support,” she told No Fibs.
Yet in her campaign speech this week, Ms Butler warned her supporters: “Do not be fooled. We are right up against the wall in Griffith.”
In my first interview with Ms Butler, she said of herself: “I am someone that people can relate to. I’m a young mum, I’ve got a successful career, and like a lot of people in this electorate, I juggle the responsibilities of looking after my family with full-time work.”
Ms Butler said Labor’s volunteers (which some have dubbed ‘Butler’s Battlers’ as a retort to the ‘Glasson’s Gladiators’ tag), “are working on this campaign because they strongly believe in what we stand for: a fair go for the people of Griffith, and they’re working alongside me to engage with people as much as possible.”
Ms Butler said that Labor is keeping the campaign local. “We’re doing street stalls, meeting and greeting people at train, bus and ferry stops, making phone calls, speaking directly with local businesses, sending letters, and attending community meetings, among other things”.
As to the local issues, Ms Butler said people are concerned about: “The inequity in access to high-speed broadband, and concerns about Mr Turnbull’s second-rate broadband plan,
LNP backflipping on education funding”, and cited access to quality childcare and aircraft noise as other topics of concern for the electorate.
“More generally”, she said, “people are concerned that the Abbott government is not what they expected when they voted. We were promised no surprises and no excuses, but we seem to be getting plenty of both”.
“This by-election is people’s first opportunity to express an opinion about the Abbott government. From the conversations I’ve had, I don’t think people want to give the Abbott government a tick of approval,” she said.
Asked why she considers Labor is best placed to represent the interests of the people of Griffith, Ms Butler said: “We have wall-to-wall LNP governments. We don’t need yet another person agreeing with Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman. It’s important to restore some of the balance. Our community deserves a strong voice.”
Ms Butler said that the by-election is about the future. “It’s an opportunity for people to send a message to Canberra about the Abbott government’s performance, and about the type of government we expect and deserve.”
Over the past week, Ms Butler has had Labor Leader Bill Shorten at her side as they have taken to the streets. She told No Fibs: “It has been great to have had opposition leader Bill Shorten in Griffith this week. Bill has provided tremendous support to me right throughout the campaign, including campaigning with me at bus and ferry terminals across the Southside, making phone calls, meeting with local community groups and formally launching my campaign.”
Mr Shorten launched the Labor campaign on Wednesday evening with a fiery speech to a (mostly standing) whistling and hooting crowd of supporters in cramped footy clubs in Hawthorne. This was the Bill Shorten Labor people have been waiting to see.
At the conclusion of her campaign speech on Wednesday, Ms Butler said: “Everyone in this room knows that universal healthcare, a great education system, high speed broadband, and accessible affordable childcare, are, and always have been, Labor priorities, and we all know that only a Labor member will stand and fight to protect them.”