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End of a journey looms for Griffith candidates

For the two main protagonists in the Griffith byelection, win or lose, it will be the end of a journey.

A field of 11 candidates have put themselves forward to replace former prime minister Kevin Rudd in parliament, but realistically it will be a choice between the Liberal National Party's Bill Glasson and Labor's Terri Butler.

Dr Glasson's journey has lasted 14 months, having also contested Griffith at last year's general election, but there is no sense of déjà vu for the former Australian Medical Association president.

Terri Butler and Bill Glasson after their on-air debate at Bulimba.

Terri Butler and Bill Glasson after their on-air debate at Bulimba. Photo: Cameron Atfield

“On September 5, I was feeling like I was going to go very close to Mr Rudd,” Dr Glasson said of the 2013 campaign, held on September 7.

“I felt that we'd done the hard work, the feeling in the electorate was that we needed a change and I felt that we were going to go close.

“I must say in the last day, when the bookies were paying out on Mr Abbott, there was a feeling of 'we don't want to give him too big a kick', so there was a bit of pullback, but my feeling at that stage was that we were going to go close.

“This time, I haven't got a feeling. There's so many people still not engaged in the byelection that I don't have a feeling of where I am, although I have a gut feeling it's going to be close.”

Dr Glasson managed to win the primary vote in the general election, losing to Mr Rudd on the strength of largely Greens preferences but reducing Labor's margin to just 3 per cent.

Unlike Dr Glasson, Ms Butler has no previous campaign to which to compare her experience on the Griffith byelection campaign trail.

But the employment lawyer said there had been no great surprises during her first tilt at public office.

“I've been working on election campaigns for 15 years, but I've not been a candidate before. Having seen it from the side of the campaign worker, I have been extremely mindful of the fact that the candidate can have the tendency to be a bit sensitive,” Ms Butler said.

“I've tried very hard not to take that out on anyone around me, I've tried very hard – and I don't know how successful I've been – not to be buffeted by the day's press, to be tossed around by the issues of the day, but just to stay really focused and to stay really positive.”

Ms Butler said she was undaunted by her rise from relative obscurity to national political figure.

“You can imagine if you've fallen out with your boss and you've done so hard enough to come and see a lawyer like me, things are probably pretty bad in your life – I have a box of tissues in my consultation room because people are in pretty distressed emotional states,” she said.

“That's what's hard, being a voice of pragmatism in difficult emotional situations. Talking to journalists about things I care about and what people care about, that's not hard.

“In terms of the attention, I've been so busy I haven't had time to notice it. The only thing I've really noticed is more trolls on Twitter and I just block them.”

Looking back on his campaign, Dr Glasson said local issues had tended to be drowned out by the national machinations in Canberra – local issues such as the experience of the candidates, CCTV security and freight trains cutting through the suburbs.

“I'd like to see the coal trains go underground – they're dirty, they're noisy, they're longer trains – I think the passenger trains are less of an issue than the coal trains,” he said, adding it was a project that would require fund that were, as yet, non-existent.

“The amount of freight going to and from the Port of Brisbane is going to be huge, so I think that would be an exciting project that would do a lot for the port itself and also for the constituents in Griffith who have to deal with the noise and the coal dust.”

Dr Glasson said, even at this late hour, there were still votes to be won.

“I'll be trying to get to as many booths as I can, just to say thank you to all our workers on those booths,” he said.

“It's a tough job, they're campaigning all day until 6 o'clock at night.”

Should he get over the line this time around, Dr Glasson said his first task as an MP would be to thank the people of Griffith. Then, it would be down to business.

“I'd want people to see me not as the LNP candidate for Griffith, but as Bill Glasson, the local member,” he said.

“Forget about party politics, the election will be over, party politics are out. It'll a matter of working with the team you have and I'll get to know them in Canberra, sit back and listen initially to learn how things operate, but mainly to remain focused on being a good local member.”

Ms Butler said she would draw inspiration from an independent member of parliament should she be elected on Saturday.

“I want to engage with community organisations but I also want to get to those people who are a bit disconnected from public life and from community life and find out what their problems are,” she said.

“I've been reading a little bit about the campaign in Indi that Cathy McGowan ran – there's quite a good model of community engagement that she used on the ground – and I'd be really interested to see if we can adapt that here.”

Come Sunday, Ms Butler will either be getting into the mindset of being a member of parliament, or returning to her job at Maurice Blackburn lawyers.

The same professional crossroad will apply to Dr Glasson, an ophthalmologist whose registration would be in doubt if he stopped practicing.

So it is now or never for Dr Glasson's political career?

“I'll never say never, but I've put 14 months into this. It's been hard work and I've enjoyed it, but I think I'd need time when this is over to think about my political future should I not be successful,” he said.

74 comments

  • I don't know whether the performances of Butler and Glasson on last night's 7:30 Report will impact on voters but if they do Butler won in a canter. Glasson's clumsy response on climate change and his cringe-worthy admittance that he was not an expert on the subject hardly paint him as an ideal representative for an educated electorate. A working knowledge on climate chance and it's impacts on the globe should be fundamental to any politician. His refusal to acknowledge that a nation such as Australia has a responsibility to act for the good of the planet showed him as having a narrow, parochial view of the world. I wonder what his views on Australia's obligations to refugees might be?

    Commenter
    Ken of Brisbane
    Date and time
    February 08, 2014, 1:57AM
    • Terri doesn't seem too sure on refugees and boat people.

      Commenter
      Fence sitter
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 10:33AM
    • Ken,
      if correct about Glasson's 7.30 performance ( did not see it) that rather fits with Glasson's reported statement that he doesn't have a feeling but has a gut feeling. Huh?
      Someone who doesnt appreciate they are both feelings or who hasn't the wit not to contradict himself within 2 seconds on a very simple idea, can hardly be expected to have a coherent position and understanding about climate change.
      Anyway no need for independent thinking on the big issues - just take orders from the top.
      The statement to forget about party politics is silly and deceptive - seeing as Glasson if elected and he is cut from the usual MP mould that serves the party and then local electorate, will be implementing his party's agenda in full - unless he has gonads of steel - a la Sharman Stone to publicly defy his party and such defiance results only in ostracization. Its nothing but wall to wall party politics in Parliament.
      As to Fence Sitters' comment re Butler's confusion about refugees and boat people, if so, she and her Party should have made sure she had a handle on them, at the very least for the purposes of a national interview.
      Why would Butler draw inspiration from an independent? Butler is unlikely to be any more more indepdendent than Glasson will - although at least Labor hasnt formally put the muzzle on its MPs from speaking against or out without the Peta seal of approval.
      Both trying to give the (misleading) impression that they can get some results for their electorate overall as an ordinary and new MP - even against their party's agendas and policies. I dont think so.
      And finally I commend them both for being prepared to stand up and be counted.

      Commenter
      Lyn
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 1:22PM
    • @ Tristan what of the "Australians for Honesty in politics" slush fund he denied Knowledge of, until he was caught lying on 4 corners, it should be run on a continuous loop.

      Commenter
      cycloniq
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 2:45PM
    • His comments on coal in this article is enough of an indication where he sees our future power source originating from.
      Lyn, Terri's reference to Cathy McGowan's campaign is not to do with her being an Indi, it's about the absolute success in her grassroots approach. Not just for the campaign but as a way of embracing community involvement, representing your community's values and concerns.
      An excellent role model by any standards.

      Commenter
      A country gal
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 3:52PM
    • Butler is nothing but a clone of the typical female ALP politician.

      Close your eyes and she could be Plibersek, Rowland, Ellis or any of the others with nithing to say but run a fear and scare campaign.

      In typical ALP fashion she has peddled many lies such as the supposed cut to Queensland Health by Newman. The Newman government has put almost $1 Billion extra in health even after finding the $1.2 Billion fiasco of the ALP payroll system and the $1 Billion blow out on the new children's hospital over the ALP funding.

      That is the truth to health funding in QLD and I hope enough Griffith electors take her to task foir that and all the other lies.

      Commenter
      andie
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 4:38PM
    • "@ Tristan what of the "Australians for Honesty in politics" slush fund he denied Knowledge of, until he was caught lying on 4 corners, it should be run on a continuous loop."

      That's right Cyclonic,

      It was in relation to his slush fund that Abbott made the comment, "Misleading the ABC is not the same as misleading parliament as a political crime".

      It speaks volumes about Abbott's ethics.

      Abbott lies to his own party. Abbott lies to the ABC. Abbott lies to Indonesia. Abbott lies to the electorate.

      Abbott thinks he can repeatedly lie, break promises, act unethically and just apologise and all will be forgiven.

      That's why Abbott said "It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission".

      Abbott admitted to Kerry O'Brien on ABC's The 7.30 Report that he can't be trusted to tell the "gospel truth" unless it's a carefully scripted, pre-prepared statement.

      Then, that also proved to be a lie when Abbott lied in writing when the ALP produced a letter signed by Tony Abbott reaffirming his joint commitment on political funding.

      Within his first week of government, Abbott went to Indonesia for 24 hrs and lied to the Indonesian President about not breaching their sovereignty, and promised he wouldn't implement his contentious boats policies - paying Indonesians to spy, buying fishing boats, towbacks and turnbacks.

      Abbott has now lied to the electorate about not slashing spending via his Commission of Audit when Rudd accused him during the debates of "Cut, cut, cutting".

      Abbott lied to a Liberal colleague who lost by a single vote, when Abbott promised to vote for him, but voted for the other contender behind his back.

      It's a pattern of deceitful behaviour which reflects the character of Tony Abbott - lying to get what he wants, and bugger the consequences.

      Commenter
      Tristan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 6:23PM
    • Campbell Newman outsourced public health to the private sector.

      “Qld plans major hospital out-sourcing” (ABC radio AM transcript 25 Jul 2013)

      "TONY EASTLEY: As part of its controversial privatisation agenda, the Queensland Government has confirmed it will seek to fully outsource the running of a big new hospital.

      Experts say it would be Australia's largest publicly-owned teaching hospital to be managed by a commercial operator."

      "The Government argues money would be saved, but experts say there's little evidence either the public or private sector is better at running hospitals."

      "And of the handful of Australia's publicly-owned hospitals run for profit by commercial operators, several have failed and returned to public management."

      "ANNIE GUEST: It's the latest plank in the cash-strapped Queensland Government's privatisation agenda."

      "The Health Minister Lawrence Springborg wants private operators to run some services at a new children's hospital and all services at the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital."

      "But in the meantime the Government could face a backlash on another front if it awards a not-for-profit contract to the Catholic Church. It has been criticised elsewhere for refusing to offer pregnancy terminations in state-owned hospitals."

      www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3810407.htm

      Although Abbott's federal Commission of Audit is supposed to be independent, Joe Hockey wrote to Tony Shepherd, outlining the direction they'd like the audit to go.

      “Head of Commission of Audit dismisses concerns over independence”
      (ABC radio PM transcript 15 Jan 2014)

      "PAT MCGRATH: Senator Lines asked about a letter Mr Shepherd received from the Treasurer Joe Hockey shortly after the commission was established.

      SUE LINES: It says "Dear Tony, Further to the terms of reference for the national commission of audit," - the commission in brackets - " I am writing to provide guidance to the Commission on the Government's approach to public sector resourcing."

      www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2013/s3926260.htm

      Commenter
      Tristan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 6:41PM
    • Thanks A Country G,
      I understood the McGowan/Indi reference and what Butler meant. It sounds positive to want this and It is good for democracy if more people get involved.
      But seriously all pollies say they will represent their community and act for them but that is not how it works when a member of one of the main Parties. Party first and electorate second. Ordinary Party MPs particularly newbies usually have very little power to make things happen for their electorates as a whole unless its marginal or the parliament is hung etc.
      Don’t get me wrong I am on the lefty/progressive side but not a blind barracker for any party.
      I think Butler is trying to sell it to her electorate that she can have it both ways – she will act like an independent, even vote against her Party in Parliament if necessary, when she is likely to do no such thing. If she thinks that is how she can operate, I have to question whether she is ready for the realities of politics. Sounds like another attempted snow job and pollie speak to me.
      I consider the only reason Indi got behind McGowan was because she was independent and there was at least some hope of her putting their interests first and the Mirabella scandals. Labor and the Libs would love the support from a grassroots campaign but they don’t get that happening because voters know the candidates represent a Party first and that they have Party resources to call on.

      Commenter
      Lyn
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 8:08PM
    • Andie,
      re "Butler is nothing but a clone of the typical female ALP politician." That is not a bad thing in my view given in general as recent studies show lefties are in general more intelligent and empathetic and less fear driven than righties.

      And Glasson is the very model of a modern Liberal MP - male, pale and stale (to borrow an SMH letter writer's phrase). And probably a yes person just like most other pollies in major parties who must tow the party line - except for Stone who has been a noble exception.

      You cannot with any credibility seriously assert that Labor campaigns are based on lies, fear and scare tactics (which in general I dont think they are but you can give examples I presume) without acknowledging the Libs as the undisputed Australian champions for the last 3 years, in those tactics - the sky is falling due to carbon tax, the economy is dire and failing, worst government ever, budget emergency, debt crisis, Australians have never had it so bad, Australia is going down the gurgler, border security emergency and a particular favourite for stupidity and xenophobic scare tactics by an individual pollie - Fiona Scott's the "freeway is jammed and people cant get into hospital" due to asylum seekers and their boats in Western Sydney.
      So where does that get us? Depressingly Labor may not that good (and If what you say is true Butler individually if she has been telling porkies) but the Libs are even worse.
      And we the people are always the losers no matter who is in power.

      Commenter
      Lyn
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 9:42PM

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