Analysing Griffith like trying to explain a platypus

If the Griffith by-election was an animal, it would be a platypus.

Just as the platypus can be a mammal and lay eggs - much to the bafflement of scientists - the result in the by-election to replace Kevin Rudd can be seen as a win for Labor and a positive for the coalition.

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Butler did it

Labor's Terri Butler says she "will not let you down" after her likely victory in the Griffith by-election but the result is seen as a positive for the LNP. Nine News

As it appeared almost certain Labor's Terri Butler would take the Brisbane seat, Liberal Party strategists pointed to a number of "wins".

The primary swing of about 1.4 per cent to the Liberal candidate Bill Glasson is the first swing to a government in a by-election since 1996.

Griffith byelection candidates Bill Glasson and Terri Butler.
Griffith byelection candidates Bill Glasson and Terri Butler. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Labor's primary vote in what should be its southeast Queensland heartland has dropped to below 40 per cent.

Historically, by-election swings average five per cent against governments.


So the result has many Liberals thinking Dr Glasson fared pretty well and Labor didn't impress.

On the flipside, Labor retained the seat.

And the opposition managed to keep the swing almost within the average for a by-election during the first term of a federal government - about 1.7 per cent.

Labor wanted it to be a referendum on the first months of the Abbott government and the prospects of health and education services being slashed via the dreaded commission of audit.

Opposition Leader Shorten campaigned heavily in Griffith on fears of a Medicare co-payment and an end to penalty rates, as well as Prime Minister Tony Abbott's rejection of industry support for Holden and SPC Ardmona.

However, while these issues resonated among voters, the strength of feeling was not enough to give Labor a confidence-boosting swing heading into the first week of federal parliament for the year.

On balance, it could be seen as a combination of some unrest with the early days of Mr Abbott's government, Labor putting up an articulate local candidate, Griffith's demographics becoming a little more conservative and some residual disenchantment with Rudd.

It's a bit like trying to describe an animal with a duck's bill, a beaver's tail and an otter's foot.