Terri Butler, Griffith’s current MP, was elected in a 2014 by-election by defeating the LNP’s Bill Glasson by a narrow margin. In fact, Glasson would have been the Griffith MP if it hadn’t been for the remarkable number of tenth count votes going to Butler.
The Griffith electorate covers 60 square kilometres of Brisbane’s southern suburbs such as West End, Coorparoo, Greenslopes and Woolloongabba. Griffith has been an electorate since 1934 and was named after the former Queensland Premier and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith, who also gave his name to Griffith University.
Apart from the period 1996-1998, the Australian Labor Party has continually represented Griffith in parliament since 1977.
According to Dr. Paul Williams, a senior lecturer in politics at Griffith University, Griffith is not your standard Labor electorate.
“Parts of Griffith actually have a millionaire row with houses well over a million dollars. Morningside, Balmoral and Hawthorne are very well-heeled. Murrarie and Carina Heights are more working class, but apart from those areas, the rest of Griffith is really white collar and upper middle class, which is unusual for a seat that has almost always voted Labor,” Dr. Williams says.
He believes the voters of Griffith will be looking for a candidate with a strong profile on social justice issues.
“It is a seat that focuses on what we call post-material values, which means that most of these people have degrees and good salaries. They do not have to worry about the price of milk or petrol. What they do worry about, because they can pay their bills, are things that are beyond the material. Things such as refugee rights, indigenous rights, women’s rights and the environment.”
Labor dominance will continue
According to Dr. Williams, Labor has a good chance of re-winning the seat. The current MP for Griffith, Terri Butler, has held the seat since the 2014 by-election caused by the former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, resigning from parliament after holding Griffith since 1998.
Butler’s popularity is not just an effect of Kevin Rudd’s many years of service as a member for Griffith.
“I think Kevin Rudd is ancient history to a lot of people in Griffith," he says. "There is no doubt that Rudd was a very good fit for Griffith. The fact that he was an intellectual and the new face of Labor won him the seat. You are not going to win Griffith by rolling up your sleeves, wearing a blue collar and talking about labouring. That does not work in Griffith where IT workers, lawyers and doctors live. In that sense, Kevin Rudd was a good fit for Griffith, but I do not think the people of Griffith have been obsessed with him since.”
Dr. Williams is certain that Terri Butler and Labor will hold the seat, even if there is no "Rudd-effect".
“There very little chance, almost no chance, of her being beaten," he says. "The electoral tide is with her. It looks like there will be a swing against the Turnbull government federally. Secondly, she has been an excellent member for Griffith. They could not have picked a better candidate. She was an outstanding candidate, and she has been an outstanding member of parliament.”
LGBT votes may win it for Butler
Terri Butler’s popularity has only increased with the Griffith voters since she was elected, Dr. Williams estimates. She has taken a high profile on same sex marriage and domestic violence, and may very well have won cross-party support in Griffith.
“There will be a lot of young, gay LNP voters in Griffith, who will probably vote for her because of her bipartisan support for the member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, who sponsored the private member’s bill for same sex marriage. That would have enhanced her popularity. Similarly, she has worked with the state government on domestic violence. Those two issues have done her profile a world of good,” Dr. Williams says.
What can the LNP do in Griffith?
According to Dr. Williams, who strongly suggests betting on a Labor victory in Griffith, there is not much the LNP can do to win over the electorate.
“They ran an excellent candidate twice in Bill Glasson," he says. "They could not have picked a better LNP candidate. He was a medical practitioner with good political pedigree; his father was in state politics. He probably would have been a good member for Griffith, just not as good as Terri Butler. If they cannot win with him, I do not see them winning with anyone."