This by-election was made necessary by the resignation of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from the federal parliament and his seat of Griffith. When I first moved to Griffith in 1996 it was still a safe labor seat with working class suburbs of Camp Hill, Carina, Norman Park, and Coorparoo more dominant than the more middle class areas like Bulimba, Morningside, Carindale and Hill End. 1996 was the election when Howard won government defeating the tired Labor administration of Keating.
At every federal election and by-election in Griffith since 1998, there has been a swing against Labor on the primary vote. Kevin Rudd may be responsible in part, but the trend has been for the middle class to move in and for the working class to be pushed out.
Rudd would have been aware of this trend especially in the trendy suburbs of Bulimba and Norman Park where he lived during those years. Perhaps this is the reason that Rudd at one election had a banner that appealed to Vote for Kevin ‘no matter which side you are on‘. The focus of his election material (e.g. in leaflets, signs and placards) was always on Rudd rather than on the Labor Party.
There were repeated claims in the media that Rudd was popular, that he had the common touch, a better vote winner than former Labor leaders like Beazley and Gillard. Yet this did not show up at the local level in successive election results in Griffith.
Rudd made much in the early days of his ‘valiant’ attempts to prevent a second runway at Brisbane Airport claiming that he funded this legal challenge personally. All this came to nothing. Aircraft traffic over the electorate of Griffith increases every year and the second runway is on its way.
Saying sorry means you don’t do it again
Rudd is widely known for saying sorry to Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples on 13 February 2008 apologising for past laws, policies, and practices that devastated Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples—in particular members of the stolen generations. The taking of aboriginal children away from their parents continues to this day resulting in further assimilation and even abusive relationships with foster parent who do not understand aboriginal culture.
At a rally in Musgrave Park on the morning of the 2014 Griffith by-election Aboriginal community leader, Sam Watson, told the story of an aboriginal woman who had been shot in the face by a Taser wielding police officer on the front veranda of her home at Logan. Sam Watson and his partner Kathy had been providing support to the woman and her family before coming to the rally in Musgrave Park. Sam called on police to hand in their Tasers until the matter has been investigated.
It seems Queensland police have unfettered power to harm and injure blackfellas. They came up with a much publicised, bizarre story to justify their actions. That she ‘threatened officers with a table leg that had nails sticking out of it .’ Witnesses said the woman was claim and the attack by police was unwarranted. How did police come to be at her home in the first place? An elder at a meeting in Woodridge this week gave the answer. It was DOCS – the Qld department of community services that called police.
This terrible incident where the woman lost her eye because of an unprovoked attack suggests the Rudd’s apology is hollow. Imagine if police had behaved in the same way in Bulimba.
Election Day rally
I waited for the speakers to begin at this hastily called, surprisingly well-attended (about 250 people) rally in Musgrave Park as voters went to elect the new member for Griffith. As I sat there on the grass the person sitting next to me said that he had heard last week’s Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at noon) program about New Hope Coal taking over the town of Acland with government approval and driving its citizens out to dig huge pits in the ground. Nathan (that’s his name) said that he had made a documentary about food production versus coal mining. As we were talking we were both approached by newspaper sellers from contending socialist groups.
One from the Socialist Alliance handed us both a Climate Charter. I later asked the chairperson of the rally, Liam Flenady, who ran for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Griffith in the 2013 federal election why he was not running again. Liam replied that he was trying to do a PhD and the it cost over $1,000 to register as a candidate.
Left resources are sparse indeed. Even in local government elections they don’t do well in Brisbane. They have won in small councils in Melbourne and Perth but these lacks the budget size and importance of the Brisbane city council.
In the end little changed in the electoral – Labor, Liberal and Greens are got similar results to the federal election. Abbott is on the nose, and so was Rudd for not sitting out his term forcing a by-election. The turnout tells the story only 72 % turned up to vote even though the penalty for not voting can be quite harsh.
Save the Barrier Reef
Larissa Waters at reef protection rally, Brisbane