School is back for federal Labor MPs and there’s a new kid in class: Terri Butler.
Ms Butler received a rousing welcome as she accompanied Opposition Leader Bill Shorten into the caucus meeting on Monday, where he introduced her as the member-elect for Griffith two days after the by-election in Kevin Rudd’s vacated seat.
Her main rival Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson has not conceded defeat but admits Ms Butler is likely to hold the seat.
Mr Shorten noted Ms Butler had only been preselected a week before Christmas and she’d had a steep learning curve.
“With Terri Butler we’ve just increased our firepower and we’ll hold this mob to account,” he told the caucus meeting, to cheers.
“Terri Butler’s values, her dedication of her whole working life to standing up for working people … will be skills and values that we will appreciate and the nation’s parliament will appreciate.”
Mr Shorten also pre-empted Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s expected announcement of a royal commission into unions, tying it to attacks on workers and their conditions as SPC Ardmona.
“When 54,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months … why is it the Abbott government can find $100 million-plus to pursue a political stunt but it can’t spend $25 million to save thousands of jobs in the Goulburn valley?” Mr Shorten asked.
Labor MPs responded with cries of “shame”.
Mr Shorten said the government finished 2013 poorly and now had started the new year “back to the future, trying to run negative campaigns more suited to the 1980s than 2014”.
“This nation can engage in a race to the top or a race to the bottom,” he said.
“We can choose to be a smarter nation or a poorer nation.
“This will be the year when Labor will take the fight up to the government.”