POLITICS

Why Politics Needs 'Normal People With Normal Problems'

Terri Butler has issued a rallying cry for people turned off by the shenanigans in Parliament.

01/09/2017 12:09 PM AEST | Updated 01/09/2017 12:09 PM AEST
Robert Shakespeare/Fairfax Media
'I don't think it is enough to leave it to everyone else to do all of the heavy lifting.'

CANBERRA -- You couldn't be blamed for holding Australian politics -- or indeed global politics -- in contempt right now.

The citizenship debacle consuming federal parliament is doing absolutely nothing to help an already fatigued, frustrated electorate. Politicians are too busy writing one-liners to trade on national television to engage in meaningful policy discussion on what should or shouldn't be done with our tax dollars.

Meanwhile in the United States, Donald Trump has shifted the modern political narrative into farcical territory. Indeed, even the elected representatives of Canberra have adopted some of his garish showmanship.

But Labor MP Terri Butler is here to issue an "urgent" rallying cry for people of good will -- "normal", everyday folks -- to rise above political apathy and get involved themselves.

Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Labor MPs Terri Butler and Lisa Chesters enjoying question time in parliament

In Butler's new book 'Labor of Love', the ALP member of almost two decades says everyday folks risk leaving policy to the "passionate, extremist few" or "elites" if they balk at involving themselves in political life. And that, she argues, leads to distorted decision making and outcomes.

"I don't think it is enough to leave it to everyone else to do all of the heavy lifting. I do think we all need to pitch in," Labor's spokeswoman on domestic violence, equality and universities told HuffPost Australia.

"I think the worst outcome for us as a nation would be to have situation where the only people involved in organisational politics are zealots and cranks and not normal people with normal problems.

"We actually need normal people with normal problems to be in politics so that the decisions that are made and things that get in the agenda in the first place reflect the lives and challenges of Australians more broadly."

Australia is "staring down the barrel" of a range of potential future crises, according to Butler, like growing inequality, increasing housing unaffordability, the need to mitigate climate change effects and a myriad of international relations conflicts.

She writes of the importance for us all to pay attention and perhaps think about doing something a bit more than casting the occasional ballot.

"The risk that we all face is that if people think politics is useless and politicians are useless that they won't want to have anything to do with it," the member for Griffith said.

"That really vacates the field then that leaves politics to other people who are willing to be involved."

Terri Butler has five top reasons for getting involved in politics.

It Matters

"It actually affects your life, your children's lives, your grandchildren's lives, the lives of people who are complete strangers to you. It is actually worth it because you have an impact and you have power. And you hear cynical things about politics like, 'don't vote it actually encourages them' or 'does not mater who you vote for you still get a politician'. All those things are calculated to convey the idea that their vote does not matter and they are politically powerless. To me that is actually factually wrong. It is not right t say to people they are powerless because in my experience, people en masse are powerful. People who turn up are powerful. People who speak out are powerful. People who work together are powerful. And how you vote actually does make a massive difference."

If Not You, Than Who?

"If people like you don't get involved, who is going to get involved? Are they people who are going reflect your values and worry about the issues that concern you? Probably not."

It Is More Normal Than You Think

"Politics is not just a separate weird thing that only cranks and zealots do. It is something people do alongside their everyday life. It sounds like it is not, but it is. It is normal to be working with people with similar interests to achieve a goal. Ultimately, it is people turning up, doing things together to make a change."

You Meet Great People

"You meet people who share your values. When you are brought together by people who share your values rather than who you happened to work with or happened to go to school with you meet people that you otherwise would not have met but you really like. I have got to meet people who do jobs completely different to mine, who are from countries I have never been to, who are different ages different backgrounds and we get along really well. I am not saying go into politics to meet people, but it is certainly a seriously nice benefit. I met my husband in politics, also I am not suggesting you get into politics as a way of hooking up with people, but I certainly met my husband and that was very nice as well."

You Can Demonstrate What Is Possible

"Getting involved in politics is a way of showing other people that you can do it, that it is possible. I have an interest in women running for parliament. You have to keep having more women run, more women run, more women run until it is normalised. So we are at 45 percent in the Labor caucus so we are doing OK. We are at 40 percent in the shadow ministry, but I want it to be completely normal, and I think it is going to be that way very soon, for there to be equal numbers of women and men in parliaments. (But) I don't just mean parliament, I am talking about grassroots politics, rank and file."

Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Terri Butler, Penny Wong, Mark Dreyfus, Bill Shorten andTanya Plibersek in support of marriage equality.

Butler concedes politics takes time; it's difficult, it involves sacrifice.

And should she have anytime to herself? Butler has her sights on sitting down to a 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' marathon. Or perhaps just seasons 2, 3 and 4.

More On This Topic