“Hi, I’m Cath Bowtell, Lindsay Tanner’s replacement,” Labor’s candidate for Melbourne proclaimed gutsily in Victoria Street Richmond this week as the battle for the federal seat reached its pointy end. Bowtell may have been written off in some quarters as a Green tide threatened to overwhelm the 100-year Labor electorate, but for the trade union veteran it seemed the message had yet to get through.
Bowtell could hardly have foreseen her current predicament. This time last year, as then-ACTU President Sharan Burrow gave off strong signals of a pending move overseas, Bowtell seemed poised to realise her long-held ambition of replacing her hero after years of behind the scenes toil. The union lifer was at the precipice of unprecedented power and influence and to most observers it seemed Burrow was offering her an open invitation.