Why sisters-in-law Jo Palmer and Jen Butler put family before politics

Ms Butler, the Labor member for Lyons and Ms Palmer, the new Liberal member for Rosevears, are married to the Palmer brothers David, 42, and Andrew, 40.

"Our roles are different, our parties are different, but we are still the same people," Ms Butler said. "We are not just family we are also really good friends."

Ms Palmer said the pair had always been close and enjoyed political discussions.

"We have always talked politics before, I can't see why that would change now. I love to listen to her point of view even if it differs a little to mine. I respect and admire her," she said.

"Our family will always come first, because that is just the type of women we are." Ms Butler, the daughter of former Labor MHA Heather Butler, grew up in a political family.

Rosevears Liberal MLC Jo Palmer and Labor Lyons MHA Jen Butler with their families. Picture: Supplied
 Rosevears Liberal MLC Jo Palmer and Labor Lyons MHA Jen Butler with their families. Picture: Supplied

"Our commitment to our respective parties is a given and will not be an issue. Family discussions sometimes will encompass, for example US politics, but they are treated as banter, especially by the brothers," she said.

"To be honest, the most contentious reoccurring discussion at a family dinner is the brothers bickering over whether each other are chewing with their mouths open. A problem both Jo and I do not suffer from."

The brothers, like the sisters-in-law, are extremely close, loyal and proud of each others' achievements. They became instant parents when they married their now parliamentarian wives.

They grew up at Rosetta in the South and their only link to politics was their babysitter was the daughter of late Labor Premier Eric Reece. Ms Butler married David, a Partner at BDO Chartered Accountants on Gardens Beach, Bay of Fires in 2013 on her 40th birthday.

Ms Palmer met Andrew, an international ballroom dancing champion, who moved to Melbourne aged 15 to further his dancing, at a Southern Cross client function in 2006. They were married 18 months later.

Picture: Phillip Biggs

 Picture: Phillip Biggs

Ms Butler, 47, who was elected in 2018, says her husband is keen to provide his brother with some advice on how to survive being married to a politician.

"Strong support from home is essential when you work in politics. Dave is going to give Andrew a crash course in household, laundry, grocery and menu management. According to Dave [tongue in cheek], Andrew has a lot to learn.

"Both brothers are loving, generous and fun dads. Family is everything to the Palmers."

For Ms Palmer, 49, family is paramount and she gets on so well with her former husband Mark Cornish and his wife Tanya that she is godmother to their two children. "Mark and I made a decision very early on in our separation that we would always put our children Lily and Henry first. We were both so very fortunate to marry partners who became exceptional step-parents and friends."

Ms Butler,'s eldest daughter Madelaine, 19, spent last year looking after the Palmers' two sons Charlie,11 and Alfie, 10. Ms Butler's sons Archie, 16, from her previous relationship, and six-year-old Alexander, are close to their cousins.

"My children adore their Auntie Jo and Uncle Andrew.

"We both know should anything ever happen to us, the other would step in and scoop up our kids.

"Jo is an incredibly kind and thoughtful person."

Ms Palmer agrees: "We share many things in common... our love of reading, spending time at the beach, good food and good wine... dancing when no one is watching. However, the one thing we don't have in common is her love of fitness. While she heads off for a run, I'll have another cup of tea.

"We confide in each other, lean on each other and know we can always find a safe place in each other's arms. We are not just sisters-in-law. Jen is my children's auntie. That's a far more important role she plays."

As well as being devoted to their families, the women have the same sense of humour and both say they are energetic, compassionate and want to build strong communities.

"Politics can be all consuming. All families have areas that are considered private - we both respect each others' right to set boundaries around certain professional and personal matters but know that we have each others' back," Ms Butler said.

"Some of Jo's most admirable qualities are tenacity and a sense of fairness. She is incredibly professional and gracious. We know the boundaries within our roles as elected members."

Ms Palmer says they both want to serve Tasmanians.

"We were both raised this way, to have an outward focus. I am in awe of Jen's commitment to her career, it hasn't been an easy ride. But she has persevered and shown great strength of character," she said.

"To be honest, when we talk, it's usually to have a grumble about our husbands, discuss our kids' latest adventures or making sure we are getting enough sleep."

Ms Butler sums up how they would like to see their futures pan out. "In another 20 or so years, I look forward to being able to share a glass of wine together, on the deck of our home talking about the good things that we have been able to do for the state," she said.

"Our grandchildren, all cousins playing/dancing in the distance whilst we listen to our husbands arguing about the best recipes for their favourite Mexican dishes and whether they are chewing with their mouths open."