La­bor backs return

For­mer NSW premier to con­test by-elec­tion

Herald Sun - - NEWS - ROB HARRIS

MAL­COLM Turn­bull’s gov­ern­ment ma­jor­ity will now hinge on whether vot­ers in the Sydney seat of Ben­ne­long will wel­come for­mer New South Wales premier Kristina Ke­neally back into po­lit­i­cal life.

Ms Ke­neally, who quit pol­i­tics in 2012 af­ter La­bor’s worstever de­feat at the state elec­tion, was a sur­prise an­nounce­ment as the La­bor can­di­date in the by-elec­tion for the fed­eral seat of Ben­ne­long.

A La­bor win in the rel­a­tively safe Lib­eral seat would threaten the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment’s thin ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, caus­ing ma­jor headaches for the Prime Min­is­ter.

But Ms Ke­neally’s return to the po­lit­i­cal scene is al­ready the tar­get of a fierce cam­paign, with se­nior Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters al­ready link­ing her with the cor­rupt NSW La­bor fig­ures Ed­die Obeid and Ian Macdon­ald.

Mr Turn­bull said La­bor leader Bill Shorten and Mr Obeid had “formed the same view about Kristina Ke­neally” as he urged the vot­ers of Ben­ne­long to back Lib­eral can­di­date John Alexan­der in next month’s by-elec­tion.

Mr Alexan­der has held the seat since 2010 af­ter he un­seated La­bor’s Max­ine McKew who fa­mously de­feated John Howard in the 2007 elec­tion.

Mr Turn­bull, in the Philip­pines at the ASEAN sum­mit, said vot­ers in the Sydney elec­torate should not “let Kristina Ke­neally do to Ben­ne­long what she did to NSW”.

Cab­i­net min­is­ter Greg Hunt also wasted lit­tle time at­tack­ing her links to the dis­graced for­mer power­bro­ker.

“You have a com­par­i­son here. One, Kristina Ke­neally, fought for Ed­die Obeid. The other, John Alexan­der, fought for Aus­tralia on the (tennis) international courts,” he said.

Ms Ke­neally has re­peat­edly strongly re­jected claims she was un­duly in­flu­enced by Mr Obeid, who was sen­tenced to five years in prison for mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice.

Ms Ke­neally said she was the “un­der­dog” but urged vot­ers to show the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment it was “just not good enough”.

She would join a long list of for­mer state La­bor pre­miers to make the switch to Canberra.

She said she “never thought that a run in fed­eral par­lia­ment was the thing for me”, un­til a “very per­sua­sive” phone call from Mr Shorten.

Mr Shorten said Ms Ke­neally would pro­vide a “real choice” for Ben­ne­long vot­ers.

“Not only is she a friend of mine, but she’s some­one whose in­sight, judg­ment and fight­ing spirit I’ve come to re­spect,” he said.

Pic­ture: AAP

New La­bor can­di­date for Ben­ne­long, Kristina Ke­neally.

An emo­tional Jac­qui Lam­bie with Se­nate col­leagues af­ter she re­signed for be­ing a dual cit­i­zen yes­ter­day. Pictures: GARY RA­M­AGE

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