Labor backs return
Former NSW premier to contest by-election
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.
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