Ke­neally back in the game


La­bor is hop­ing a high-pro­file woman can re­peat his­tory by claim­ing the fed­eral Lib­eral seat of Ben­ne­long with for­mer NSW pre­mier Kristina Ken­neally re­turn­ing to pol­i­tics to take on the chal­lenge. The seat is up for grabs after John Alexan­der was forced to re­sign after cit­i­zen­ship con­cerns.

LA­BOR is hop­ing for­mer NSW pre­mier Kristina Ke­neally can re­peat his­tory by claim­ing the fed­eral Lib­eral seat of Ben­ne­long.

But the Fed­eral Govern­ment says cor­rup­tion find­ings against her for­mer state col­leagues prove she’s not fit to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of north­west­ern Syd­ney in Can­berra.

Ben­ne­long, held by the Lib­er­als with a mar­gin of more than 9 per cent, is up for grabs after John Alexan­der was forced to re­sign over dual cit­i­zen­ship con­cerns.

“It’s go­ing to be a tough cam­paign, I am def­i­nitely start­ing out as the un­der­dog but I’ve never shirked from a fight,” Ms Ke­neally told re­porters yes­ter­day be­side a clearly thrilled Bill Shorten in Syd­ney.

Mr Shorten said the De­cem­ber 16 by-elec­tion would be a chance for vot­ers in the elec­torate to “send a wake-up call” to Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull.

La­bor has claimed the seat just once be­fore when sit­ting prime min­is­ter John Howard spec­tac­u­larly lost to high-pro­file ABC jour­nal­ist Max­ine McKew in 2007.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors say Ms Ke­neally’s de­ci­sion to en­ter the race will make the con­test much tighter.

“La­bor had to get a can­di­date who had an im­me­di­ate pres­ence and pro­file and Kristina Ke­neally cer­tainly has that,” ABC elec­tion an­a­lyst Antony Green said.

After lead­ing her govern­ment in 2011 to the big­gest elec­tion de­feat in NSW his­tory, Ms Ke­neally has been the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bas­ket­ball Aus­tralia and a po­lit­i­cal pun­dit on Sky News.

But it’s the po­lit­i­cal bag­gage from her time lead­ing NSW La­bor that the Fed­eral Govern­ment hopes will hurt her.

They’ve once again la­belled her “Ed­die Obeid’s pro­tege”.

Trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son said “the per­son Bill Shorten has cho­sen to rep­re­sent him in this by-elec­tion is the per­son Ed­die Obeid chose to be his pre­mier in NSW”.

The for­mer La­bor power­bro­ker and state min­is­ter was jailed in 2016 for mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice.

A NSW cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion re­port re­leased in Au­gust found then La­bor MPs Joe Tripodi, Tony Kelly and Obeid en­gaged in se­ri­ous cor­rupt con­duct be­tween 2007 and 2010.

At the time Ms Ke­neally said the three had “op­er­ated in se­cret”.

An­other La­bor min­is­ter from the time, Ian Macdon­ald, is also be­hind bars for cor­rup­tion.

Mr Turn­bull warned Ben­ne­long vot­ers not to “let Kristina Ke­neally do to Ben­ne­long what she did to NSW”.

Ms Ke­neally, 48, hit back, say­ing if the PM wanted to make the cam­paign “about that” he could “bring it on, mate”.

Pic­ture: TIM HUNTER

BRING IT ON: For­mer NSW La­bor pre­mier Kristina Ke­neally, who will take on Lib­eral MP John Alexan­der in the Ben­ne­long by-elec­tion.

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