NOW SHE’S BILL’S GIRL

Kristina Ke­neally was plucked from ob­scu­rity by cor­rupt power­bro­kers Ed­die Obeid and Joe Tripodi, then led La­bor to its worst de­feat ever, leav­ing NSW wrecked. Bill Shorten says she’s a star, who might make him PM

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - ANNA CALD­WELL, SHARRI MARKSON, KYLAR LOUSSIKIAN & ROSE BREN­NAN

KRISTINA Ke­neally has long tried to wipe clean her con­nec­tions to NSW La­bor’s cor­rupt past — and yes­ter­day it emerged three years’ of re­cent can­did opin­ions have van­ished from the ex-pre­mier’s Twit­ter ac­count.

Bizarrely, the sur­prise ALP can­di­date for Ben­ne­long, hand­picked by Bill Shorten al­most a decade af­ter be­ing in­stalled as pre­mier by dodgy NSW Right power­bro­kers, claimed “a hard drive with all the tweets” was taken by the State Li­brary for an ar­chiv­ing project. The li­brary de­nies delet­ing any tweets, rais­ing the prospect she has wiped his­tory to avoid po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment. Dur­ing her dis­as­trous time as pre­mier, NSW stalled and Ms Ke­neally was la­belled a “pup­pet” and “pro­tege” of the state’s de­spised, cor­rupt MPs Ed­die Obeid and Joe Tripodi.

De­spite be­ing pro­moted from a ju­nior po­si­tion, and un­known, Ms Ke­neally in­sisted she was no pup­pet, and “no­body’s girl”.

Her chance at a po­lit­i­cal res­ur­rec­tion highlights the ab­sur­dity of the cit­i­zen­ship de­ba­cle: Ms Ke­neally was born and raised in the US and her op­po­nent, John Alexan­der, is a Syd­ney-born Aus­tralian ten­nis leg­end.

IN­STALLED by a now-jailed cor­rupt power­bro­ker, she led NSW’s last scan­dal-rid­den La­bor gov­ern­ment to a crush­ing de­feat but Bill Shorten is now gam­bling vot­ers have for­got­ten or for­given Kristina Ke­neally’s tainted po­lit­i­cal past.

It took no time at all yes­ter­day for the names Ed­die Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdon­ald to come back to haunt the for­mer NSW pre­mier as she launched her sur­prise can­di­dacy to win the snap Ben­ne­long by-elec­tion — and pos­si­bly top­ple the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment.

In a re­play of the dy­ing days of her last stint in pol­i­tics, Ms Ke­neally was forced to deny she had been a pup­pet of Obeid (since jailed for mis­con­duct), Tripodi (found cor­rupt by ICAC) and Macdon­ald (jailed for mis­con­duct) — a claim her pre­de­ces­sor Nathan Rees made when she re­placed him in 2009 af­ter he had fallen out with the Right power­bro­kers.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull quickly de­clared: “She’s Bill Shorten’s hand­picked can­di­date so ob­vi­ously Ed­die Obeid and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Ke­neally.

“Don’t let Kristina Ke­neally do to Ben­ne­long what she did to NSW.” In re­ject­ing the “smear”, Ms Ke­neally echoed her com­ments in state Par­lia­ment at the time of her el­e­va­tion al­most eight years ago when she de­clared she was “no­body’s girl”.

“You know what, it’s not the first time some man has tried to sug­gest I’m not my own woman and frankly I don’t care what they say. I care what they’re do­ing to the fam­i­lies of Ben­ne­long,” she said.

“If the Liberals think the best way to re­take the seat is to smear Kristina Ke­neally, I say go for your life, and while they’re at it go read those ICAC tran­scripts where my ac­tions to clean up NSW and my in­tegrity is on dis­play. 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’s snap de­ci­sion to stand fol­lowed a call on Satur­day night from the Op­po­si­tion Leader fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion that day of sit­ting Liberals MP and for­mer ten­nis star John Alexan­der, caught up in the dual cit­i­zen­ship saga be­cause of his Bri­tish fa­ther.

Mr Alexan­der is re­con­test­ing the seat — which he holds by a 9.7 per cent mar­gin — in the De­cem­ber 16 poll, sub­ject to his cit­i­zen­ship be­ing con­firmed by close of nom­i­na­tions.

Mr Shorten said Ms Ke­neally would give vot­ers a chance to “send a wake-up call” to the Prime Min­is­ter.

US-born Ms Ke­neally, who has been work­ing as a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor on Sky News, re­leased doc­u­ments on Twit­ter last week show­ing she had re­nounced her Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship and quit her post yes­ter­day at the Mac­quarie Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment to com­ply with rules pre­vent­ing can­di­dates from hold­ing a pub­lic of­fice.

But she also lives 800m out­side the elec­torate while Mr Alexan­der is stay­ing at his part­ner’s place in North Bondi fol­low­ing the sale of his house in Put­ney in March.

La­bor is at­tempt­ing to repli­cate the suc­cess of an­other celebrity can­di­date in Ben­ne­long when TV pre­sen­ter Max­ine McKew top­pled John Howard in 2007.

But it risks in­stead du­pli­cat­ing the de­ba­cle of for­mer Queens­land pre­mier Peter Beattie’s failed at­tempt to re­turn to pol­i­tics in the Queens­land seat of Forde at Kevin Rudd’s re­quest in 2013.

The dan­ger for La­bor is Ms Ke­neally will only serve to re­mind vot­ers of the hor­ror days of La­bor’s last state gov­ern­ment — the scan­dals and in­fight­ing, the con­tro­ver­sies over soar­ing power prices and po­lit­i­cal stunts such as try­ing

to shut down Par­lia­ment when it was prob­ing her gov­ern­ment’s elec­tric­ity sell-off.

She ad­mits she mis­judged Macdon­ald, re­in­stat­ing him in her Cab­i­net be­fore dump­ing him three months later over travel ex­penses rorts.

Then she led La­bor to one of its worst de­feats in the state’s his­tory, a 17 per cent swing against the gov­ern­ment leav­ing the party with a rump of only 20 seats.

A La­bor spokes­woman said Ms Ke­neally “helped put Ed­die Obeid in jail” and pointed to a pos­i­tive ICAC re­port on her con­duct as pre­mier.

For­mer pre­mier Bob Carr yes­ter­day heaped praise on Ms Ke­neally, say­ing she had al­ways been hon­est and brought a real con­test to Ben­ne­long.

“The elec­torate ac­cepts she is ab­so­lutely a per­son of in­tegrity,” Mr Carr said.

Mr Howard pre­dicted Mr Alexan­der would re­tain the seat for the Liberals: “The vibes I get from the elec­torate are that John Alexan­der is well-liked, hard­work­ing, pop­u­lar and his at­ten­tion to lo­cal mat­ters is very gen­uine.

Mr Alexan­der said he was sim­ply fo­cused on the elec­torate.

“I will leave the commentary on can­di­dates to oth­ers,” Mr Alexan­der said.

Ms Ke­neally faces NSW Par­lia­ment as pre­mier in 2009.

Pic­ture: AAP

Bill Shorten and Kristina Ke­neally yes­ter­day.

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